SHADOW OF DOUBT
In 2010 Susan Neill-Fraser, a Tasmanian grandmother was jailed for 26 years (later reduced to 23) for killing her partner Bob Chappell on Australia Day 2009, on board their yacht, Four Winds. There were no witnesses, no weapon, no forensic evidence linking her to the scene, no confession and Chappell's body has never been found. The police focused on one suspect - Neill-Fraser. Why was a jury convinced beyond reasonable doubt? Her family tries to 'prove' she is innocent. The more they investigate the more they uncover - mistakes, lies and misrepresentation. Set in Hobart, this documentary follows one of the most intriguing and alarming legal cases in recent Australian history.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If this doco doesn't lead to an urgent, independent investigation of the Susan Neill-Fraser conviction of 2010, it will be yet another miscarriage of justice. Watch it and weep.
Australia's collective conscience, also known as Fair Go, should take Tasmania's justice system to court on charges of criminal levels of incompetence and/or malicious prosecution. I would argue for both. Eve Ash has made a forensic case (better than Tasmanian police ever did in this matter) for such an investigation, although the doco doesn't call for one - that's left to us Australians who view it with indignation and fear. Fear that such a catastrophic error can be made - and reconfirmed through appeal - in upending the most basic principles of our legal system.
The most appalling aspects of this case are reminiscent of the Lindy Chamberlain case, in that there is no body, no witnesses, no murder weapon, no motive and not even forensic evidence to prove Sue killed her partner, yet she was convicted. Shadow of Doubt indeed. I would have thought that even if the police and the prosecution managed to get it into court (which is scary enough) the judge should have had the wisdom to provide wise counsel to the jury warning them that finding Sue guilty of murder would be most unsafe. The risk of an innocent person going to jail - for 26 years no less - was too great under the circumstances.
Eve Ash has done Australia a favour with her cool, clinically precise doco; let's hope the screenings in Hobart and on Ci Channel will trigger a wave - nay a tsunami - of unrest and urgent calls for action to right this wrong.
Superbly crafted in all departments, Shadow of Doubt shows the power of filmmaking as a lever for making a difference.
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EVE ASH INTERVIEW
By Andrew L. Urban
SHADOW OF DOUBT (PG)
PRODUCER: Eve Ash
DIRECTOR: Eve Ash
SCRIPT: Eve Ash, Cindy Clarkson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Cesar Salmeron
EDITOR: Cindy Clarkson
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Eve Ash Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 31, 2013 - State Cinema, Hobart; FOXTEL Ci, 7.30pm and repeated in August