by Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB
I have just read that Sue Neill-Fraser (of the Bob Chappell murder case) is being dealt with in an odd way at Risdon Prison. Pardon me but it’s “nice” to hear about another human being down there, other than Martin Bryant.
I will present the item about Sue in a moment but please allow me to talk about Gumshoe’s relationship to the matter of the 1996 “PAM” — Port Arthur massacre.
As is recounted in a book co-authored by myself and Dee McLachlan, entitled Port Arthur: Enough Is Enough, I got into the case because of the Adelaide Fringe. I wanted to put on a play that would allow people talk about 9-11 and then it expanded to include PAM.
Soon, in writing about the Fringe experience at Gumshoe, I started to gather more information, as one naturally does. Being the type of person who doesn’t like to see crazy things go unchallenged I then started to challenge the case. But I am not a lawyer. I am a law graduate and I can see what’s going on but I can’t get my foot in the door of Court.
I tried a little trick called The Writ of Error Coram Nobis. It can be done by a layperson. It shows the court where a fraud-upon-the-court has occurred. The Tassie Supreme Court wrote back to me that Tassie does not traffic in coram-nobises. After more research I found that Tassie does traffic in that product and wrote back to them to explain. No reply to date.
Another possible hope for overturning Martin Bryant’s conviction arose when the Attorney General of Tasmania – the wonderful, young Vanessa Goodwin, who now has brain cancer – brought in new legislation. She copied a law from South Australia that allows a case to be re-opened if there is “fresh and compelling evidence.”
Although we at Gumshoe discussed how this can work for Bryant, no lawyer, or member of Tassie parliament took it up. But luckily, another person in Risdon Prison, Sue Neill-Fraser, saw the new law as being her best hope. Her case is now in court and she is offering fresh evidence. It will resume in March.
On November 20, 2017, the Hobart Mercury carried a story about Ms Neill-Fraser. It says she is doing a hunger strike to protest her re-assignment to a cell near to that of a woman (Nancy Keefe) who is charged with perverting the course of justice in the Bob Chappell murder case! That’s Sue’s case — she is accused of throwing her husband off a yacht and has been incarcerated for the last 8 years.
The cause of her being moved to a new cell is that the prison officers searched her cell and found contraband, including a child’s craft scissors “which had been approved.” Some of Sue’s advocates think the motive behind this is to make Sue lose her current rating as a model prisoner.
Maybe they thought she would have a spat with the prisoner in the nearby cell, Ms Keefe, who is awaiting trial. Can you imagine. Anyway, Sue’s lawyer has told her to avoid the lady.
The reason I bring Sue Neill-Fraser into my writings about PAM is simply as a tool to get any possible leverage over Martin Bryant’s situation. Any port in a storm, so to speak. I don’t think the Neil-Fraser family would object, as, indeed, information can flow both ways.
(I’ve mentioned that when I was in Launceston in 2017 someone whispered to me that the Bob Chappell issue has to do with police involvement with drugs.)
Need a Leader for the PAM Thing
Just two days ago, a man from the mainland, who wishes to not be identified, emailed me to ask what’s doin’ with Martin. This made me realize that I am seen as a leader in the matter. But I don’t want that job. I feel ridiculous posing as a prisoner’s savior. My beef is with the government, the judiciary, the legal profession, and the whole society. I want Australia, not Mary Maxwell, to fix this problem up.
So I hereby ask if you (anyone) will take up the leadership. I believe Stewart Beattie was the leader in the past. He wrote Port Arthur: A Gunsmith’s Notebook. It is only in electronic form and is catalogued at State Library of Tasmania. Beattie has not replied to my letters.
Beattie’s book is a superb investigation of all the facts of the PAM. Anyone who reads it will feel like storming the Bastille (Risdon) to get Martin out. And they may as well drag Sue out into the bargain, as her case seems to have used the same methods. Oops and they might as well drag Jahar out of Supermax – but I’ll leave that aside for now.
Other leaders in the PAM case include Andrew Macgregor a retired cop, Terry Shulze a retired barrister, Wendy Scurr a worker on the site when the massacre took place, Cherri Bonney who did a change.org petition and also recorded a very moving song. And there’s Greely a rap artist, and Mal Hughes who kept up a campaign of letter writing for years – such as to the Governor General and to Dick Smith.
I tried all sorts of side-door entries to the case, including dealing with the Guardianship board, the Prison Visitor, etc. And I think Mrs Carleen Bryant is kept out of public contact. (You can email her, but who’s to say the reply comes from the real Carleen.)
I admit I did not do much — and more or less adopted the attitude that “they” are ruthless and do not feel the least bit accountable to the public, so why bother?
I’m no playwright, but I felt “forced to write a play.” I am grateful to the Fringe for letting me put on the “Moot Court Trial for Martin Bryant” in 2017. The script and stage directions are public domain. Anyone can put this on locally. Imagine if all law students in Oz would do it – and it’s quite entertaining.
Meanwhile Dee McLachlan created an excellent 10-minute video about Port Arthur. She plans to do more in the film department regarding Bryant. But I hasten to add that she doesn’t want to be the leader any more than I do. Both of us are deeply involved in other things. There are millions of people who could help undo the damage of Port Arthur.
Speaking of which, the damage of Port Arthur includes the way in which we have gone to sleep over these things. But it also includes 35 unsolved murders, plus the crime of the Grievous Bodily Harm done to Martin Brant that day.
All you need to do to get those cases re-opened is file a Police Complaint – or “lay an information” asking that charges be laid against such-and-such a person. So go on, do it. It’s perfectly legal.
Why Don’t Y’all “Go To Alabama”?
It drives me nuts to see who is in Parliament in Australia and who is in Congress in America. And you may know I even attempted to get into Congress myself. It was a struggle insofar as the media would show up at our “candidate forums” and resolutely film only the speeches made by the Big Three. Even if I had had money to buy TV ads, the MSM would have found ways to defeat me.
But if a lot of good people – a ton of good people — would run for any open seat in any legislature, we would be a force to be reckoned with. I want 2018 to be the year in which many people who don’t feel they are qualified to run for office will run for office.
Who the hell is “qualified”? Look at the members of Tasmanian legislature, or Massachusetts legislature – they are ALL participating in horrible things. Do you consider them “qualified”?
Take my advice. Read this interview that John Avery, solicitor for Martin Bryant, conducted with his client. Then read it aloud to your family and friends. They will not only refrain from criticizing you, they will beg you to run for office.
Last Call for Help from Students of Journalism and Media
The editor of this excellent journal, Dee McLachlan — a filmmaker by trade — has put out a request for media students to work as interns for Gumshoe. You could betake yourself to the trial of Sue Neill-Fraser which will resume in Hobart in March 2018. Come on, you can’t go wrong, it’s the trial of a woman who almost certainly did not murder her dear spouse.
You plan to have a career in journalism? This will clinch your curriculum vitae. The pay is lousy. Actually the pay is non-existent. But airfares from Victoria are very cheap ($55 on March 7, as of today) and there’s always the ferry.
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party — as Patrick Henry once said, in regard to another matter. And please hurry.
We are waiting for you.
–Mary W Maxwell is the author of Fraud Upon the Court: Reclaiming the Law, Joyfully (Trine Day, 2015)