A man accused of perverting the course of justice in relation to the last-chance appeal of convicted killer Susan Neill-Fraser has told the court he made “a stupid mistake”.
Neill-Fraser is trying to convince the court she has new evidence that could see her murder conviction for the death of her partner, Bob Chappell, be overturned.
Stephen John Gleeson, 57, has pleaded guilty to two counts of perverting the course of justice in the case.
“I feel more stupid about my actions, and obviously sorry for my actions, than guilty,” Gleeson told the court.
He told the court he had been acting under duress, which had included a veiled death threat.
“Being under duress has put me in a position where you’re likely to make a mistake and certainly I’ve made a mistake, a stupid mistake,” he said.
Crown Prosecutor Jack Shapiro told the court Gleeson had been “duped” by a group of Neill-Fraser supporters.
“He was a captive audience, he was vulnerable to the suggestions that were made to him,” Mr Shapiro said.
Gleeson is serving a five-and-a-half-year jail sentence for causing permanent brain injuries to a friend when he repeatedly hit him with antique press iron.
At the time of Mr Chappell’s disappearance, Gleeson was living in his car at Marieville Esplanade, near where the couple’s yacht was moored.
Gleeson repeatedly told police he was drunk that night and did not see anything.
Mr Shapiro told the court Gleeson had a number of visitors to Risdon Prison during 2017.
They included Neill-Fraser’s then lawyer Barbara Etter, filmmaker Eve Ash, private detective Colin McLaren and lawyer Jeffrey Thompson.
Gleeson identified Meaghan Vass from a photo board shown to him in jail and said she had been on the waterfront that night.
Ms Vass’s DNA was found on the yacht.
Gleeson had identified Meghan Vass as being on the waterfront near Bob Chappell’s yacht. (AAP)
The court heard that Gleeson had also picked out the photo of Samuel Devine, an associate of Ms Vass but only after it had been specifically pointed out to him.
Mr Shapiro told the court it was Mr Thompson who had pointed the photographs out to him and that it had been captured on video and audio recordings by police.
Mr Shapiro told the court that a group of investigators involved with the Neill-Fraser case, “believed if Gleeson identified Devine that would be compelling evidence to lodge a second appeal”.
“Mr Gleeson would not and could not have committed this crime without the assistance of others,” Mr Shapiro told the court.
“He was fed misinformation.
“It would have been obvious that he was vulnerable.”
Mr Shapiro told the court that Gleeson was the “least culpable”.
“Put simply, he was duped by Mr Thompson and those who visited him and if it wasn’t for their actions he would just be serving his sentence,” he said.
Gleeson told the court that while he knew what he was doing was wrong — he was acting under duress.
But he also told the court he believed Neill-Fraser was innocent and she would die in prison unless the court intervened.
Mr Thompson has pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice and is awaiting trial.
The third accused, 41-year-old Karen Patricia Nancy Keefe, has also pleaded not guilty.
Gleeson will be sentenced in May.
Neill-Fraser is almost a third of the way through her 23-year jail sentence for the murder of Mr Chappell in 2009.
Her application for a last-chance appeal is part-heard and will be back before the courts in June.