‘Scott Watson Is Still Innocent’

The ketch doesn’t exist. Inspector Pope on the boat that water taxi driver Guy Wallace delivered the young couple to, on 1 January 1998 (The Police actually received information of about a hundred sightings of the two-masted vessel round the Sounds and Golden Bay.)

Stitching up the suspect

By Roger Childs

Scott Watson

The disappearance of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart in the Marlborough Sounds was the big news story of 1998.

Scott Watson was the main suspect for the police from early on, and he was subsequently tried and sentenced to 18 years in prison, for a crime he didn’t commit.

I think this is possibly the worst case of police duplicity in our history. Pope and his team are alleged to have:

~ twisted, and in some cases allegedly falsified, the evidence to suit their suspect

~ ignored possible leads and evidence linking a mystery man to the crime

~ harassed Watson family members and bugged their homes

~ pressured witnesses into changing their stories

~ manipulated the media.

Gerald Hope and Scott Watson spoke to each other in 2016

A second viewing of the docudrama Doubt:The Scott Watson Case, just reinforced what people, who have studied the case closely, have known since the start of the century.

Further reinforcement of Watson’s innocence, comes in a detailed article from North and South. (See The Meeting: Gerald Hope Scott Watson. Face to face for the first time in the January 2017 edition.)

One of the tragedies of this  case, is that the man responsible for the abduction got away with it, and may well be living in Australia or beyond.

No substantive evidence

Scott Watson was not a Mr Nice Guy and already had a significant police record according to a search on www.checkpeople.com/arrest-records, mainly from his teenage years. He freely admits that was a little shit when he was younger.

He was at Furneaux Lodge on the fateful night, had a single-masted sloop moored there and was involved in some boorish behaviour during the New Year’s Party.

Also, he did leave early the following morning, but could not have had the young couple on board because they had been delivered by Guy Wallace to a two-masted ketch the night before.

A large number of people testified that a “mystery man” was present at the party and that he climbed up on to his ketch along with the couple. There are also the expungement attorneys in Mesa, AZ that can clear one’s name out of federal record.

The police pressurized Guy Wallace to change his evidence, but the water taxi driver, and four other people in the boat, were adamant that Ben Smart and Olivia Hope were definitely dropped off at a ketch.

A large ketch becomes a small sloop!

In the weeks that followed there were over a hundred sightings of the ketch and the people who saw it duly reported their evidence to the authorities. Some claim they actually saw the two missing young people on board.

The young couple were last seen alive climbing on to the ketch

Many commented, as Guy Wallace did, about the brass work around the portholes and the blue strip of paint along the outside. (Watson’s sloop had no portholes and was partly painted red at the time.)

But the police were not interested in other lines of inquiry, as they were convinced that they had their man. Their case was built on the young couple leaving the waters off Furneaux Lodge in Watson’s small one-masted sloop ‘Blade,’ not on an inconvenient  two-masted ketch.

The police constantly said they had no interest in the ketch and even claimed it didn’t exist!

This is equivalent to a hundred witnesses saying that someone was run over by a large four door Mercedes, and the authorities saying No, it was a two door Volkswagen.

Beyond belief and reasonable doubt

Some years ago North and South featured an in-depth article putting a strong case for Scott Watson’s innocence. The investigative piece emphasised that:

~ it was the ketch rather than a sloop that should have been the focus of inquiries

~ there were some dodgy witnesses, including  a secret prison witness who later retracted his story

~ there had been pressure put on others to change their stories, based on a photo of a dishevelled Watson taken later while he was in custody. (On New Year’s Eve at Furneaux Lodge, Watson had tidy short hair and police did have another photo of him on the night.)

Two key witnesses at the trial were unnamed prisoners, who testified that Watson confessed to them that he had committed the crime. (Watson has always maintained his innocence.)

One of these “secret witnesses” later admitted that he had lied and the other was bribed by the authorities.

The famous picture of the young couple

Basically there wasn’t any solid evidence that Watson was the abductor: he had no motive, no access, and no weapon; no bodies were recovered; Watson had no scratches and was on the wrong boat.

The crown case was based on very flimsy threads such as:

~  two hairs, that might have been Olivia’s, on a blanket in Watson’s boat. These were only discovered after the prosecution insisted on the forensic expert having a second look at the evidence. How could the expert fail the first time, to miss the two fair hairs among the black, which the expert’s eagle eyes would have been searching for?

~ scratches on the hatch cover of Blade that were claimed to be Olivia’s work attempting to  escape. However, it was explained that the scratches went right to the edge of the cover which was inaccessible when closed.

~ Watson repainting his boat early in 1998.

People watching the docudrama, who were not in New Zealand at the time of the case or who had not studied it, would have been incredulous about the outcome of the trial.

No-one saw the couple getting on Watson’s boat, but a large number of people saw them get into the water taxi heading for the ketch, and five people testified that they actually climbed on to that boat with an unknown long-haired man.

Watson would have had to come back from his boat and get Olivia and Ben off the ketch! No-one saw Watson, after he went to his boat in the early hours of the morning.

The Police and the prosecution were in a world of fantasy and Justice Mahan’s comment from the Erebus inquiry comes to mind: … ‘an orchestrated litany of lies’.

A miscarriage of justice

Scott Watson had been in trouble with the police many times in the 1980s and1990s, and seemed like an obvious suspect. However, on the basis of the evidence outlined above, he should have been quickly eliminated as the probable perpetrator of the crime.

However, the police were under a lot of pressure from the media and the public to come up with a culprit for the crime of abducting the two students.

As Olivia’s father Gerald said: The police were out to get their man, we were out to get the man, everybody was focusing on the conviction and they did what it took to do it.  

This was a shocking case of getting the evidence, by fair means or foul, to fit the suspect. Watson didn’t have a motive, the opportunity or the access to the young couple who were on a different boat at the time.

Only one person knows for sure what happened to Olivia Hope and Ben Smart, and that is the mystery man who got off scot free. 

One telling element of the docudrama was that the police were not prepared to take part and justify their findings. For them the case is closed: end of story.

But this story will not go away until a man who has been wrongfully imprisoned for 18 years is exonerated.

this case has similarities to many others persons wrongfully convicted in NZ , nothing will change untill the Law is made accountable, and have a board of Trustees to check on each proposed arrest ,that the Police and the Chief prosecutor have got the Charges correct and with No Doubt of Guilt,then we will have no more Scott Watsons,Bains,Crewes .and hundreds more of Maoris,Islanders, lower classes that just cant afford their cases to be heard fairly in Nz Courts…………………………………………………………………..Mark Young

I met the Watson family, including Scott about 17 years before this event occurred.
We became good friends over the years.
Yes – Scott got into a bit of trouble in his teenage years – not really any different to a lot of other young guys though.

But then he pulled himself together and built a 26 foot steel sloop in his parents back yard.
Having built one yacht and restored another I can tell you it takes time, dedication and a lot of effort to stick with it to completion.
Then he sailed that boat someway up the west coast of the North Island, then up the East Coast to Whangarei – all single handed.
I was living in Whangarei on my boat at the time and I spent some time with him and the young lady he met there.

He then sailed single handed to Tauranga where his sister joined him for the passage back to Picton.
On entering Cook straight they were hit by a bad storm – 40 knots+ of wind. It took them two days of bashing into it to get to Picton
I can tell you from experience that you need a lot of courage and guts and really have your wits about you to cope with doing things like that.
The conditions on the NZ coast certainly sorts out the men from the boys!!

So with knowing Scott and his family well I have been privy to a lot of went on during and after the trial that the public are only getting to know about.
Scott has absolutely NOTHING to do with Ben and Olivia’s disappearance!
The police framed him !

Private investigation has revealed that the Mystery Ketch was a drug boat and operating between NZ and New Caledonia.
Mike Kalaugher when he was doing his research to write the book Marlborough Mystery said to me one day “This case has drugs written all over it”!

Pope had been head of the Drug Squad in NZ and to protect the drug industry he denied that the Ketch existed, and focused on Scott as a scapegoat and sadly left Ben and Olivia to their fate at the hands of the drug dealers.