(born 28 June 1971) is a New Zealander who was convicted in May
1999 after an 11-week trial of the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia
Hope on his boat Blade on 1 January 1998.
The bodies of Smart and Hope have never been
found. A sonar search of the entrance to Tory channel, an area of
interest to the investigating police, found "there is no
indication that the missing remains of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope
are present or visible on the sea bed inside the search area".
Watson had 48 prior convictions, including some for theft and
assault, and was subsequently convicted for one more assault while
in prison. He is serving a life sentence with a non-parole period
of 17 years and is expected be released on 8 July 2016.
The New Zealand Court of Appeal rejected an
appeal by Watson. In 2003 Watson's lawyers Mike Antunovic and Greg
King applied to the Privy Council, it found no grounds for further
appeal. Watson is applying for a royal pardon.
The disappearance of Smart and Hope
On the morning of 1 January 1998, two young New
Year’s Eve partygoers disappeared. Ben Smart (21) and Olivia Hope
(17) had attended an all-night party to see in the New Year at
Furneaux Lodge, in Endeavour Inlet, in the Marlborough Sounds, at
the northern point of the South Island of New Zealand.
They were reported missing by Gerald Hope,
Olivia’s father, on Friday 2 January. No sightings of them had
been made since the early hours of 1 January. Initially, their
disappearance was treated as a missing persons enquiry.
The defence appealed Watson’s conviction, and
the case went to the Court of Appeal in April and May 2000. Three
Appeal Court judges heard submissions from both the prosecution
and the defence, but decided there was no new evidence to
recommend a second trial. They disregarded the defence’s
submission that the “two trip” theory had appeared “out of the
blue” late in the trial. Questions have been raised about the
manner of the police investigation, notably by Mike Kalaugher, who
in 2001 published a book which was critical of the police methods
used to obtain the conviction of Scott Watson, and by Keith
Hunter, in a 2003 television documentary, and a 2006 book.
Having been turned down for an appeal to the
Privy Council, Watson wrote to New Zealand’s Governor General in
2008, seeking advice as to obtaining a Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
In 2009, the Ministry of Justice appointed
Kristy McDonald QC to investigate the case as a result of Watson’s
appeal to the Governor General.
Watson married Coral Branch in Paremoremo
prison in 2004. They split in 2007.
In 2007, Watson was found guilty by a
magistrate of assaulting another inmate in Paparua Prison. In
2008, his appeal against that conviction failed.
A 2010 report by the Independent Police Conduct
Authority cleared police of allegations by Keith Hunter and Chris
Watson. It found the police investigation had fallen short of best
practice in areas which "had no significant bearing on the outcome
of the investigation". No evidence was found that would support
Hunter's other claims.
Jayson Rhodes & Ian Wishart Ben and Olivia
- What Really Happened? (Auckland: Howling At The Moon
Publishing, 1999) ISBN 0-9582054-4-2
John Goulter Silent Evidence
(Auckland: Random House, 2000) ISBN 1-86941-386-5
Mike Kalaugher The Marlborough Mystery
(Auckland: Tandem Press, 2001) ISBN 1-877178-91-8
Murder on the Blade? television
Keith Hunter Trial by Trickery: Scott
Watson, the Sounds Murders and the Game of Law (Auckland:
Hunter Productions, 2006) ISBN 0-473-11721-5
Mike White "Ben and Olivia 10 years on – Did
We Get it Wrong?/Sounds of Disquiet" North & South,
December 2007, 46-56.
Report backs police
handling of Marlborough Sounds murders
Police fell short in some areas of their
investigation into the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope, but
their mistakes did not have a significant bearing on the inquiry's
outcome, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has
Scott Watson was sentenced to life imprisonment
with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years after being found
guilty of the 1997 murders in the Marlborough Sounds.
The IPCA launched an inquiry into the police
investigation after it received complaints from journalist Keith
Hunter and Watson's father Chris.
No complaint was received from Scott Watson
In a report released today, the IPCA found the
investigation, known as Operation Tam, fell short in three
An affidavit to obtain search warrants signed
by Detective Inspector Rob Pope, now the Deputy Commissioner,
contained errors and fell short of the high standard of accuracy
needed for warrants.
However, the authority rejected Mr Hunter's
allegation that Mr Pope had intended to mislead, and found the
errors did not "strike at the heart of the document".
Mr Pope had not known the document was
inaccurate when he signed it, and his mistake did not constitute
misconduct or neglect of duty.
The authority found it was "highly undesirable"
for a member of the investigation team to give a suspect profile
of Scott Watson to a community group.
It also found the construction of photo
montages of Watson, and the methods used to show them to
witnesses, were undesirable.
However, a lack of documentation meant the
authority could not determine how decisions about the montages
were made, and by whom.
Mr Hunter had complained the montages put
Watson at a disadvantage because they showed him with his eyes
Authority chairwoman Justice Lowell Goddard
said today that areas in which Operation Tam fell short had no
significant bearing on the outcome of the investigation.
The inquiry was conducted reasonably and
rationally, and police remained open-minded throughout.
"On the basis of what Detective Inspector Rob
Pope knew, it was reasonable and appropriate for him to focus
resources on investigating Scott Watson. Indeed, he would have
been remiss had he not," Justice Goddard said.
The police investigation was conducted in a
small community in which many people knew each other and discussed
the case openly.
It also took place under intense media
scrutiny, with witnesses and people who knew Scott Watson
frequently appearing in the media.
"The unprecedented and unrelenting nature of
the media focus throughout the inquiry can only have served to
make an already complex and difficult investigation even more so,"
Justice Goddard said.
Ad Feedback "In these difficult circumstances,
some actions of police fell short of best practice, some mistakes
were made, and these were compounded by the actions of others, in
particular the media and members of the community who openly
discussed the investigation with each other and with reporters."
The IPCA found no evidence behind many of Mr
Mr Hunter alleged Mr Pope had concluded Watson
was guilty within five days of the investigation, ignored evidence
to the contrary, created and circulated false rumours about
Watson, told a "strategic lie" to media about whether Watson was a
suspect, bought the testimony of secret witnesses, and planted DNA
The authority noted that many of the issues
raised in Mr Hunter's complaint were available to Watson's defence
team to raise at trial and on appeal.
However, it noted also that the conduct of the
trial and appeal were not matters within its jurisdiction.
Justice Goddard said the authority's
investigation was exhaustive, with investigative staff and legal
analysts spending hundreds of hours examining some 25,000
Operation Tam was the largest police
investigation ever conducted by New Zealand police at the time.
About 1650 people who were in the Marlborough Sounds at the time
had to be contacted, and more than 100 vessels were identified and
Hide seeks answers on Sounds murders
By Emma Page - Stuff.co.nz
October 18, 2009
ACT leader Rodney Hide wants authorities, including police, to
answer allegations about their conduct in the Scott Watson case
which saw the then 26-year-old convicted for the Marlborough
Sounds murder of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope almost 12 years ago.
Yesterday Hide attended an Act-arranged public meeting at a
cafe in his Epsom, Auckland, electorate, where journalist and
campaigner Keith Hunter spoke to a crowd of 40 people about the
Hunter, who has made a documentary in support of Watson's
innocence and written a book about processes which led to his
conviction, emphasised his belief that during the case certain
police, the prosecution team, the judge and the Court of Appeal
members involved "acted without integrity and without any regard
whatever for truth and justice".
He said he intended to make it as hard as he could for the
justice system to ignore its conduct.
Smart, 20, and Hope, 17, disappeared during the early hours of
New Year's Day, 1998. They were last seen boarding a yacht moored
off Furneaux Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds. Watson was arrested
the same year and convicted of their murder. An appeal was later
rejected by the Court of Appeal and Watson has now appealed to the
governor-general for a Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
Hide told the Sunday Star-Times he was a fan of Hunter's 2007
book Trial By Trickery: Scott Watson, the Sounds Murders and the
Game of Law. He would like to see authorities, including Crown Law
and police, provide a step-by-step response to each of Hunter's
criticisms – which address the use of jailhouse informants, the
misquoting or misinterpretation of evidence, manipulation of the
media, misleading the jury, and the prosecution introducing a new
scenario in its closing address.
"It's very hard to read that book and then hear a deafening
silence and then have confidence in the processes," said Hide.
Hide does not describe himself as a Watson "supporter", saying
Hunter's book was more about the justice system than a particular
"It was a very impressive piece of work. I'm concerned that the
damning criticisms of the police and justice system in this book
have gone unanswered and I suspect I know the reason – I think
they must be valid."
Ad Feedback Hide did not speak at the meeting, saying he was
there to lend support and to listen and learn.
Green Party MP and human rights spokesman Keith Locke also
spoke at the meeting. He told the Star-Times that readers of Trial
by Trickery were left with "the clear conclusion that there could
have been a miscarriage of justice".
He would like to see an Independent Criminal Appeals Review
Office set up, and constitutional changes that would make appeals
more independent of executive government.
The meeting was organised by Act members Brian Nicolle, John
Banks' former campaign manager, and Stuart Macfarlane, a former
lawyer who wrote a book about the Erebus crash. Auckland Regional
Council's chairman Mike Lee also attended and told the Star-Times
he thought Watson was innocent.
Meanwhile, Ben Smart's father John, 70, died last Sunday of
melanoma. His funeral was held on Friday.
Scott Watson photographed by the
police on 8 January 1998.
Scott Watson is taken to the Christchurch District Court in a
police car before being charged with the murder of Ben Smart and
Oliva Hope in 1998. Source: Getty Images.
Ben Smart and Olivia Hope