10 Years Since Ben and Olivia Went Missing
It’s 10 Years Since Ben and Olivia Went Missing – Did We Get It Wrong?
That’s the question explored in the hard-hitting cover story of the latest North & South magazine.
Written by Mike White – who was a reporter on the The Marlborough Express during that drought scarred summer of 1997-8 when Ben Smart and Olivia Hope disappeared from the Marlborough Sounds – the North & South story reports growing doubts among some key witnesses, and even the father of one of the victims, about whether the police got the right man when Scott Watson was arrested in June 1998, and later convicted of murder.
The 12-page story looks in detail at key evidence gathered and the investigative methods used in the case. In the story, Mike White himself remembers when the guilty verdict came through he walked around his lounge punching the air in triumph, but says “In the eight years since, [the conviction] I’ve learnt more about the case than I ever knew at the time. And as I have, I’ve grown increasingly uneasy about the way Watson was investigated, the paucity of evidence against him and the eventual verdict.”
The North & South story looks again at some of the key pieces of Crown evidence which members of the public remember from news reports at the time. These include the repainting and extensive cleaning of Watson’s yacht; the evidence of secret witnesses; the discovery of Olivia’s hairs on Watson’s boat; the identification of Watson by crucial witnesses; and the supposed dumping of Ben and Olivia’s bodies in Cook Strait.
The story also interviews a number of people associated with the case who express their doubts about Watson’s guilt, most importantly Gerald Hope, Olivia’s father, who tells North&South: “The one thing that always remains is that we never found the truth. We thought we would. We thought the process we were going through would actually be the truth. But it hasn’t been. That’s the hardest part.”
The December issue of North & South is on sale in some Auckland stores from Sunday December 11, and throughout the rest of the country from Monday, December 12.