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The Mystery Ketch Theory Is Not Dead Yet

Scoop's Fraser Rolfe attends a days proceedings at the Scott Watson trial and finds the defence is still pushing the "mystery ketch" theory.

A dozen weary journalists are packed shoulder to shoulder along the press benches. A dozen jurors peer over growing piles of folders, documents and photographs as the trial of Scott Watson moves through its third month.

As the court resumed yesterday, lawyers, media, jurors and staff took up their accustomed posts.

The elegant, wood panelling of Room One at the Wellington High Court is strangled with cables and leads. Small cameras are duct-taped above the public gallery.

The legal counsel is bedded in amid trolley-loads of well-ordered paperwork. Two weeks of this vigil remain.

Watson has pleaded not guilty to the murders of Ben Smart, 21, and Olivia Hope, 17, on or about 1 January 1998. Detective Bruce McLachlan entered his second day giving evidence about the movements of yachts in and around the Marlborough Sounds during this period.

Yesterday the court sitting resumed at 2.15pm after a day and a half of hearing legal submissions over disputed evidence in chambers.

Resuming his cross examination of McLachlan Defence lawyer Mike Antunovic asked, "Is it possible that you may not have been able to identify every single vessel arriving from dusk until dawn?" Mr McLachlan answered, "If a boat had arrived late, anchored alone 300m [off shore] and used their own tender to get ashore - yes."

But he said there was only a small chance of it's not being noticed by one of the 370 people in the area. Mr McLachlan said he believed police had accounted for every boat in the area at the time.

Where witnesses' statements about movements of boats conflict with police findings, Mr McLachlan said witnesses "may have been mistaken as to times".

Mr Antunovic asked if it might be police who were mistaken. "I guess that may be a possibility", Mr McLachlan said.

Crown Prosecutor Paul Davidson, QC, asked Mr McLachlan about their enquiries regarding vessels at which Ben and Olivia could have been dropped. Mr McLachlan said, "All of them with the exception of the yacht, Blade, were eliminated."

Mr Davidson asked that a video be played showing a re-enactment of the movements of the water taxi which is said to have delivered Ben and Olivia to the Mystery Vessel.

Justice Heron allowed the tape in spite of Mr Antunovic's protest. The trial is set to continue for another two weeks.


Fraser Rolfe is a student at the Wellington Polytechnic Journalism School assigned to Scoop on work experience.


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