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Gerald Hope & Scott Watson: Face to Face

Gerald Hope & Scott Watson: Face to Face for the First Time

MEDIA RELEASE – December 11, 2016

Gerald Hope: “I respect what you say, but there are questions I’ll be asking today so I really, really need to know we’re getting it from your heart and your head. And it’s got to be absolutely honest.”
Scott Watson: “And you also need to be prepared to hear the truth and actually take it on board, because you’ve obviously been close to [investigation head] Rob Pope and his cronies. And at the time, you took on his line, and you were standing out there, almost the little media front with them, to create this whole thing.”

For 19 years, Gerald Hope wanted to meet Scott Watson, the man convicted of murdering his daughter, Olivia and her friend, Ben Smart, who disappeared after boarding a yacht with a stranger in the Marlborough Sounds in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 1998.

For 19 years, Scott Watson has maintained his innocence, and been open to meeting Gerald Hope.

In November, that meeting between Watson and Hope took place, in prison, where Watson remains. North & South senior writer Mike White, who helped organise the meeting, was there. His 16-page story of the unprecedented encounter is published in the January issue of North & South – on sale from December 12.

White’s story, “The Meeting: Gerald Hope & Scott Watson - Face to Face for the First Time”, covers the events of that fateful New Year’s Eve as queried and disputed by Gerald Hope – and remembered and explained by Watson. The meeting spanned two three-hour sessions over two days at Christchurch’s Rolleston Prison.

As White said, there were never going to be handshakes. “There was too much distrust, too many preconceptions.” But among Hope’s probing questions and Watson’s direct, unembellished answers, there were connections between the two men:

Hope: “You and I are both victims. You believe you’re a victim.”
Watson: “I know I’m a victim – I know I’m a victim.”
Hope: “We’re a victim. We never got the truth. We haven’t got the truth yet. Most people have got the comfort of the police, the legal system having done their job, so that’s why you’re in here. That’s the bottom line. Most people just get on with their lives, they don’t want to have anything change what’s already been decided. And I know that, I understand that.”

The decision from the Corrections Department – to allow this meeting with White present as an independent observer and recorder of the exchange – was the final event in a process that took more than three years. Applications for a meeting between Hope and Watson, with White present, were rejected by the Corrections Department in 2013 and 2014. A further application for a meeting, with White present in his capacity as a journalist and independent third party, was rejected in March 2016. This decision was the subject of the successful judicial review in the High Court, held in August.

Mike White said he was glad the meeting between Gerald Hope and Scott Watson had finally taken place, after a long legal battle. White met with Watson in prison last year, the first time Watson had spoken publicly. The most recent meetings continued to raise many disquieting aspects about his conviction.

“Gerald Hope clearly has significant concerns about the police investigation into the disappearance of his daughter and Ben Smart, as well as the trial process; and has many doubts about the case that convicted Scott Watson. He now rejects crucial evidence that underpinned Watson’s conviction, and this will add to debate about whether Scott Watson is guilty of the murders, or whether he is the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice.”

White has never voiced an opinion on Watson’s guilt or innocence. But what he witnessed and heard at the meetings between Gerald Hope and Scott Watson continued to raise concerns for him about the case, and whether the evidence shows police got the right man for the murders of Olivia and Ben.


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