Transcript: 62. Mystery in the Sounds (Part 1) | New Zealand

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The Marlborough Sounds is a network of ancient, sunken river valleys, filled with water of the Pacific Ocean. It is located at the northernmost end of New Zealand’s South Island. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, with unspoiled emerald green, wooded hills and various bays and inlets.

In the 1990s, on New Year’s Eve in The Sounds, there was only one place to go: Furneaux Lodge. It was a century-old building with no road access and the New Year’s Eve parties were legendary. Hundreds of boats, full of young party-goers made their way to the calm waters of Endeavour Inlet for the celebrations. 

21-year-old Ben Smart, an engineering assistant from nearby Blenheim was with a group of friends when they arrived. Ben was a laid-back guy who loved music and took his guitar with him, wherever he went. The plan was to celebrate the new year and then stay over at a bach at Punga Cove (pronounce: BATCH), or beach shack with some friends.

Olivia Hope was 17 years old and was about to start her legal degree at the University of Otago. She was academically gifted and a keen pianist. Olivia and her sister Amelia chartered a small yacht with seven other friends to go to Furneaux Lodge. The yacht was called Tamarack and as they sailed into Endeavour Inlet on December 31st, 1997, spirits were high. 

Olivia lived in Grovetown, near Blenheim where Ben was from and they knew each other well. Both were popular, good looking and talented and came from good stock. Olivia’s father was a prominent local politician, Councillor for Marlborough. The Hope family was close-knit and Olivia and Amelia always got along, they loved each other very much. 

Scott Watson, a 26-year-old local man from the nearby port town of Picton, also sailed into the bay on that day. He had built his yacht himself, in the backyard of his family home. He called it Blade. She was his pride and joy, so much so, he lived on it. By the time he arrived, there was no place to moor his yacht, so he did what many others did and tied Blade to two other stationary yachts, the Mina Cornelia and Bianco. Like all the other people arriving at Furneaux Lodge that day, Scott was ready to party and party big.

This night would forever bind the names of Ben, Olivia and Scott together in a mystery that has captured the imaginations of all New Zealanders for more than 20 years. Before the sun rose on the 1st of January 1998, tragedy had struck, but what really happened in the waters of Endeavour Inlet on that chilly summer’s night?

>>Intro Music

On Wednesday the 31st of December 1997, Guy Wallace worked at the bar at Furneaux Lodge. Throughout the day, staff prepared for the busiest night of the year. They watched as Endeavour Inlet gradually became more crowded, with hundreds of boats sailing in for the big night.

It was a jovial atmosphere as people arrived, made friends and shared drinks, making resolutions that would probably be forgotten before the end of January. As the sun set, water-taxi’s and dinghy’s transported party-goers from their larger vessels to the jetty, where the celebrations were warming up. Altogether, it was estimated that 1,500 people were at Furneaux Lodge, taking part in celebrations. 

There was a bar with pool tables and a dance floor and a tent on the big lawn out front. At some point during the party, Ben and Olivia bumped into each other and hung out for the rest of the night. They were close friends and not romantically involved and it was a bonus that they had found each other in the large crowd.

Scott Watson started out the night, partying on a charter boat that he had rafted his yacht up to, called the Mina Cornelia. When the sun set after 9pm, the group took a water-taxi to the lodge. By this time everyone was already quite mellow and rowdy. Witnesses saw Scott flirting with girls, clumsily turning on the charm, but he was rebuffed by everyone.  Witnesses said that he was boisterous and touched girls inappropriately and when they told him off, he just laughed and walked away. 

Scott also picked fights with guys, carried on making a nuisance of himself with girls. He later admitted that he was quite drunk, but it was New Year’s Eve, and everyone was drunk.

Scott wasn’t the only obnoxious drunk at the party that night. Bar manager, Roz McNeilly remembered an unknown man drinking bourbon and coke at the bar. He paid with cash, that he took out of his pocket and peeled it off rolls of bills. He looked unkempt with long hair and a couple of days’ stubble. Other people remembered seeing this man in the bar, and thought that he was a bit sleezy, creepy even. For instance, one party-goer saw him drop something on purpose so he could look up a girl’s skirt.

By the time midnight rolled around, Ben and Olivia were still together. Once they were ready to call it a night, they left Furneaux Lodge with some friends in a runabout (or small motorised boat). Their friends dropped both of them at the Tamarack. Olivia was furious: there were so many freeloaders taking up all the berths that they had no place to sleep. She started waking people up, saying they should leave. She paid for her spot on the Tamarack and she needed a place to sleep. Some people pointed out that Ben didn’t pay and angry words were exchanged.

Around 3:30am, back at Furneaux lodge, barman Guy Wallace was ready to leave after a long night. He was probably one of only a handful of sober people around. Some youngsters asked him if he could give them a lift in his Naiad dinghy and he said it was okay. Like many nights before, Guy Wallace became an unofficial water-taxi. When the dinghy left the pier just before 4am, there were five passengers onboard: Hayden Morrissey and Sarah Dyer, Olivia Hope’s sister Amelia and her friend Rick Goddard as well as an unidentified man. Wallace decided the first stop would be the Tamarack, as it was the closest to shore.

When they arrived, Ben and Olivia were ready to leave. After fighting with the freeloaders they just wanted to get off the Tamarack and find a place to sleep. Amelia and Rick didn’t mind the overcrowding and boarded the Tamarack, but Ben and Olivia were desperate to sleep, so they got into Wallace’s water-taxi, with the intention of looking for somewhere to crash back on shore. They did not know anyone on the dinghy prior to boarding. 

Wallace asked them where they wanted to be dropped off and the asked him to take them back to the pier, they would figure something out when they were back on dry land. As it was New Year’s Eve, all accommodation was booked up, so there wasn’t much hope that they would find a spot. The single male passenger on the water-taxi, said they could crash on his yacht, as it was the next stop. He then changed his mind and said that Olivia could come, but not Ben. Everybody laughed and thought the man was joking. But there was something ominous in the way he had said it.

As they came up to the man’s yacht, they noticed that it was rather impressive. It was a double masted ketch with copper portholes and decorative rope work. Ben and Olivia figured they only needed a couple of hours’ sleep and accepted the man’s offer to stay. 

Guy Wallace remembered that he had a bad feeling about leaving them there and asked if they were sure they were ok before he left. Ben and Olivia were tired and still somewhat under the influence and did not seem concerned at all. They assured Wallace that they were fine. Wallace, Hayden Morrissey and Sarah Dyer saw the two of them climbing onto the ketch, then left.

The next morning around 8:30am, the ketch was gone – and so were Ben and Olivia. In the hungover haze of New Year’s Day, with so many young people socialising, and recovering after the big party, it took a while for Amelia and Olivia’s friends to notice she had not come back. They knew she was with Ben, so they weren’t overly concerned. 

The New Year’s crowd left Endeavour Inlet and by nightfall the bay was quiet and peaceful again. Scott Watson spent New Year’s Day at a friend’s place in Erie Bay, before going on a three-day sailing trip with his sister, Sandy.

When there was still no sign of Ben or Olivia by the 2nd of January, everyone became worried. Their parents reported the young pair missing, but at first police were convinced they would resurface in a day or two. Even their families thought the report was more of a precaution than anything else, as they hoped there would be a reasonable explanation for Ben and Olivia’s absence. But that explanation never came.

The official search commenced on Saturday the 3rd of January. Police determined that the youngsters were last seen boarding the ketch in the early morning hours, two days before. The navy and the coastguard were asked to keep an eye out for the ketch in the Marlborough Sounds and surrounding areas. Police studied satellite pictures of territorial waters, looking for any sign of the yacht. They also notified all ports in the South Pacific, but nobody reported a sighting. 

Police realised they needed the help of the public and appealed to everyone who attended the New Year’s Eve party at Furneaux Lodge for information. They were specifically looking for any photographs of the night: of the party, so they could see if Ben and Olivia were with someone suspicious, but also photos of the bay, to obtain evidence of the ketch and its owner.

Today it would be so much easier to gather photographic evidence, with everyone carrying a cell phone and taking digital shots, but back then photos were taken with cameras on film that had to be developed first. But people cooperated and photos made its way to police. From that, they were able to see both Ben and Olivia at the party. From the photos it did not look as if they had contact with the mystery man at Furneaux Lodge, they only met him on the water-taxi. From the thousands of photos, police could not find any evidence of the the ketch. So many people made official statements, describing the ketch, but it was on none of the photos of Endeavour Inlet taken that evening.

Police divers were brought in to search the entire Endeavour Inlet, with no luck. The fact that no bodies were found left the Hope and Smart families feeling positive that they might still find Olivia and Ben.

By the 5th of January, well-known New Zealand Inspector Rob Pope was put in charge of the investigation, that was assigned the name ‘Operation TAM’ (short for Tamarack – the boat Olivia and her friends had chartered). The case was immediately of high priority, as Olivia’s dad, Gerald Hope, served on the Marlborough District Council.

Locals speculated that Ben and Olivia had eloped and were laying low because they weren’t ready to tell their families. But Olivia’s father, Gerald Hope, addressed the public in a radio broadcast, insisting this could not be true. They were both about to start new chapters in their lives: Ben as an assistant at his dad’s engineering firm and Olivia as a law student. They were both responsible and close to their families and would not disappear without telling anyone.

Inspector Rob Pope was under fire from the get-go. The media accused him of being tight-lipped questioned his management style. From the start of the investigation there were so many rumours floating around about the missing teens and the media felt that police did NOTHING to stop it. The fact that they only gave trickles of information, created an atmosphere for speculation. It was even thought that police started some of the rumours to test the reaction of the community.

The best eyewitness was Guy Wallace, the barman who operated the dinghy. Wallace described the yacht as a two-masted, wooden ketch, about 38-40 ft or (12 metres) long. He described in detail that it was an old-style yacht with brass portholes, a blue stripe on the hull and lots of rope work. All of this was corroborated by the passenger on the dinghy, Hayden Morrissey.

Wallace could also provide a good description of the unknown man, or ‘the mystery man’ – as he would become known in the investigation. He had served him at the bar in the evening and had a good look at him before. He was a Caucasian man of about 32 years old. Wallace said he was of medium build and estimated him to be about 5ft10 (1.78 metres) tall. 

He was unshaven, his hair was medium-length and appeared windswept. It was obvious that he did not spend any time cleaning himself up for the night out. He wore blue jeans and a Levi short-sleeved shirt with a red tab on the left breast pocket. 

A composite sketch of the mystery man as well as a drawing of his ketch was released to the public. Wallace would later admit that the sketch did not quite look like the man he described, but he was rushed by police and told to sign it off.

A week into the investigation, nobody had been able to identify the mystery man, nor were they able to identify the ketch. Multiple witnesses remembered the man from that night. Nobody knew him to be a local, but because of his appearance and behaviour, he stuck out in the crowd.

Despite the navy and police not finding any evidence of the ketch, there were various reports from the public in the days following the disappearance of Ben and Olivia. The ketch described by police was seen throughout the Marlborough Sounds in the first days of January 1998. From Furneaux Lodge, to Ruakaka Bay (in Queen Charlotte Strait), Cook Strait, then Allen Strait, then Mapua where Stuart and Cynthia Fowler spotted it. They immediately called the helpline that had been set up. Police only called back months later, and according to the Fowlers, the officers did not seem too enthusiastic to take their statement seriously. 

A chilling account came from a school friend of Olivia’s, who played on the same basketball team as her. She said that she saw Ben and Olivia in the port town of Picton on the 2nd or 3rd of January – she was not 100% sure which day it was. But she was certain that she had seen her friend and Ben Smart with three strangers: two men and a woman. She said Olivia wasn’t crying, but she looked sad and frightened. When Olivia saw her she asked the friend to help, but the girl was too scared to get involved. As she walked away, she could hear one of the men ask the others: what should we do with them?

A local man also claimed to have seen a ketch off the coast of Picton after New Year’s day. On the boat were two men and a blonde woman. The witness saw a video of Olivia on a missing person’s report on TV and there was no doubt in his mind that she was the female who sat at the back of the ketch.

Two other witnesses also came forward, saying they saw Olivia on the 2nd of January. Ted and Yvonne Walsh saw a ketch with two big masts. They were out fishing on their boat in The Sounds and they saw it go past. The ketch seemed out of place – it was quite luxurious and suited for the open seas, it wasn’t a local yacht used for cruising the Sounds, so they took note of it. Both of them saw a young, blonde woman on the back of the boat. When they heard about Ben and Olivia’s disappearance, they were certain the girl that they saw was Olivia. They reported the sighting, but police told them they were mistaken, as Olivia had red hair not blonde. Besides, police were sceptical that the boat they saw was a ketch. It was only years later that they learnt Olivia’s hair was never red, so chances were, the woman they saw was, in fact, Olivia.

On the 5th of January, John and Karen Futter from Tennyson Inlet saw a Marlborough runabout with five people on it. Two were seated at the back and three up front. The boats passed each other, and the Futters waved as is customary with ‘boaties’, but there was no response. The two passengers at the back fitted descriptions of Ben and Olivia. They also did not look like they were having fun at all – they looked serious, scared even. The way they were sitting looked like their hands may have been tied behind their backs.

The Futters later crossed paths with the runabout again, coming out of a small deserted bay. This time, the two young passengers were NOT in the back. A storm was coming in and the Futters were uneasy about what they had witnessed, so they called it a day.

When they arrived home, they reported what they had seen to police, who said that their sightings did not fall within the boundaries of their enquiries. Tennyson Inlet was approximately five hours by boat from Furneaux Lodge, which, five days after the disappearance, was very well within the range of possible places where Ben and Olivia could have been taken.

The bay where the Futters believed they were dropped off was an uninhabited, rugged bushland with no sign of civilisation or infrastructure. If Ben and Olivia had been left there, on a stormy summer’s day, it would not have been a good place to be left in summer clothing.

Police took note of all the sightings of the wooden ketch, but because they could not find the ketch on any of the photographs of Endeavour Inlet on New Year’s Eve, they were sceptical. In an official statement, a police spokesperson said:

“We can be fairly certain that this ketch does not exist.”

This was unbelievable, considering how many sightings and testimonies were made. All of the sightings were made by local people familiar with boats. Each and every one was a credible witness. Police were highly criticised about their handling of the eyewitness accounts, as the witnesses were treated rather badly. They were told their statements weren’t relevant and nobody followed up with them either. Some people even admitted that they regretted reaching out to police.

The thing is, police had received more than 54 reports, when in fact, they had absolutely no concrete evidence that there was a ketch in Endeavour Inlet on the night of the disappearance. That is why they dismissed reports, something that made the public very angry, because they felt police were not taking their information to heart. 

The Smart and Hope families decided to conduct private searches of the entire area. The Blenheim Lions Club held a fundraiser and locals volunteered time and resources. They searched the water, the land, even mounted a private aerial search, but sadly, they could not find any trace of Ben or Olivia.

When the transcript of Guy Wallace’s initial interview with police was made public, it was rather shocking to see how often his interrogators accused him of lying or covering something up. What motive could Wallace possibly have had to be untruthful? 

Olivia’s sister Amelia was driven to tears by ruthless interrogators. She did not have a clear recollection of the mystery man, who was on the water-taxi, but she was certain she would recognise him if she saw him. That was not what police wanted to hear.

From early-on in the investigation, police believed that there was a possible suspect. They believed the mystery man was in fact, Scott Watson. According to police, Scott Watson was similar in appearance to the mystery man. 

Detective Inspector Rob Pope publicly said that Watson began to “stick out like dogs’ balls”. When asked why, Pope could not support his statement with facts, but said that Watson appeared to have “the right sort of agenda and pedigree” and that he had a gut feeling about him. He believed that the man Ben and Olivia was last seen with, was Scott Watson and the boat they were on was his sloop, Blade, not a two-masted ketch.

This conclusion of Watson’s character was derived from the fact that he had a police record, because he smoked weed and drank often, because he was known to be aggressive and generally not well liked. His brash behaviour at the party also made him look like a probable perpetrator.

Scott Watson lived in Picton and grew up in a boating family. He loved spending time on the water. He had quite a rap sheet, mainly crimes committed during his teenage years. His offences included burglary, theft and the possession of cannabis. He only had one conviction for violent behaviour, an assault charge when he was 16, as the result of a pub brawl. He spent some time in prison, doing two short stints in 1989 and 1990.

When he came out, he decided to get his life back on track. After his release in 1990, up to the time of Ben and Olivia’s disappearance in 1998, he had no other brushes with the law. He decided to build his own yacht, so he could live on it when he was in Picton or use it to sail the Pacific. He was so proud of it, as he built everything himself. He knew some people took their whole lives to build a boat, but he wanted to complete it in the minimum amount of time, so he could get it onto the water.

Rumours spread around the small town of Picton, stories that Watson was sleeping with his sister, Sandy. It also came up that Watson was involved in the disappearance of a woman – Nancy Frey – on Great Barrier Island in September of the previous year. The fact that the officer in charge of that investigation said Watson was never a suspect, never made the news. Nancy’s mysterious disappearance from her home has never been solved.

Locals in Picton said in later years that the rumours came directly from police in a smear campaign against Scott and his family. They were made out to be outlaws, when in fact they were just an average hard-working, boat-loving family. 

Police bugged the Watson family’s phones and homes and recorded all their conversations. It was a time of tremendous pressure, with Scott being named as the prime suspect in the case, so there was a lot of derogatory talk about police and Inspector Pope. When police questioned neighbours or other people from Picton, they openly talked about the conversations in the Watson home. Investigators were stoking the fires of the rumour mill, hoping that some useful information would come out of it.

Even Olivia’s father, Gerald Hope heard the rumours. He recalled what he was told:

“There was always whispering here and there, dropping seeds into us about this and that like the incest stuff and the dysfunctional family. ‘Bloody family, they’re all bloody cop-haters and anti-social types’, that sort of thing. And for us middle-class people who don’t run families that way, I was suddenly confronted with the fact there was somebody at Furneaux Lodge capable of doing what was supposed to have happened. That’s why I remember saying, and I hate having said it, ‘If we can’t have our kids back then we’ll nail the bastard’.”

The problem with the police’s theory, that Wallace left Ben and Olivia with Watson on Blade, was the fact that the two boats were nothing alike. Watson’s sloop was a 26-ft single masted, steel-hulled sloop. It was a homemade yacht, with no frills. It had no brass portholes and no rope work. A blue stripe would have been out of place, as it was not the decorative sort of vessel. Also, all the witnesses who were on the dinghy with Guy Wallace, saw Ben and Olivia climb up from the dinghy onto the ketch. That would not have been the case with Watson’s sloop, as it was set deeper in the water.

On the night of the disappearance, Watson’s sloop, Blade was tied up to two other boats. Altogether, there were nine people who would have heard or seen Watson arrive with Ben and Olivia. If Watson was a solo assailant, one can assume that the young and fit Ben and Olivia would have put up a good fight. Yet, nobody in the neighbouring boats recalled hearing any noise coming from Watson’s boat that night.

Blade was a small yacht and below deck there was only place for one person to sleep. Olivia’s dad, Gerald, had been on the yacht and immediately said that it would have been unlikely for Olivia to have chosen to sleep on a boat like Blade. It was cramped and unsuitable for visitors. Olivia was claustrophobic and would not have gone below deck – which means people on the boats rafted with the Blade would have seen her. But he could also not discard the fact that she must have been very tired and desperate enough to get some sleep, to have felt okay with it. 

Nonetheless, on the 12th of January, police lifted Watson’s yacht from the Waikawa marina and transported it to Woodbourne Air Force Base – for forensic examination. Information leaked to the media that Watson’s anchors were missing and the theory formed that it was used to weight down the bodies. However, this was just another rumour. When Blade was seized, there were three anchors onboard, one of them in plain sight.

In building the case against Watson, police needed more than rumours. At first, they believed that Watson had cleaned his yacht extensively shortly after the events of New Year’s eve. However, forensic scientists said only a couple of surfaces had been cleaned, less than half the interior. Watson stated that he had cleaned the boat in December after a rough voyage from the North Island. Everything was wet. That is why he even cleaned the insides of cassette covers (a fact that made him appear guilty of over-cleaning). However, many ‘boaties’ came to Watson’s defence and said that saltwater would wreck cassettes and tape recorders and that it was common practice to wipe down the insides of covers on a boat.

They recovered a blanket from the bed in Watson’s yacht and found many short brown hairs. Of 400 hairs found on the blanket, ESR forensic scientist Susan Vintiner was able to isolate 11 hairs with roots, but none of them had strong enough DNA evidence to link it to either Scott Watson or Ben Smart. None of the hairs were blonde like Olivia’s either. 

Investigators found marks beneath Blade where hull-weed had been wiped away. The theory was that, after weighting the bodies of Ben and Olivia down, he threw them overboard. The bodies rubbed against the hull, wiping off the weed. Watson explanation for the marks was that he had swum along the hull to clean weed from the stern and the propeller to reduce drag. When he was asked why he did not clean the whole hull, he said that it was a big job and he got tired of being in the water, scrubbing his boat. So he only did a half a job, only what was necessary, then stopped.

The fact that Watson painted his cabin in January became quite contentious. He said he had been offered paint by a friend who was a caretaker on a property in Erie Bay a while back and he only took him up on the offer on New Year’s Day. 

Police saw his trip to Erie Bay as a rouse, so he could have the opportunity to discard of Ben and Olivia’s bodies. According to police theory, Watson dumped the bodies in Cook Strait (that is in between New Zealand North and South Islands), on his way to Erie Bay. 

Watson said he arrived at his friend’s place somewhere between 10am and midday. He spent most of the day with his caretaker friend and the friend’s children. The caretaker and his kids confirmed this. But when police found cannabis growing on the property, his testimony changed and he said Watson arrived closer to 5pm. He changed his statement, seeing as he was threatened with jail time because of the cannabis.

His friend was later convicted for growing cannabis and police made him believe that Scott Watson was the one who informed them about the plants on his property. The friend believed it was a ploy to turn him against Watson and change his account of the time that Watson arrived in Erie Bay on new year’s day.

Keith Hunter, author of the book ‘Trial by Trickery’ and an advocate for Watson’s innocence, took eyewitness testimonies and recreated the trip from Furneaux Lodge to Erie Bay. He proved that the altered time, stating that Watson arrived later, simply wasn’t true. 

Three months into the investigation, samples of Olivia’s hair was sent to the forensics lab. Watson’s tiger blanket was examined again and this time they found two long blonde hairs, which hadn’t been there before. It was strange that nothing was found during the first examination, yet, on the day samples arrived in the lab, two hairs appeared on the blanket. It was strongly suggested that it was a case of contamination, as the blonde hairs of between 7 and 10 inches long would have been hard to miss the first time around. 

This evidence lost all credibility when it was discovered that there was a hole in the plastic evidence bag that contained Olivia’s hair. The officers who had collected the hairs from Olivia’s bedroom neglected to count the number of hairs they placed in the bag, so it was not possible to say if two strands had gone missing from the bag or not.

In April, four months after the disappearance, Guy Wallace had already seen photos of Watson on three different occasions, each time he said that Watson was NOT the mystery man. Every time he said that his eyes were different. Then police showed Wallace a new, posed photo of Watson with his eyes half closed. Wallace agreed that, in that particular photo, Watson bore a stronger resemblance to the mystery man (although he did not say that he thought Watson WAS the mystery man). He reiterated that the mystery man’s hair was longer and he had more facial hair. 

Other witnesses also saw the closed-eyes photo and said there was a resemblance, but that the mystery man had longer hair. A photo of Scott Watson, taken on New Year’s Eve on the Mina Cornelia showed that he was clean shaven and his hair was tidy. 

Olivia’s sister, Amelia, said that none of the men presented to her in the photo line-up were the mystery man on the dinghy, and of the eight photos there was one man who looked similar, only because of his receding hairline. That man was NOT Scott Watson.

Roz McNeilly, bar manager at Furneaux Lodge, said that, of all the photos presented to her, Watson looked most like the mystery man, but she wasn’t 100% sure. In her opinion, the man had longer hair and the beginnings of a beard. She remembered that the man only ordered bourbon and coke, while everyone who knew Watson, knew that his drink of choice was rum.

Despite the case being only circumstantial, prosecution was confident that they had enough evidence to convict Scott Watson. He was arrested on the 15th of June 1998 and charged with the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope.

Scott Watson’s trial began in March 1999 and in the span of 11 weeks, 500 witnesses were called to testify. Watson pleaded not guilty and pleaded not guilty.

The Crown (prosecution) had to make a case with no bodies, no murder weapon and no proven crime scene. It was a circumstantial case and they realised it would be a tough task to convince the jury that Watson was responsible for the disappearance and probable deaths of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope. The Crown’s case was constructed to play on the emotions of the jury.

According to prosecution, Watson returned to Blade after the party in the early morning hours, on Guy Wallace’s water taxi. He invited Ben and Olivia to sleep on his yacht for a couple of hours, before they re-joined their friends. Although Watson said he returned around 2am, it could not be confirmed because he didn’t have a watch he was not 100% sure. Donald Anderson, a water taxi driver recalled dropping off a single man on a yacht with a name… Something with an edged weapon, like Sword, or such around 2am. Several other people, on two yachts rafted up with the Blade recalled him arriving back, alone, ready to party some more. He tried to wake them up, but they told him to take a hike.

Prosecution revealed a shocking piece of evidence. Inside the forward hatch on Blade, they found scratches on rubber material, which they believed were scratch marks made by Olivia who was kept captive before she was murdered and thrown overboard. 

However, the scratch marks were all over the hatch and if it had been shut as prosecution speculated, there would have been a frame-like area with no scratches. Watson explained that the marks were made by his nieces with a stick when they were playing on his boat, while the hatch was open. 

A neighbour was able to corroborate this as she remembered Watson’s sister Sandy helping him clean Blade and that Sandy’s daughters were in trouble because they had scratched their uncle’s hatch. Also, the hatch could only lock from the inside, so if Olivia was inside and the hatch was closed, she would have been able to open it. There was no way of locking it from the outside. Unless, of course, someone sat on it, or if a heavy object was placed on top of it.

Towards the end of the trial, Prosecution laid out a new theory, the so-called ‘two-trip-theory’. They said that Watson made two trips back to Blade in the early morning hours. One with Donaldson at 2am and then again with Wallace at 4am. 

Defence slammed the Crown and said they only developed this idea to fit into their case. Defence pointed out that none of the 500 witnesses testified to seeing Watson on land between 2 and 4am. 

Paul Davison QC then revealed that there was an incident on shore at Furneaux Lodge at 3am involving Watson, where he insulted a young man called Oliver Perkins for wearing a necklace. Olli’s sister was suffering from cancer and had given him the necklace, so Watson’s insults hit a nerve. Olli’s friends put Watson in his place about his comments and told him about Olli’s sister. Watson mumbled an apology and refocussed his attention to the girls in the group. He offered to take them out on his yacht and was very clear about the fact that, if they were to go out to sea with him, he would have expected sexual favours. Naturally the girls said no, but his inappropriate behaviour made his appearance back at Furneaux Lodge memorable. They were able to estimate the confrontation to have been after 2:30am, seeing as the band had already packed up by then.

Still, there was no proof of HOW Watson made the trip back to land. Speculation that he swam ashore with a plastic bag with dry clothes, didn’t support the theory much either.

Prosecution had the jury in the palm of their hand. The image of Olivia, desperately trying to claw her way out of captivity had struck a nerve with jurors. The two blonde hairs found on the tiger blanket also made an impact, whether it came onto the blanket because of sloppy lab procedure or not. 

In May 1999, Scott Watson was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years. He refused to accept responsibility and professed his innocence throughout.

After the trial Gerald Hope wondered if the courtroom theatrics were only a way of manipulating the jury's emotions. Many personal things were talked about that had absolutely no bearing on the case, like rings Olivia and her sister Amelia exchanged shortly before her disappearance. He failed to see why that was relevant. The family was sceptical of the investigation, because of the grilling they put Amelia through. In hindsight they understood that – like many other witnesses – police tried to groom Amelia into supporting their case against Watson.

Scott Watson’s dad, Chris, has dedicated his life to prove his son’s innocence. 20 years on, there is still uncertainty. In January 2018, there was an unexpected twist in the case that could just be the explanation everyone has been waiting for…

Thank you for listening to Part 1 of Mystery in the Sounds. Part two will drop next week, same time, same place.

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