A new book claims Scott Watson had an accomplice when he killed Ben Smart and Olivia Hope.
Author Ian Wishart says his book, Elementary, includes previously unseen police evidence and the witness account of a boy who was eight years old at the time that disprove Watson’s claims he is innocent.
Smart, 21, and Hope, 17, disappeared after a 1997 New Year’s Eve party at Furneaux Lodge, in the Marlborough Sounds.
“[The police] chose the wrong evidence trail and that’s why the trial of Scott Watson became a near disaster for them. It’s a miracle they got a conviction based on the case they put up.”
The book describes the account of Matthew Stevens, who was eight years old in 1998. His story includes a detailed description of what he believed was Watson’s ketch, Blade, in Queen Charlotte Sound after Ben and Olivia’s disappearance and two men aboard:
“They were both men. Both had black hair. One was steering. The other was on the starboard side. They were sitting down. One had a glass or something in his hand – the one who wasn’t steering. The man steering had a green t-shirt and the other guy had a black sweater. It might have been a woolly jersey.”
The identification of Watson and his boat over that New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day was a central part of the prosecution case. Watson claimed he sailed it alone to a friend’s house in a nearby bay where he painted it on January 2.
Wishart said Stevens’ account, and those of passengers on two boats who said they saw two men on the Blade, and that it was being painted while at sea, undermine Watson’s alibi, prove he lied and destroyed his claim of innocence.
My view is that Watson killed them. But I also accept that the Police case was wrong in some details and may not have made the case beyond reasonable doubt – they were arguably lucky to get a conviction.
The possibility of an accomplice is interesting. You have to be wary of putting too much weight on the testimony of an eight year old, but if backed by two other people, then it does become more reliable.