Book claims Scott Watson had accomplice in the Ben Smart and Olivia Hope murders

BEVAN READ/stuff.co.nz

Ian Wishart has a clear message for Scott Watson to come clean and give the friends and families of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope closure.

Police say they'll consider new claims in a book by Ian Wishart that Scott Watson may have had an accomplice when he killed Ben Smart and Olivia Hope.

Wishart has told a media conference today he believes that the pair's bodies may one day be found and witness statements suggest they weren't dumped at sea.

His book Elementary, released today, focuses on witness statements provided to police but not used during Watson's trial.

iwishart/YouTube

Elementary - The Explosive File on Scott Watson and the Disappearance of Ben and Olivia

Smart, 21, and Hope, 17, had been with hundreds of party-goers at Furneaux Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds on New Year's Eve 1997 when they disappeared. Their bodies were never found.

Watson was convicted of their murders, but has always maintained his innocence.

READ MORE:
At a glance: Ian Wishart's Elementary
Wishart: Watson didn't mean to kill Ben and Olivia, but he should confess 
Explainer: The controversial case of Scott Watson
Who killed Ben and Olivia?
Scott Watson failed two drug tests behind bars
No royal pardon for Scott Watson

Scott Watson was convicted of the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope in 1999.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Scott Watson was convicted of the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope in 1999.

 

Wishart told media this morning witnesses had seen two men dragging what could have been bodies off a sloop - a single masted yacht - the morning after the pair were last seen.

He said that suggested they were not dumped at sea, but on land - meaning they could one day be found.

Olivia Hope and Ben Smart.

Olivia Hope and Ben Smart.

"It's not an impossibility," Wishart said. 

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Police, in a statement, said they would consider Wishart's book and compare its claims to the original investigation.

"We will then be in a position to comment further."

Wishart said his book revealed Watson had a propensity for violence with a sexual motive and that his portrayal as an innocent "larakin...is not a fair picture". 

With drugs and alcohol Watson was a "ticking time bomb" on New Year's Eve, he said, and "fate delivered to him Ben Smart and Olivia Hope". 

He believed Watson killed the pair in a booze and drug fuelled haze and had an associate help him dispose the bodies. 

Ian Wishart's Elementary hit bookshelves today with a new theory on the Scott Watson case.

Ian Wishart's Elementary hit bookshelves today with a new theory on the Scott Watson case.

CLAIM WITNESSES SAW "HUMAN-SIZED" BAGS

Earlier Wishart had told Newstalk ZB he had uncovered statements from witnesses, men in Picton sitting on a balcony, who say they saw a yacht and a dinghy in Shakespeare Bay on New Year's Day, 1998.

A man on the yacht dragged two, heavy in appearance, "human-sized" bags and transferred them to the dinghy. This was before reports emerged of the disappearance of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope.

"A guy on the yacht drags out something from the cabin, interlocks his arms and leans over the yacht, drops it down to the guy on the dinghy."

The book also questions Watson's story of sailing straight to a friend's house at Eerie Bay after the New Year celebrations, with Wishart pointing to evidence from a then eight year-old Matthew Stevens, who reported seeing two men with black hair onboard a sloop resembling Watson's Blade, heading toward Picton at the same time. 

"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."

Ben Smart and Olivia Hope went missing after boarding a yacht with a stranger on January 1, 1998.
SUPPLIED

Ben Smart and Olivia Hope went missing after boarding a yacht with a stranger on January 1, 1998.

Wishart says he was able to cross reference the sighting against others which corroborated the time and location.

One of those sightings was from a water taxi driven by Sam Edwards, who knew Watson and his boat personally.

Edwards also told police he believed two people were onboard Blade and one was "definitely" Scott Watson.

Ian Wishart says "everything you think you know about the Scott Watson case is wrong".
JOHN SELKIRK/FAIRFAX NZ

Ian Wishart says "everything you think you know about the Scott Watson case is wrong".

Another witness described seeing two men painting the boat "frantically" while on sea, Wishart said.  

KETCH VERSUS SLOOP

Wishart is critical of the statements by water taxi driver Guy Wallace.

In earlier days: Scott Watson was jailed for a minimum of 17 years for the murder of Ben Smart, 21, and Olivia Hope, 17 ...
JANE SANDERS /WAIKATO TIMES

In earlier days: Scott Watson was jailed for a minimum of 17 years for the murder of Ben Smart, 21, and Olivia Hope, 17 in 1998.

"On January 3 Guy Wallace had told everyone it's a ketch. Everyone is looking for a two-masted ketch.

"These guys thought it [the boat in Shakespeare Bay] wasn't a ketch."

He said the men called a Crimewatch number months afterwards, when a call went out for members of the public to report any sightings of Scott Watson's sloop, Blade.

Olivia Hope was just 17 when she and Ben Smart disappeared after a party at Furneaux Lodge.
PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Olivia Hope was just 17 when she and Ben Smart disappeared after a party at Furneaux Lodge.

There was chapter in the new book devoted to Wallace's testimony, which was used a main prong of the identification evidence.

Wishart said Wallace was prone to suggestive memory and the events of New Year's Day in 1998 happened around 4am, when it was pitch black on the sounds. 

"It was 4 o'clock in the morning, it was actually the darkest time.

"There were no lights.

"It was pitch black.

"He dreamt up this incredible vision."

NEW MATERIAL MADE THE DIFFERENCE

Wishart says the sheer amount of new material he had access to led him to conclude Scott Watson was guilty - a complete turnaround from the findings of his first book on the case.

Ben and Olivia: What really happened?, published in 1999, supported the theory Watson was innocent.

Wishart said he had access to 7000 extra documents for Elementary, including evidence the police had possessed and discarded, and that had led him to a different conclusion.

"I've had to retract what I've previously said and say 'I was wrong'."

BOOK DISMISSED BY WATSON'S FATHER AS "A WASTE OF MONEY"

Watson's father Chris bought the book this morning and has dismissed it as a "conspiracy theory".

"What the man's done is cherry picked statements from the police files," he said

"There's thousands of statements; you could construct anything you wanted."

Watson said he spoke to his son on Friday morning, who told him that Wishart was a "nutter."

He had not read much of the book but was offended at a passage that said his son was genetically disposed to be a psychopath.

"I guess that makes me one too then," he said.

Watson, who visited his son in a Christchurch prison once a month, said the book would not change anything and the family would continue to work to overturn the convictions.

The book was a waste of money, he said.

"From what I've seen, I've thrown my $40 down the gurgler."

VICTIM'S FATHER: NEW BOOK IS CHILLING

Olivia Hope's father, Gerald Hope, said some of the information in the book is "revolutionary".

He described some sections as "quite chilling".

"The book is well structured, and leads the reader through to a fairly sound logical conclusion."

While he was not heavily involved in the project, he was kept informed by Wishart.

"I think if the public are interested or have an opinion they have to read this book.

"It's a correction in people's thinking.

"Of course, there are still several pieces of the jigsaw missing."

He said his mind is "very wide open" but he believes Watson's conviction was "based on very thin evidence".

He is still hoping to meet with Watson.

"The ball is in his court."

 - Stuff

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