Sounds killer Scott Watson denied parole again

Scott Watson during a hearing in the High Court in 2015. Photo: Pool / John Kirk-Anderson
Scott Watson during a hearing in the High Court in 2015. Photo: Pool / John Kirk-Anderson
Convicted murderer Scott Watson has had his latest bid for parole declined.

Serving a life sentence for the killing of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart on New Year's Day in 1998, Watson went before the Parole Board this morning. He has been in prison for the murders since 1999.

Watson, who continues to profess his innocence, has now appeared before the board three times. Today's hearing lasted about 90 minutes.

Ben Smart and Olivia Hope. Photo: NZ Police
Ben Smart and Olivia Hope. Photo: NZ Police
He will be allowed to apply for parole for a fourth time, when he next appears before the board in November next year.

Watson has an appeal hearing due in the middle of next year, following an investigation by retired judge, Sir Graham Panckhurst, that raised concerns about the forensic evidence used to convict him.

He could apply for bail as part of that hearing.

The bodies of Hope and Smart have never been found and criticisms have been made of police investigations in the case.

Watson has maintained his innocence and has made several unsuccessful appeals since 2000.

On 26 June 2020, former justice minister Andrew Little announced that Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy had referred Scott Watson's convictions for murder to the Court of Appeal. It will be the fourth time Watson has challenged his murder convictions.

Hope and Smart had been at Furneaux Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds for a New Years Eve Party to welcome in 1998. The last time they were seen was about 4am on 1 January, when they were dropped off at a yacht on a water-taxi operated by lodge bartender Guy Wallace.

The friends planned to sleep on the chartered yacht Tamarack, which Smart had arrived on, but the berths were full. Three other passengers were travelling on the water-taxi, one a man who offered the pair a place to sleep on what he claimed was his yacht.

Police investigations began on 2 January after Hope and Smart were reported missing by their parents.

After Detective Inspector Rob Pope took over the police investigation he decided Picton resident Watson was the unknown man aboard the water taxi.

However, Wallace was adamant he dropped Hope and Smart off at a wooden, two-masted ketch - a description supported by another witness on the water taxi - while Watson owned a single-masted steel sloop called Blade at the time.

Watson was arrested for the murders in June 1998 and was convicted in 1999, after an 11-week trial with 500 witnesses. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

His case has been taken unsuccessfully to the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council. In 2013 then Justice Minister Judith Collins advised the Governor-General at that time, Sir Jerry Mateparae, that Watson's application for a royal pardon should be declined.

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