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The Victims
Pictures of Olivia Hope, who disappeared with her friend Ben Smart after boarding a yacht with a ‘mystery man’ in Endeavour Inlet on New Years day show an attractive, intelligent-looking young woman who sometimes wears thin-framed spectacles. Olivia and Ben have not been seen since they were dropped off, along with a mystery man, onto a yacht moored in Endeavour Inlet, off Furneaux Lodge between 4am and 5 am. A huge police investigation, Operation Tam which began on 2 January 1998, has failed to find any trace of the pair.
Olivia has sensitive features and shoulder-length fair hair. She was head prefect at school during 1997, is a talented pianist and intended studying law at Otago University this year. Her father, Gerald Hope, describes her as a realistic young woman with a strong inner strength.

Ben Smart’s parents, John and Mary, live in Blenheim. Mr Smart is a civil engineer. Ben is a Christ College Old Boy who is a keen musician who plays in bands. He was about to start work with his father’s firm on 5 January. Newspapers picture a handsome, tanned young man with sensitive features and dark brown eyes. His family chose a significantly lower media profile than Olivia’s father, so little has been published or broadcast that might give a more intimate picture of Ben.

Olivia’s father Gerald is chief executive of the Marlborough Research Centre and is prominent in local body politics and is a mayoral aspirant. Mrs Hope manages a winery and is a partner in a catering company. In March 1998, Mr Hope featured in a TVNZ Assignment programme, which gave a good insight into Olivia’s family life and intellectually privileged upbringing.


A slightly different picture was suggested when police accidentally included a confidential intelligence report on Olivia and Ben in other material sent to boat marinas soon after the investigation began. The profile described Olivia as ‘spoilt, emotional, a drinker and sexually active.’ Much to the officer in charge, Detective Inspector Rob Pope’s disgust, it was published in the New Zealand Herald. The comments about Olivia were never intended to be made public. Just one copy of the ‘police eyes only’ profile was accidentally included among notices police sent out with a request that they be copied and more widely distributed. It subsequently went to 28 marinas.

The attitude of the New Zealand Herald particularly incensed Rob Pope. One of its reporters obtained a copy and phoned the Hope family for comment without prior discussion with police. When contacted later by a New Zealand Herald reporter Mr Pope tried to persuade the editor not to publish comments about the victim. However, the editor decided ‘the public’s right to know’ argument was more persuasive than the effect publication would have on the family.

Mr Pope said he accepted the police mistake should have been reported, along with the apology he had immediately, personally tendered to the family, but he considered publishing the profile’s contents unethical and insensitive – and many agreed with him.

In the Assignment programme on TV1 on 13 March, Olivia’s father Gerald strongly criticised the ‘unprofessional’ police profile. He rejected the ‘spoilt, emotional, a drinker and sexually active’ labels and painted a different picture of his daughter.

On 22 January, Ian Holyoake, Assistant Commissioner of Crime and Operations at Police National Headquarters in Wellington and Rob Pope apologised to the Hope family saying it was an unfortunate error. "We are truly sorry for the embarrassment it caused to Olivia’s family", Mr Holyoake said.

For more background on Olivia see Family Determination. For other information refer to any of the 20 topics isolated for you by CrimeCo. Sequentially, The Investigation is recommended.

Next related article: Forward to The InvestigationThe Investigation
Prev related article: Back to The DisappearanceThe Disappearance

Back to Operation TAM - Olivia Hope and Ben Smart Index

Close-up Profiles on Olivia and Ben

 Ben Smart Portrait 

 Ben Smart Portrait 

 Ben Smart Portrait 

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