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Mystery Man
A dark figure has been central to the police inquiry ever since the first report of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart’s disappearances. The friends have not been seen since boarding a yacht between 4am and 5 am, along with this mystery man, which was moored in Endeavour Inlet on New Years Day 1998. Apart from two identikit pictures issued by police early in the investigation, the man, at least as far as the public is concerned, remains a shadow.
Police have said relatively little about him, apart from issuing two identikit images, and asking for information about particular events from time to time. However, on 9 January the media carried stories of witnesses seeing the mystery man from the mystery ketch, (which Olivia and Ben boarded seeking somewhere to sleep), pestering young woman at Furneaux Lodge on New Years Eve.

A bartender told The Dominion a man answering the description of the person who invited Olivia and Ben to sleep on his yacht had been trying to pick up young women. He was allegedly ‘doing it all night’. Another witness said the man in the bar, whom she described as sleazy, gave her ’a creepy feeling’. He was alone in the bar, eyeing people up, she said.

Detective Inspector Rob Pope, the officer in charge of Operation Tam, was annoyed at the media coverage and said there had been too much speculation about the inquiry, including from witnesses who had spoken to reporters about the mystery man police wanted to identify. Mr Pope said the speculation was not helping and might have been distracting people from the facts.

He said police had asked witnesses to be more circumspect. (This rebuke followed The Dominion’s front page lead on 9 January describing the actions of the man pestering women at Furneaux Lodge on New Years Eve.)

Police issued a detailed description of the mystery man and distributed it to police stations throughout New Zealand. He was described as European about 32, 1.78m (5ft 10in) tall, of medium build with brown, medium length wavy hair. He was wearing blue jeans, possibly training shoes and a Levi short-sleeved shirt that had a red tab on the left breast pocket and was possibly green.

The following day police issued the two identikit pictures. One was from a description supplied by Guy Wallace, the water taxi driver who delivered the mystery man, Olivia, and Ben to the sloop. The other was of the man acting ‘sleazy’ at Furneaux Lodge on New Years Eve and who was believed to have invited Olivia and Ben aboard his yacht.

Who hit the girl at Furneaux Lodge on New Years Eve?
The police television programme Crimescene of 3 March featured Operation Tam and was used to reveal information about an assault by the mystery man at the centre of the inquiry on a mystery girl. Police said they had information that the man hit the teenager near the Furneaux Lodge jetty the sa
He was described as European, about 32, 1.78m (5ft 10in) tall, of medium build with brown, medium length wavy hair.
me morning Olivia and Ben went missing. Mr Pope said police had reports of a girl asking the man why he hit her. The victim was seen between the toilets and the diving shed at about 2am on New Years day. Police said they have not identified this person and asked that she come forward.

She was in her late teens, between 1.67m and 1.72m (5ft 6in to 5ft 8 in) wearing a white linen, long-sleeved shirt over a dark ankle-length dress. Rob Pope says police believed the man who assaulted the girl was the mystery man with Olivia and Ben when they were last seen boarding a yacht moored in Endeavour Inlet.

The following day police said they would interview about 80 people who called Crimescene. They received a possible lead on who the mystery girl was and suggestions where bodies could have been dumped. Police said fresh searches would be likely including following up by Garth Watson’s sighting of two men acting suspiciously in Onapahu Bay on 2 January. (see Media Criticism article).

‘Mystery man’ was fighting
Maybe someone ‘put something in the drinks’ (maybe it was alcohol) at Furneaux Lodge on New Years Eve that caused at least 24 altercations. According to police, the ‘mystery man’ central to their investigation may have been involved in several of the fights including the incident with the teenage girl. In spite of the Crimescene appeal and other publicity, she has not come forward. Nor been otherwise identified. Conceivable, the level of intoxication among some at the celebrations was such that girl involved might not remember the assault. Police did not say if the man had fought with men or women, saying they were ‘a little confused and need to firm that up.’

The Dominion of 14 March said Detective Inspector Pope ‘had admitted’ police were close to identifying the mystery man, but said it would be pre-emptive to say they were close to charging anyone.

Mr Pope is reported as reaffirming there are no suspects, ‘only profiles’ and the inquiry team had prepared over 50 of these since New Year. He was responding to the accidental release of a particular ‘suspect’ profile, referred to on a recent Assignment television current programme.

For more information refer to any of the 20 topics isolated for you by CrimeCo. Sequentially, Media Criticism is recommended.

Next related article: Forward to Media CriticismMedia Criticism
Prev related article: Back to Family DeterminationFamily Determination

Back to Operation TAM - Olivia Hope and Ben Smart Index

Police appeal for information regarding the man that was last seen with Ben and Olivia.

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