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Media Criticism
Criticism through the media of aspects of the police investigation into the disappearances of Olivia Hope (17), and Ben Smart (21), has been an unusual feature of the case. Olivia and Ben had not been seen since they were dropped off, along with a mystery man, onto a yacht moored in Endeavour Inlet off Furneaux Lodge in the early hours of New Years Day. As a result, Operation Tam, one of New Zealand highest profile investigations began on 2 January 1998.
A Wellington woman who heard yelling and screaming in Endeavour Inlet at about the time Olivia and Ben went missing called The Dominion newspaper on 29 January saying she was still waiting to be interviewed by police in spite of having contacted them on several earlier occasions.

She alleged ‘repeated botch-ups’ by police when she tried to report what she had heard, including losing a statement she’d written out herself. (Police would later say three independent witnesses had reported the screaming and its source had been identified and was not associated with the disappearances).

The woman’s approach to The Dominion was triggered by reading a report the previous day about a woman who had seen a man resembling the identikit picture of a man police wanted to identify as part of the investigation. He had been sitting on the Furneaux Lodge wharf the morning the pair disappeared, with dirty, mudstained boots. She said she tried to tell police about it but they ‘didn’t want to know’

However, police blamed the scale of the inquiry for their slow response and the large numbers of people they have to see, for the delay in some people being interviewed. The task continued to grow as more witnesses were identified, then spoken to. But Detective Sergeant Tony Smith of Wellington invited anyone in that area who believed they had relevant information to talk to him directly. (As at 12 February police had identified some 1400 people with an estimated 500
...she said she tried to tell police about it but they ‘didn’t want to know’
more to see).

Suspicious actions attract attention
The Dominion of 3 March again features criticism of police, this time from a Richmond man who says significant information he supplied in mid-January was not followed up for at least six weeks.

Garth Watson – no relation to Scott Watson the seized sloop’s owner – said he saw two men in a dinghy some distance from a yacht moored in Onapuha Bay, one bay over from Erie Bay at about 7am on 2 January. Mr Watson said he and his brother waved to the two men in the dinghy as they passed in their runabout. They did not wave back as is usual and appeared to try to hide their faces. They had what looked like a large canvass-type bag between them.

Mr Watson and his brother wondered if they might have been marijuana cultivators anxious to avoid being recognised. He said a single masted yacht was moored nearby which could have been the one seized by police but he could not remember.

Mr Watson phoned the police when he returned from his holiday in mid-January but says he didn’t hear from them for six weeks. Police again said the volume of witnesses to be interviewed caused delays in responding but contacts were prioritised and details seen as urgent were acted on quickly.

For more information refer to any of the 20 topics CrimeCo has isolated for you. Sequentially, Witness Pressured is recommended.

Next related article: Forward to Witness PressuredWitness Pressured
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A look at criticism of the police investigation by the media.

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