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Dinghy Theft Arrest
Scott Watson, the Picton man whose sloop was seized by police early in the investigation into the disappearance of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart was arrested in Huntly on April 7 1998 and charged with the theft of an aluminium dinghy.
He appeared before the District Court the next day and Judge Anne McAloon ordered that his name and identifying detail be suppressed. He was remanded on bail without plea to appear on 28 April. However, name suppression was lifted on 5 May.

Although police said Watson’s arrest was not connected with the investigation into the Marlborough Sounds disappearance of Olivia Hope (17) and Ben Smart, (21) the public saw it as a development in Operation Tam, one of New Zealand’s highest profile investigations. Operation Tam began on 2 January 1998 after the young friends disappeared in the early hours of New Year’s morning. They were last seen by Furneaux Lodge water taxi operator Guy Wallace who ferried them, along with a mystery stranger, to a yacht moored in the Endeavour Inlet.

The theft charge related to a two-meter aluminium dinghy police seized on 6 March. They had also removed a forward hatch from Watson’s seized sloop but wouldn’t say why, other than that the hatch was part of the ongoing examination. Police lifted the yacht from Picton’s Shakespeare Bay in January and took it to a Woodbourne airforce base where it was forensically examined by police and Environmental and Science Research (ESR) scientists.

When police impounded the dinghy, the officer in charge of Operation Tam, Detective Inspector Rob Pope said ownership of the dinghy had yet to be established, but said that some time in 1997, it was associated with the seized sloop. Police also took possession of a plywood dinghy the day after the sloop was impounded and it was towed behind it during later police sea trials.

Police appealed to the public for information about the aluminium dinghy and photographs were distributed throughout the country to try to find who owned it. It was a 1.8m (6ft) Parker Craft with two Parker Craft and one Takapuna Dive Centre stickers on it. and has a red and white upper edge). Three days later police said they had received very little information in response to their appeal but in the longer term, they were successful and Watson was arrested.

On 9 April, the officer in charge of Operation Tam, Detective Inspector Rob Pope told reporters Watson’s arrest was not connected to the disappearances of Olivia and Ben. He said it was unrelated to the case and it was too early to say if further charges would be laid against the man or anyone else in connection with the inquiry.

He said police had not forensically examined the dinghy and had no intention of doing so.

Watson appeared before the court again on 28 April and was remanded until 29 May. Watson’s lawyer asked the court to lift the suppression order but police opposed this. Judge Merelina Burnett reserved her decision for two days and on 2 May she lifted the suppression order.

However, police told they court they would appeal and they were given until 5pm on 5 May to file the papers. Meanwhile the order remained in place. However, police did not proceed and the suppression order lapsed on 5 May.

For more information refer to any of the 25 topics isolated for you by CrimeCo. Sequentially, Success? is recommended.

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