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Three specific inquiry areas hold the key
 A mystery man
 A sloop
 And the final movements of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart;

These are the three critical remaining elements of the investigation into their deaths. From the new Operation Tam base at Christchurch, relocated from Blenheim this week, Detective Inspector Rob Pope told Joanna Norris of The Dominion (04 June 1998) that in the process of identifying the killer, police had narrowed the inquiry to these three specific areas.

Operation Tam has been one of New Zealand’s highest profile homicide investigations. It had its beginnings on 2 January 1998 after Olivia (17) and Ben (21) were reported missing. They were last seen in the early hours of New Year’s morning as they were taken by water taxi, along with a mystery stranger, to a yacht moored in the Endeavour Inlet. Police took some time to acknowledge they were murdered.

A sloop was seized early on 12 January 1998 and taken to Woodbourne Airforce Base where it was closely examined by police and forensic scientists before being returned to the owner’s family several weeks later. Police kept a hatch from the sloop and replaced it with a new one.

Various media named the sloop’s owner as Scott Watson. Mr Watson was subsequently arrested for the theft of a dinghy and he awaits trial. Bail conditions include regularly reporting to police and not leaving New Zealand. Detective Inspector Pope was at pains to say the arrest for the theft was a completely separate issue from the homicide investigation.

Mr Pope was reported as telling The Dominion on 4 June 1998, that police were not satisfied the mystery man and the sloop were not involved in the disappearance and were trying to establish the man’s identity. He would not say if police were certain the mystery man was responsible for the deaths. “Until we attach sufficient linkage between the three cental planks (the mystery man, the sloop and the final movement of the victims) I cannot really be drawn on that,” he said.

In his ever-intriguing idiom, he told The Dominion, “This case reeks of resolution. It is a solvable crime and that’s what we are working towards.” He would not put a time frame on the resolution. Ten staff remains on the case.

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Next related article: Forward to Operation Tam base to shift to ChristchurchOperation Tam base to shift to Christchurch
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Back to Operation TAM - Olivia Hope and Ben Smart Index
 

These are the three critical remaining elements of the investigation into their deaths.

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