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Man arrested for the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope.
This morning (June 15, 1998), 27 year old Canterbury man Scott Watson 'owner of the sloop' was arrested and has this afternoon appeared in the Christchurch District Court charged with the murders of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart. As yet, their bodies have not been found despite police inquires and extensive searching throughout the Marlborough Sounds.
Scott Watson’s arrest on 15 June for the murders of missing friends Olivia Hope and Ben Smart may not have come as a surprise, but the news brought widespread community relief that one of New Zealand’s highest profile murder investigations may be close to resolution.

Watson was arrested at his brother’s Rangiora home in the early hours of the morning. He appeared briefly before the Christchurch District Court later that afternoon and was remanded without plea to appear on 29 June. News reports said police executed search warrants in Marlborough and Canterbury looking for material that might assist the investigation.

The arrest was the culmination of almost six-months work. Operation Tam as the investigation came to be known, had its beginnings on 2 January 1998 after Olivia Hope (17) and Ben Smart (21) disappeared in the early hours of New Year’s morning. They were last seen by a Furneaux Lodge water taxi operator who ferried them, along with a mystery stranger, to a yacht moored in the Endeavour Inlet. In spite of massive land and water searches including use of the navy and their sophisticated underwater viewing equipment, no trace of the bodies has been found.

Detective Inspector Rob Pope, officer in charge of the investigation said Watson’s arrest was a significant step forward but said a lot more inquiry work had yet to be done. He said police were still working hard and would not be satisfied until Olivia and Ben’s bodies were found.

Public expectations of any early arrest arose on 12 January when police lifted Watson’s yacht from Picton’s Shakespeare Bay and took it to a Woodbourne airforce base hanger for secure storage pending a forensic examination. Police had boarded it earlier in th
Scott watson has entered no plea to the charges and his lawyer made no attempt to have his name suppressed
e day, wearing gloves and protective clothing. Four police and one scientist from Environmental and Science Research (ESR) in Wellington and another from Christchurch subsequently fine-tooth combed the sloop. The yacht was later returned to the family, although police retained possession of a hatch. The sloop has been seized again, following Watson’s arrest on Monday.

In response to media excitement at the January seizure of the yacht, Rob Pope said it wasn’t a breakthrough and that the removal was just part of the investigation. He emphasised no suspect was being sought.

While the investigation has been lengthy, time consuming, expensive and frustrating for families, reporters and the public, Rob Pope’s public persona has been one of quiet optimism which has generated an expectation that he and his team would eventually put someonebehind bars. He told The Dominion on 4 June, “This case reeks of resolution. It is a solvable crime and that’s what we are working towards.”

Mr Pope said Watson’s arrest did not signal the investigation’s end, and wouldn’t until the bodies had been found. He told Radio NZ that there was still a lot to do.

The Dominion of 16 June said Watson’s, during his court appearance, was casually dressed in a red sweatshirt and black jeans and showed no emotion. The court was packed and those present included the victims’ relatives, as well as people associated with Watson.

Lawyer John Hardie appeared for Watson and did not seek name suppression or bail. He said Watson had no need to be secretive and would maintain his innocence.

For more information refer to any of the almost 30 topics isolated for you by CrimeCo. Sequentially, Three Areas is recommended.

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Scott Watson arrested for the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope.

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