28 Jan 2016

'We still have a mystery' - Olivia Hope's father

6:44 pm on 28 January 2016

Olivia Hope's father wants to talk to the man jailed for killing his daughter, saying there is still too much uncertainty about what happened to her 18 years ago.

Ben Smart and Olivia Hope

Ben Smart and Olivia Hope disappeared in the Marlborough Sounds on New Year's Day in 1998. Photo: NZ Police

The 17-year-old and 21-year-old Ben Smart were last seen in the early hours of 1 January 1998. Scott Watson is serving 19 years in prison for their murders.

The case has been in the headlines again this week, with a previously unreleased photo supposedly showing Ms Hope days after her murder published by the NZ Herald, and a new book by Ian Wishart out tomorrow.

The photo, released by a group calling itself the Maritime Research Group, was part of a new theory about how the couple met the end, claiming a drug syndicate was responsible.

Speaking to Checkpoint with John Campbell today, Gerald Hope said the photo was just too grainy and he could not confirm that it was his daughter.

He said the latest round of claims, including Mr Wishart's book, opened up old wounds, but he also welcomed them as a chance to get some certainty about what happened to the pair.

"We still have a mystery."

"We do not know what happened in the early morning of the first of January. It's very simple, if we had conclusive evidence at the time of the trial there would have been no problem today, and Watson's conviction would be safe and beyond doubt. But doubt still remains and that's why the public are still enthralled by this ketch, and who did it."

Scott Watson in High Court.

Scott Watson in 2015 Photo: Pool / John Kirk-Anderson

Watson has continued to plead his innocence. Last year he had his first parole hearing after 17 years of his life sentence for the murders, but he was turned down, with the Parole Board saying he still posed an unacceptable risk to the public.

He did win a legal fight to speak to a journalist for the first time since his conviction, and told North and South reporter Mike White that he was still angry about the way he had been treated.

Mr Hope said today he still wanted to talk to Watson about the case.

"I've provided him with the opportunity over several years to meet, and that is still alive - a letter of request has gone to Corrections as recently as the past 24 hours.

"And that meeting should take place, there is no legal reason why it shouldn't. Now I may be going into a situation I'm not familiar with, but it will help and greatly assist me with my thinking as to whether he is guilty or otherwise."

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