By Ian Wishart
[Author’s note: originally intended as a companion chapter to ‘Diversions’ in the book Elementary, I dropped this from the book because the manuscript was too long. Considering other ketches, other suspects and the like would be absolutely fine in a book that still had questionmarks over Watson’s guilt. This book doesn’t have those doubts. Nonetheless, in recognition of the huge interest in other scenarios, I have decided to release it as a bonus chapter. Hopefully it will lay some of the wilder theories to rest]
Apart from the ketch candidates that at least had a snowball’s chance in hell of being relevant to this investigation, there were a whole lot more ketches whose legends grew in the telling over the years. Chief among these was Lonebird.
Lonebird is most familiar to New Zealanders and Australians as the two-masted vessel that mysteriously sank at the entrance to Gisborne harbour in 2000, around the time its owner Sir Thomas Fry was arrested by Australian Federal Police on a massive cocaine importation charge.
“Its history is steeped in drugs, murder and mystery,” reported the NZ Herald. “In 1997, Lonebird was rumoured to have been the ketch originally sought after Ben Smart, 21, and Olivia Hope, 17, were killed. Its double mast, blue stripe on its side and brass rings around the port holes matched the mystery ketch police were looking for.”
Yeah, maybe. But no. For a start, Lonebird was massive. At 98 ft, it was nearly two and a half times larger than the “mystery ketch” Guy Wallace reckoned he’d seen. So big, in fact, it was quarter the length of the Cook Strait ferry Aratika and could barely have threaded its way through the crowded fleet at Furneaux. It certainly could not have done so unnoticed.
More importantly, however, the boat was still under the control of its previous owners, Punga Resort directors Ray and Helen Arnesen, where it was used that summer as a floating hotel tied alongside the Punga Cove wharf.
“During the Christmas period and New Year period of 1997/98, we were on our 98 foot ketch called ‘Lonebird‘. It was moored on the Punga Cove jetty. We arrived there on the 17th December 1997 and left on or about the 5th of January 1998.”
Bruce Young was one of the exclusive guests on Lonebird that New Year’s Eve night, along with his wife and two children:
“When we arrived at the resort, we had a meal at the restaurant and after the meal we went down to the Cabana area of the resort, which is on the foreshore. We were staying on a yacht the ‘Lonebird’, which is part of the resort. This yacht is not let out to guests; it was used at the resort for the owners and friends to use.
“Loren and Ryan went to bed before Pamela and myself. Pamela and I went to bed about 5.00 am on New Year’s Day morning.”
Just in case you missed it, Young and his wife went to bed on Lonebird at the Punga jetty at 5am on New Year’s Day. It was nowhere near Furneaux, it was not relevant to the investigation. It never moved from the Punga wharf during the period in question.
Yes, the boat was sold to a drug trafficker who took possession soon after. But it still was not at Furneaux and Ben and Olivia were never on it.
The other big whispering campaign has surrounded the two ketches owned by Alasdair Cassels, Faith and Galerna. Scott Watson had crewed on these boats, maybe one of them slunk into Furneaux? Sadly, no. Both boats departed Erie Bay on the afternoon of 31 December 1997 and sailed to Wellington. We know this because their arrival at Wellington Harbour was logged, and confirmed by Watson’s private investigation team:
“Enquiry’s with the Wellington Harbormaster show that the “FAITH” was logged at the Wellington Heads on the 31st December 1997 at 6.05pm, and the “GALERNA” was logged at the same location, at 6.10pm also on the 31st.
“The “FAITH” arrived at Picton on the 4th January 1998 at 10.15am with the “GALERNA arriving at 12.40pm.”
The ketches were seen at the Wellington wharves by a member of the public.
So, no, Faith and Galerna were not at Furneaux and left the South Island long before Ben and Olivia got into trouble.
The problem with this case is that there are literally millions of ketches in the world. If you are fixated on foreign ketches, you could spend several lifetimes looking for one and then trying to backdate its movements. It’s only worth expending that kind of mental energy if there is actually a ketch involved, and even then it has to be the ketch the key witness saw, not one of the many other random ketches seen later on. For reasons that will become clear by the time you finish the book, there was no ketch.
Then there’s the issue of other psychopaths. A raft of other contenders have been offered up over the years.
The so-called “Beast of Blenheim” – Stewart Murray Wilson – is a sex offender with a long record of attacking women, but he didn’t have a yacht and more importantly he was behind bars at the time serving a 21 year jail sentence. Pretty good alibi.
It didn’t prevent this Freudian reference in the police files:
“One of the persons requested to be seen was Stuart WILSON. There has been no Stuart WILSON mentioned during this enquiry.”
Another name bandied around recently was Arthur Senior, convicted in February 2015 of multiple crimes against young women over thirty years. One of the rapes happened on a boat in the Marlborough Sounds. At first blush, then, Senior appears to be a contender, except for the fact he would have been 49 at the time, not the youthful late twenties/early thirties of the mystery man. Additionally, Senior’s modus operandi was slowly stalking his victims over weeks or months to groom them for sexual relationships – he preyed on young teenage girls. He wasn’t a killer, and he wasn’t a rapid and random opportunist.
Others, who can’t be named, have also been suggested. In some cases even their relatives have indicated they were at Furneaux that night and they have form for drug and sex crimes. But unless they have control of a boat, they don’t fit the evidence.
For example, there was a group of people associated with the Satan’s Slaves gang at Furneaux that night, but by all accounts the vessel they’d hired was lit up like a Christmas tree and it was raucous. It was not the boat the missing couple were dropped off to.
A local Maori woman told police a man she called “Mad Mike” – an acquaintance of her family – had an association with Scott Watson and was at Furneaux. The woman was also a cousin of one of the police officers on the Watson case. In a memo to his superiors he reported that the woman had also been given a vision by their “ancestors” of where Ben and Olivia had been killed, on whanau land at Tawa Bay, further seaward of Furneaux.
The police officer noted his cousin was regarded by family as a bit of a “dreamer”, but he nonetheless organised a search party of whanau, kaumatua and police to scour Maori land in the specified location. They found an old long drop apparently last used in 1986, and a mound in the earth measuring five and a half feet long by three feet wide. This looked promising, but after digging the mound out they found nothing but bulging tree roots and clay.
Detectives traced a “Mad Mike” and interviewed him, but he was with his girlfriend and visiting parents for New Years and had celebrated at the Federal Hotel in Picton. He hadn’t been at Furneaux and he didn’t have a boat.
Another name currently being discussed is Michael Scott Wallace, most recently convicted in 2007 for the rape and murder of German tourist Brigit Bauer. Wallace was born 1961 and would have been 36 at the time Ben and Olivia vanished. But he didn’t own a yacht that anyone is aware of and would have required an accomplice if he had been at Furneaux, and there is no evidence in the police files that he was. Furneaux was a destination only accessible by sea, making it less attractive to common or garden variety riff-raff.
Although Wallace has 65 previous convictions, including rape and abduction from 1984, he is 180cm tall (6ft) making him significantly larger than the short and wiry mystery man. He also has a very distinctive neck tattoo of an owl which would have been the talk of Furneaux had he been there. Not one witness mentioned such a sighting. He bears a facial similarity to Guy Wallace’s original identikit sketch of the mystery man, but Guy Wallace is now on record as totally disowning that first identikit, so clinging to people who resemble it seems pointless.
Wallace has allegedly been linked to the crime recently by the now elderly woman behind the original “Mad Mike” claim. She says Michael Wallace is a nephew and was definitely at Furneaux. The problem is, she never nominated Michael Wallace as the name back at the time, and you’d think she’d have known her nephew then if she knows him now.
What she actually said to police back then was:
“States that she knows this “Mad Mike” as: Tamati HERERANGI-WHAKANUI, Half-caste Maori, 5 ft 10 in tall in his 40s. Has no other detail about this person but states he has some association with Scott Watson. Not known by any other name or alias.”
This is not a match with Michael Wallace, being two inches shorter and ten years older, and there is no suggestion of “nephew”, nor of a distinctive owl tattoo.
In another tip off, detectives noted:
“She asked me if I knew “Mad Mike”, a tall, skinny Maori who walks like a solder. He had been on the boat in Shakespeare Bay with Scott Watson. She told me that in the 1960s about five boys went missing from the Coromandel, Matamata, Taranaki and Horowhenua. Mad Mike was thought (according to her) to be involved in their disappearance. She also told me that Mad Mike was the last person alive to see Mona Blades.”
This changes Mad Mike’s age even more. To have been active as a serial killer from the 1960s, Mad Mike had to have been about 50 by 1998. He could have been associated with Watson, but he could not have been the mystery man on the water taxi. There is no suggestion he had his own yacht – he is said to be on Watson’s. Mad Mike implicates Watson, it doesn’t absolve him.
For this elderly woman to now name him as the much younger convicted killer Michael Wallace seems like a memory transposition.
What about some other scenarios: what if Ben and Olivia stumbled on a drug deal? We covered this in the previous chapter but there’s a document in the police files that raises such a theory. Timothy Abbott was on the Cook Strait ferry in October 1998:
“We were sitting on the top deck. A male Maori guy came up beside us and started mumbling away talking to us. We made a comment about Ben and Olivia being out in the ocean. He started talking about them and I started asking him questions about it.
“He said that he was Scott Watson’s nephew and that he also used to be friends with Olivia. He had spent quite a bit of time in Picton. He went on to say he had just visited Scott Watson in prison.
“He told us about the night the couple went missing. He claimed they had gone on to Scott’s boat and a guy called Zappa was on the boat. There was opium on the boat which caused Zappa to freak out because the couple had come on to the boat. After that they got rid of Ben and Olivia. Scott was only an auxiliary according to this guy.
“This guy was a Maori about 25 yrs, 6ft, slim build wearing blue jeans black boots. No facial hair. He had black hair which was down to the collar. I do not think he had tattoos. He was very drunk and stoned. I could tell he was and he also said that he was stoned.”
It’s always a good sign when your star witness is stoned off their perch.
Could it be relevant? Sadly, not based on the hard evidence. Zappa – a well known identity in the Sounds – was sole caregiver that holiday to his young son and daughter, aged 10 and 13 respectively. They were safely asleep back at Erie Bay. Zappa wasn’t on Watson’s Blade, and we know this because Mina Cornelia skipper Dave Mahony and a fellow passenger were invited on board Blade when it arrived. There was no one else on board apart from Watson himself. Nor were sacks of opium lining the tiny cabin. One suspects that if Watson was trafficking opium he could have afforded a bigger boat – maybe like Lonebird.
Mahony noted all the lights remained off on Blade all night, so if Zappa had been there he was presumably sitting silently in the darkness, all on his ownsome, from 10pm through to 4am – doing what exactly, counting out opium parcels in the dark? Painting his toenails while waiting for Scott?
It didn’t happen.
Then there was the claim that a good friend of Olivia’s had seen her being escorted by Maori men into the Federal Tavern in Picton around 4am on New Year’s Day. First of all, look at how much the witness had been drinking, then look at how detailed her description of each person is:
“I stopped drinking after I left the Federal Hotel. I had drunk about ½ a hip flask of gin at Donna’s sister’s house earlier in the night and only had about 6 Midoris at the Federal. Before I went to the Federal I was sick twice at Donna’s sister’s from the gin. It didn’t agree with me. I was also sick twice more at the Federal Hotel. I was drunk but I could still walk talk and remember everything.
“There were still lots of people around in the streets. I don’t know what direction they came from but when I was at the door of the Federal I saw Olivia Hope. I think they came from the main street. It was definitely Olivia Hope because I used to go to school with her. I don’t know if Olivia would remember my name because it was a while ago.
“I was a year ahead of her at school.
“Olivia was with another Caucasian male and three Maori guys and one Maori girl. Olivia had her glasses on and her hair was out. I don’t know what she was wearing but I am pretty sure she didn’t have jeans on.
“One Maori guy was in front of her, one Maori guy was behind her and one Maori guy was on the side of her so I couldn’t really see what she was wearing. The Caucasian guy was sort of at the back of the group. There was also the Maori girl that was at the back of the group.
“The Caucasian guy was about 20 yrs old. He had short and tidy hair. It was light brown in colour. It wasn’t shaven short but was just short and tidy. He was taller than Olivia. He was slim. He was wearing dress pants that looked white or tan and a dress shirt that was white but had a blue design through it. It buttoned up at the front, had a collar, a pocket, and long sleeves that buttoned up at the sleeve. I don’t know what sort of shoes he had on but I would say they would have been dress shoes.
“The Maori guy that was at the front of Olivia was just a little bit taller than Olivia but not as tall as the Caucasian guy. He looked quite big built and stocky. He wasn’t fat though. He would have been in his late 30’s. He had short black hair but not shaven. He had sunglasses on his head. They were black sharky looking glasses. He had jeans on and they were scruffy but I am not sure of the colour. He had on a black leather jacket. It looked heavy. I didn’t see what was under the jacket. I don’t remember what he had on his feet. I didn’t hear him say anything.
“The Maori guy at the side was not a Maori.
“Sorry there were only two Maori guys. One was at the front and the other was at the back. The Caucasian guy was at the side. There were two Maori guys and a Maori girl and Olivia and the Caucasian guy and another Caucasian guy.
“The Maori guy at the back appeared to be in all black. He had a leather jacket on. He had dark hair and I don’t think it was long. He looked about 28 yrs old or so. I think he might have had black jeans on but I am not sure. This guy was quite slim. I think he had a moustache. I couldn’t see any tattoos on him.
“The Maori girl was about in her 30’s. She was little in build and was slim. She had long black hair right down her back. It was in a pony tail. She was wearing a long trench coat that was sort of a dark browny colour.
“The trench coat had 2 pockets and buttoned up at the front. It was not buttoned up at the time. I am sure that she had a skirt and top on underneath. It was a dark skirt and was long. The top was dark too. It wasn’t a blouse and looked more like a t shirt.
“The guy that was off to the side of Olivia was a Caucasian guy. This guy was about in his late 20’s, he was slim and a bit taller than Olivia. His hair was short, scruffy and was brown. He was wearing blue jeans and a blue jeans [jersey?]. It looked like acrylic wool and had a pattern around it in a different colour like a dirty maroon colour. I don’t know what he was wearing on his feet. His clothes weren’t tidy looking at all.
“They were all going into the Federal Hotel and at that point I was sort of passing around the back of them.
“Olivia turned her head to look at me and said, “Can you help me”. These were her exact words.
“I kept walking and said back to her “I can’t help you”.
“As this conversation took place the Maori guy in front turned around to look and sort of pulled Olivia inside the pub.
“When Olivia asked for help, she wasn’t crying but looked sad and scared.”
“The Caucasian guy that was dressed nice I think looks like the photo of Ben Smart. I don’t know Ben Smart but after I seen his photo I realised that I think it was the nicely dressed younger Caucasian guy that I saw with Olivia. He had looked at me outside the pub but did not speak to me.
“When I last saw them, they were going through the doors into the bar. I don’t know if they definitely went inside or not but if they didn’t go inside they had to have gone back up towards the main street.
“Initially when Olivia had talked to me and asked for help, I heard the rough looking Caucasian guy talking to someone from the pub in the doorway. I heard a man’s voice from inside the pub say something like “what have you been doing”.
“The rough looking Caucasian guy said back “We’ve just come from the Sounds and we are off to the bay”. I thought that he said Tory Bay but I am not sure if it was or not.
“I also heard the guy inside the pub say “What are you going to do with them” and the rough Caucasian guy said, “I don’t know”.
An amazing level of detail from someone so tanked on alcohol that she had thrown up several times that night. The sighting has been seized upon by those arguing Ben and Olivia were spirited away by drug dealers. Let’s look at it further.
Firstly, the timing is bad. Wallace’s water taxi ride was 4am, so it was impossible for the pair to have been in Picton around the same time.
Secondly, it requires a posse of guards to have abandoned the yacht and presumably motored at speed to Picton, without Ben or Olivia making a squeak on the still-crowded streets of Picton – which again incidentally points to a time closer to 2am than 4am.
Then there’s the quality of the identification of Olivia. There’s no doubt she thought she saw Olivia, because her best friend Natasha remembers the conversation:
“I know it was after midnight but I don’t know exactly what time it was when Veralynn came back over to me. At the time I think I was standing with Graeme and perhaps a couple of others, I can’t exactly say who though.
“Anyway, Veralynn came up to me and in the course of talking to me she said, “I caught up with Olivia Hope”. That was all she said.
“I wasn’t exactly interested and I didn’t want to appear too interested otherwise Veralynn would have just carried on jabbering away. I pretty much cut her off there and she went off talking to others again.
“The only thing that stayed in my mind as far as Veralyn mentioning the name Olivia Hope was that this person may have been a relative of some sort of Veralyn. They both had the same surname and there was a “V” in their first names.”
Natasha described Veralynn as trolleyed at the time:
“Veralynn was drunk and incoherent with it. The first I really knew of how drunk she was at Kelly’s was when she got up to go to the toilet. She walked into a coffee table that was right there in front of her.”
Veralynn had claimed to know Olivia, but look what she said in her next statement:
“I do not know Ben Smart and have never met him. I only thought it was him because I have since seen his photo and this person looked similar.
“I only know Olivia because I think I have seen her at school. I think she was one year behind me at school but I can’t be sure.
“I have never been introduced to her and I don’t socialise in the same group of friends as her.
“I just had a vague idea of who Olivia was at school.”
She then told police she only “thought” it was Olivia, before giving more detail about her drinking that night:
“I had four Purple Goanas which is like an alcoholic soda. I then had a can of beer in the taxi and in Picton I bought a hip flask of gin at the bottle store just as you come into Picton. I only drank half of that. At the Federal I drank about six Midoris and lemonade and one Kahlua.
“I also smoked one joint during the night. I think I only had a couple of puffs of it.
“I have not told any lies in my previous statement but I do accept that I could have been mistaken about certain things such as times.”
Mistaken, she was. Graeme Wikaira, one of the people Veralynn was with and who Veralynn told police had seen Olivia said he didn’t, and they were all home by about 2am:
“About 1.00-2.00am Natasha and I wanted to go home back to Blenheim. We found a taxi and just the two of us went back to Blenheim. Veralynn Hope did not mention anything to me about seeing a friend at all. She did not say anything on the New Year’s eve night or any time after.”
Regardless of what time it was, it’s clear the only ‘witness’ was heavily drunk and possibly stoned. For reasons that will become clear by the end of the book, it was not a credible sighting of Olivia Hope, given that Veralynn Hope was not even sure what she looked like.
Veralynn’s friends describe her as kindhearted. The best explanation is that her alcohol-befuddled brain has merged what she thought might have been a sighting of Olivia into the abduction narrative playing out all over the media. Another classic example of false memory syndrome.
Remember: Veralynn’s alleged sighting was definitely the night of New Year’s. It was not 3 January.
There’s another sighting at Mary’s Bay in neighbouring Pelorus Sound on 5 January that is raised, along with a long distance, blurry and grainy photo of a woman claimed to be Olivia Hope. The photo could be anyone, and the supporting sighting is so vague that it simply isn’t credible as evidence of Olivia. That means we have to apply logic:
If you had abducted two young people, and the alert had gone out nationwide along with photos on every TV channel and newspaper two days earlier on 3 January, and thousands of boaties, searchers, police and members of the public were on the lookout throughout the Sounds – would you then parade your captives on the back of an open runabout in broad daylight to public places like a wharf in the summer holidays? Seriously? If you believe that, you probably believe in leprechauns.
There’s one final distraction worth mentioning, and it’s the hair sample issue.
We raised this as a major plank of reasonable doubt in Ben & Olivia, and if it was your only piece of evidence you could not safely convict on it. The hairs on Watson’s tiger blanket only turned up the same day samples were opened from a damaged bag in the ESR.
However, the hair theory has grown hairier over the years, with other authors arguing the hairs could have been innocently transferred to Scott Watson at Furneaux.
The hair transfer theory is implausible in the extreme. Let’s assume that hair can be transferred on a jacket, shirt or jersey. Secondly, the hair has to re-transfer from the first item of clothing to the blanket. This can only happen in certain circumstances – it requires for example that you lie down on the blanket without taking that particular piece of clothing off, and requires not just direct contact between both items but a contact that wrestles the hair clear of the garment and on to the blanket. Thirdly, of the 700 women at Furneaux Lodge that night, the only hair transferred via Watson to his blanket is from one woman – Olivia Hope? Even if a transfer is technically possible it is improbable, otherwise we would every day be brushing away hundreds of hairs picked up from strangers. But throw in the odds against only finding hair samples from the one woman in a very crowded bar that you are actually looking for, and there are probably better odds of a gorilla teaching Jamie Oliver a new recipe for chilli con carne and reciting it in the Queen’s English on telly. If you want to argue that Olivia’s hair first transferred to a stranger and then to Watson, the odds change so much that Jamie Oliver’s gorilla successfully runs for the office of Prime Minister.
In other words, the hair transference theory would not be a credible explanation for Olivia’s hair, and only her hair instead of other people’s as well, turning up on Scott Watson’s yacht. Either they fell out of the evidence bag (or were planted as Keith Hunter alluded to – albeit without evidence), or Olivia was on board Blade. Nothing else can realistically explain the presence of those hairs.
To test whether the ESR hairs were likely to have fallen through the cut in the evidence bag, experiments should have been taken with ten bags containing hair samples and having identical incisions, then being shaken ten times each over the desk. If the hairs did not fall out of the bags in 100 tests, conclusions could then be drawn as to the likelihood of contamination of the blanket. Police never sought those tests, and their use of the hairs therefore remains open to doubt.
If a humble reader wishes to test this probability for themselves, simply get a sealable plastic bag, deposit half a dozen hairs inside, make an inch long cut with a razor cleanly on one side of the bag, then shake it for ten seconds and see what happens.
Putting all these scenarios aside then, let’s see where the evidence actually does take us.
 “Infamous yacht sent to a watery grave”, NZ Herald, Dec 15, 2003
 40872 / ST / RAYMOND ARNESEN and HELEN JOY ARNESEN / ………… / 230498
 40951 / ST / BRUCE YOUNG / KBC672 / 250498
 Request regarding “Faith” & “Galerna” movements around New Years Eve
 10464 / ST / JOHN CALVER / SBD285 / 140198
 11486 / 258 / SECURITY STAFF / DRD506 / 180298
 12242 / JS / NAME WITHHELD / MR7371 / 270598
 13280 / ST / NAME WITHHELD / JMD684 / 240398
 13348 / JS / NAME WITHHELD / PMC692 / 080998
 13195 / JS / NAME WITHHELD / MCB924 / 180898
 13781 / ST / TIMOTHY ABBOTT / MK8254 / 190199
 20331 / ST / VERALYNN HOPE / RHD188 / 220198
 20442 / ST / NATASHA RANGIUAIA / DWC386 / 220198
 30494 / ST / VERALYNN RAEMA HOPE / ASD279 / 230198
 30095 / ST / GRAEME WIKAIRA / ETD262 / 220198
 A hair from Sandy Watson also turned up on the blanket, but she had definitely been on the boat. It didn’t get there from transference.