Murder of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope

The murder of two young New Zealanders, Ben Smart and Olivia Hope, occurred in the early hours of the morning of New Year's Day, 1 January 1998. Ben Smart (aged 21) and Olivia Hope (aged 17) were last seen by water taxi driver Guy Wallace, who transported them to a moored yacht in Endeavour Inlet off Furneaux Lodge, located in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand. The close friends had been celebrating New Year's Eve at the lodge with other partygoers. After leaving the party and discovering that the boat they had arrived on, Tamarack, was overcrowded, they decided to look for alternative accommodation for the night. They transferred from Tamarack to a Furneaux Lodge water taxi driven by Wallace, intending to go back ashore.[1]

Aboard the small water taxi was a man who would later become crucial to the police investigation.[2] According to Wallace and another couple who also rode in the water taxi, the man offered Ben and Olivia a place to stay aboard what he said was his vessel, which Wallace described as a two-masted ketch. The pair accepted the offer and all three boarded the man's boat at a time estimated between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. It was the last time the pair were seen. Police speculated that they had been murdered, but no bodies were found despite extensive searching in the months that followed. To this day, Smart and Hope remain missing.

Police investigations began on 2 January 1998, after the pair's parents reported them missing. The case was assigned the name Operation TAM by police. In the following months, police came to believe that the unidentified man was Scott Watson, although his yacht was not a two-masted ketch. Police charged Watson with murder and after an 11-week trial he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.[3] Watson still protests his innocence; however after fruitless efforts, all avenues of appeal have failed.


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