Watson’s new appeal passes its first hurdle
Convicted double murderer Scott Watson’s latest appeal has passed it first hurdle with the GovernorGeneral sending his application to the Minister of Justice for consideration.
Watson is serving a life sentence after being convicted in 1999 of killing Ben Smart, 21, and Olivia Hope, 17, after they went missing from a New Year’s Eve party in the Marlborough Sounds.
He has always claimed he never met Smart and Hope, and denied killing them.
Last month, a Royal Prerogative of Mercy application was filed on behalf of Watson citing fresh evidence that would challenge his controversial conviction.
Until now, the GovernorGeneral’s office had been considering if the application was complete enough to send to the minister for formal advice.
On Wednesday, the office of the Governor-General confirmed to Watson’s supporters in an email that his latest application was in order and the ‘‘formal process’’ of the appeal would begin.
‘‘At the Governor-General’s request I have forwarded your application to the Minister of Justice for his formal advice. Once this advice is received, Her Excellency will consider it, and you will be advised of the decision,’’ the email read.
The latest appeal was brought about by Auckland-based researcher Brian McDonald, who is himself a convicted killer.
Watson welcomed the news his appeal was progressing, McDonald said.
‘‘He is very happy about the progress which is being made. He feels his case is going to be listened to this time.’’
The only physical evidence linking Smart and Hope to Watson were two blonde hairs – believed to be Hope’s – found on board his homebuilt sloop following their disappearance.
The new appeal includes a report by forensic scientist Sean Doyle which calls into question whether the hairs were really Hope’s, and criticises the way the evidence was handled.
Watson’s father, Chris Watson, said last month he and his son had read the forensic report and fully backed the appeal.
‘‘Scott is optimistic, hopeful, with a touch of pessimism about the whole thing,’’ he said. ‘‘He is getting on with life, he has got a lot to get along with.’’
Watson has previously launched unsuccessful appeals to the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council, claiming his innocence. He will next be considered for parole in 2020.
New Year’s day 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of the disappearance of Smart and Hope.