Wat­son’s new ap­peal passes its first hur­dle

The Press - - News - TOMMY LIV­INGSTON

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.

Scott Wat­son

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