Was Scott Watson found guilty is a good place to start. Well yes he was, absolutely.
Though since then a core of evidence offered to the Jury that found him guilty no longer stands. No doubt it's a given that evidence must not only survive scrutiny at a trial but also the scrutiny of time. The Watson conviction is a ship wreck, one cast aground in no man's land where an agent for the Crown, without the benefit of any new reports, primarily relies on 2 hairs said to have come from Olivia, found on a blanket in a laboratory.
I've written here about the 2 hairs extensively before having had the benefit of a letter to this blog from a forensic scientist (source 1 below) and correspondence from Keith Hunter which supports the scientist's opinion (source 2). A reader will note that Keith points out a mistake I made in my own interpretation of the evidence. Others will agree that he is a remarkable man and that his understanding of the case against Watson is at a level few may be able to attain. I've no idea if Keith received his information regarding the DNA from the same source that later forwarded it to this blog - but the truth of it is that this evidence remains unanswered which was exactly what Kirsty McDonald should have done with reviewing the safety of the Watson conviction.
Probability in nDNA is based on matching 9 of 13 loci in one chromosome then calculating the number of searches needed to find another person on a population the same 9 of 13 matching loci. For instance,if you start with 65,000 people and do a pairwise match of all of them, you are actually making over 2 billion separate comparisons (65,000 * 64,999/2)or a probability 2 billion to 1. If you aren’t just looking for a match on 9 specific loci, but rather on any 9 of 13 loci, then for each of those pairs of people there are over 700 different combinations that are being searched, so all told, you end up doing about 1.4 trillion searches!
The probability in the Sounds nDNA was given 28,000 to 1 or 28 thousand searches so given an unrelated population [female] of 2 million the number of matching locus was likely only 2-3 of 13 possible matches so in fact the DNA evidence is very weak as there would be several thousand females who would match at 2 loci. To find two unrelated people who matched at all 13 loci would be 114 trillion to 1 Only Identical Twins have identical nDNA though siblings can be identified and biological relationship to a parent identified because the number of locus likely to be the same is known but in forensic science DNA testing it is never to be assumed the sample and control are related as that eliminates the need to search multiple times. All the tests in the sounds testing proved was that the hair alleged to have been found on Blade was from Olivia OR Amelia Hope as the Mitochondrial DNA [mDNA]testing and they were both their mothers daughters. The mDNA was contaminated by foreign nDNA and as the same hairs were nDNA tested those tests contaminated as well. The usual source of hair contamination is a shared comb or hair brush. Given the control hairs were also contaminated it is very likely they had a common source, Olivia hair brush where the control samples were from and was delivered to the ESR lab about a half hour before the hairs were "found".
Source 2: Keith Hunter 2 years ago.
• I have covered several of the matters you raise in an article for North&South magazine, probably January edition, available in the bookstores from mid- December.
• My personal view is that the hairs came from Olivia and that they were planted by the police, probably through a contact within the ESR.
• The ‘common source’ reference must refer to two hairs from one source- namely that both the hairs under examination came from Olivia.
• Over the years I’ve lost some detail of the DNA case in court (memory issues) but the major defence stance was that the identification of the hair DNA was suspect. The slit in the sample bag and the hairs’ late discovery late muddied the waters re their integrity as evidence but I’m sure the defence didn’t go further re planting.
• There is no suggestion of a transfer of some sort from Mrs Hope. You have misinterpreted the issues relating to mitochondria DNA, which indicates historic and therefore present day relationships via the heredity of the female line. The indications were that the hair inspected shared the same mitochondrial DNA as Mrs Hope. As a means of identification it seems to me to be of some limited statistical value but little more than that.
• Somewhere I have a transcript of some of the defence closing but not all of it so I can’t be more definitive on it. The attached court transcript will aid you in this.
• To understand the McDonald report you must understand that it has neither truth nor integrity. It’s a bought opinion, paid for in advance. It was designed and written specifically to decline Watson’s petition. It’s expensive rubbish.
Source 2: (Added later)
I should have noted that one hair provided mitochondrial evidence in the UK while the other had already provided a nuclear link in Australia – the substantial evidence. An issue for me is that the police (as I recall) went to the UK with a hair they knew did not contain enough DNA for a nuclear result after getting the nuclear evidence from the other hair in Australia, ie knowing that there was no possibility of a nuclear result from a hair that lacked root DNA and so could provide less than they had already - only mitochondrial evidence which identifies the female line going back maybe thousands of years but not the individual.
I made that point in TxT.
A quote of known facts:
I'll just touch on a few 'knowns' here, both (now ex) Minister Collins and Ms McDonald QC have publicly stated after a recent review using the powers of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, that the 2 'hairs' are the bonding agent which holds 'together' the case against Watson. Both the Watson case and that of Pora share the same prosecutor. The Watson case, along with those of David Bain and Arthur Thomas share the common fact of critical 'evidence' being found on subsequent searches that was apparently missed earlier.
If the DNA is so convincing against the counter claims, such as though above, that it is not, then a referral for independent confirmation would have been in order under the petition by Watson earlier, it would have been in the public interest. As the identifications were recanted, the description of the vessel, along with the goal house confession - then really it is for a Jury to confirm or reject the evidence against Watson because it looks collectively weak, also in the public interest and the safe exercise of Justice for a Jury to consider this case again. For that reason it is probably no surprise that there is focus here on his previous convictions, his sending of intimate pics to an ex girlfriend, having a phone in prison, an assault conviction etc, unwilling like Pora and Ellis before him to admit his guilt and so it goes on.
The effort put aside the new evidence regarding the DNA the withdrawal of the identification evidence, the alleged confession defies all logic and fairness. All this material supports the contention that Watson is falsely convicted or at least needs a retrial. The material does that both individually and collectively. The collective impact appears to gut the Crown case. I'm not easily convinced by conspiracies and any suggestion that eye witnesses recanting, at least 1 other vessel that fits the 'stepping up' required to board has been located and noted by other witnesses never called to give evidence, that the DNA's suspect arrival on the blanket after an earlier search proved that the hairs could have come from Olivia or her sister and were found the same day a hair brush taken from the sister's room was taken to the laboratory, consider also the full text of Keith Hunter's book about the hatch cover, the wiped tapes etc, - all this material from different sources and see with clarity it is not a conspiracy at all. Rather is proof of the failed Crown case opposed by what Keith Hunter says was a report that was expensive rubbish.
I've written before, and I hope it is in the capacity of Scott Watson, or his father to have a Barrister test the McDonald report by way of Judicial Review. If the money is not available - then perhaps a petition to Parliament, help is needed on this for the integrity of the Justice system and to correct the myopic exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. The Thomas, Bain and Pora cases prove this. As does that of Lundy, although convicted again (controversially in my opinion) his first conviction was found unsafe. I think I am correct to say that none of the above had their convictions overturned as a result of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, each needed to go outside NZ to the Privy Council. A court which incidentally this country should still benefit from as an appellant court by leave on Judgements of the Supreme Court. NZ hasn't got it right yet, as those named above and others such as Allan Hall having spent collectively show with somewhere near a 100 years in prison on convictions that later were seen to be unjust.