Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Silent victims in Watson?

It takes some consuming, it's an outright horror. Imagine yourself ringing police in an emergency, or in the event of responding to a police plea to members the public for support to find or report sightings when the young couple Ben Smart and Olivia Hope went missing, only to be ignored because it was claimed to have be sorted out. Even sure that you had sighted them, or photographed them or the ketch it is believed they were taken captive upon the Antares. That's where the following 3 part video takes a viewer, real life under the microscope, a vessel and people tracked across the sea by a formidable team of people with experience unable to be matched by NZ Police placed under restrictions by the officer in charge, the now retired Rob Pope.

If like me your geographical absorption of the Nelson and the sounds area is not strong then these videos take you to the ketch entering and departing waters and anchored out from the Furneaux Lodge in the early evening before the couple would go missing along with a man and the distinctive ketch. The sense for me was that I was seeing the possible abduction that was part of Ben and Olivia's disappearance in clear focus but could not do anything to help. If I got such a  feeling from the well contructed videos shorn of any emotion and very little speculation, such were the repetitive nature of the ketch sightings, then it's hard to imagine the effect on those original witnesses who never had their day in Court to tell their truth, and not one manufactured for them and the public at large.

What's more the ketch you would see was massive in size, around 50 feet long, twin masts and unmistakable because of a blue stripe running through brass portholes. A vessel that was a sight to behold, which would first draw attention because it was a beauty to embrace. It was only with later sightings when a couple were seen on the ketch still in the same waters that some witnesses expressed surprise or concern at the awkward way the couple sat in the stern of the ketch, how they never stood and appeared not to move their arms that the beauty of the ketch would have begun to look like a quivering nightmare, bold, but dark, emerging from the facile deceptive beauty.

The video, titled "The Mystery Ketch", early on shows the identikit picture of the mystery man someone with longish hair unlike the short hair style of Scott Watson now in prison for 2 decades after the ketch was allowed to slip away. The almost drone of the narrator, no voice inflections, no voice projections just dull with no measure of horror as he explains as the production shows a mug shot of one Mike Wallace, sex offender and longtime criminal, the striking resemblance between the identikit picture and Wallace, a man who crewed on boats and who was an experienced sailor.

The narrator has the name of the ketch, The Anatres, his team, Maritime Research Group NZ, tracked when it likely came into NZ waters and where it was seen heading toward Furneaux lodge and when it left. They knew of it's then recent sale for cash. They knew of it's temporary Kiwi skipper (whose name spelling was not clear to this listener) when it was in NZ waters, a friend of Wallace, both unsavoury types according to the investigators.

"The Mystery Ketch" is in 3 parts and whatever views one may hold on the Watson case the videos are a must see. 2 years of research went into the making of them. I have no idea how many individuals formed the Maritime Research Group NZ but their work is clearly thorough and challenging. It demands a Governmental response. Perhaps for the first time, and I say this not forgetting for a second Keith Hunter's well known research and work on the Watson, that the video achieves something unique it takes Scott Watson and his wee boat right out of the picture. It places what could have been Ben and Olivia on the high seas in troubling and surreal circumstances. It potentially places the couple in the company/control of gang members entering the Federal Hotel in the days after their disappearance with Olivia calling out to a friend to help her. It traces a kombi very likely linked to The Antares.

I've written about the boating community before, their inherent eye for detail of other vessels, their interest in all things nautical. They have been effectively shut out from the case, disregarded by police and not fully appreciated or known by Watson's defence. Yet "The Mystery Ketch" shows how reliable these witnesses are, how fine the detail of their reports are, how they are backed up with photos and a continuity of events. Not random sightings, but sightings in sequence of The Antares being seen.

For me, I doubted the inherent horror that the couple may have become victims of members of a possible crime group who kept them alive for some days, sometimes in public view. That stuck out as critical to me and I retain doubts about that. The type of doubt that could have influenced a Jury one way or the other. That is the point. These sightings weren't for police note books or record sheets, they were for the Jury. Though more than that they were for the peace of mind of at least 3 families forever changed, The Watson's, Hope's and Smart's. In a larger way they were for the idea of community, watching for one another on the 1 hand and the right to a fair trial and truth on the other.

Police have told the public that the mystery ketch does not exist. That may be correct, but if the public are told the ketch does not exist then they are due an explanation of a ketch people did see and did identify who they say was a couple on board who looked like the missing pair. A large part of the mystery Ketch theory can be easily proved or disproved by listening to the witnesses that saw it, a Jury could then decide on all the evidence not the evidence the police chose to present and which in many aspects has since fallen apart, but also the evidence police chose to ignore because 'they had their man' as they told many of the concerned witnesses.

Of course it not the job of police to decide who 'their man' is, that is the job of the Jury hearing all the relevant evidence including that which points to Watson's potential innocence. I mention here witnesses referred to in the videos, they took photos of what most likely was The Antares  supplied them to the police who lost them. Yes, lost them. If they weren't ignoring evidence they didn't like they were helpfully losing it, or hiding it from counsel and the public. There is a photo that survived and which the Maritime Research Group NZ were able to get some kind of copy of, they duly magnified this port quality reproduction of a photo of a small boat that was tied to a wharf with a woman sitting in the stern which well have been Olivia Hope after her disappearance.

While the war police have waged against Watson and his family a war has been waged also against honest and trustworthy Kiwis who did the right thing but were ignored. It's a little too easy just to suggest that was tough and police were doing their job. But in fact police were not doing their job, they were restrained from doing so by the orders of the Rob Pope who didn't want to know about any other possibilities than what he had decided. That is not fair or just in anyway. It's also a downright dangerous precedent where police do not respond to murder or abduction claims, the very least police needed to do was a complete and thorough investigation of the alibi that was being presented by 100s of people completely un-associated with the case apart from having the misfortune of being ignored when many thought they could be possibly helping save Olivia and Ben, or indeed had information as to what happened to them. Those people will not just have gotten over that, many of them will regret the helplessness which befell them, in some cases the outright lies which were spread against them for being enemies of the noble corruption 'cause.'

While the following link is not directed specifically to "The Mystery Ketch" scrolling down will find the 3 links in the right hand column. It is eye opening and disturbing on the one hand and on the other a major disappointment that the Justice system has been firmly arraigned for breaching the standards expected in a democracy with respect for the Law. Something must be done about this because it is fundamental to not only the rights of the Watsons, the Hopes and Smarts - but all New Zealanders, including that special group who answered a call for help but who were scorned and remained scorned in their disillusionment of being ignored in a most telling way. People who are not enemies of the police, undesirables or trouble makers but the very people that come to the rescue of others and do not turn away from evil.

I suggest any readers should send the links to their MPs along with a note of their feeling about this whatever they may be. Some will feel that this evidence should have been heard 20 years ago but must be heard now for the sake of a whole lot of people including you and I.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Gerald Hope 'unconvinced' by Scott Watson.

A North and South magazine article by Mike White in which he reports the meeting between Gerald Hope and the man imprisoned for killing his daughter Olivia and her friend Ben Smart, Scott Watson, is now released.

I hope to put some perspective on both the article and comments today by Gerald Hope that he was unconvinced by an 'elusive' Watson that he not convinced is innocent. First of all it is interesting to examine the possible motives of both men agreeing to the interview and what they may really have expected as an outcome. The interview was hazardous for Watson and his chances of parole, if he somehow convinced Hope that he was indeed innocent Hope had said he would back him in his claims of innocence. It's difficult on the basis of such ingredients that the outcome was going to be positive. One man is undoubtedly a grieving father, the other may or may not be innocent of the charges which have kept him prison for 2 decades. Realistically, with or without Hope's backing Watson has the Justice system sitting unfairly on his back whether he is backed by Gerald or not.

On the other hand whether Gerald decided he believed Watson or not, he was no further ahead - the mystery surrounding his daughter's disappearance is not solved, and hasn't been solved by Watson's imprisonment. I'm sure Gerald Hope understood that before he overturned the stone and spoke to Watson. As much as he may have wanted to be dispassionate, critical, the task appeared too great for any man who lost a daughter in such a terrible way. Having read the article and the Stuff news reports of Gerald's feelings about his chance to speak with Watson one thing is plain, he still doesn't know what happened to his daughter or indeed if Watson is guilty or innocent. But plenty was revealed anyway.

Those that read the article will understand perhaps for the first time, as it was for me, that Scott Watson is an intelligent man, that he is also justifiably bitter about his imprisonment and the circumstances which led to his convictions for murder. What followers of the case will have learnt is that Hope confirmed to Watson the assembly of the case against himself, the media manipulation by which police ensured they got their man, not necessarily the right man, but certainly the man they targeted in a very public way. Gerald Hope confirmed some of the manipulation by police including that of his older daughter Amelia, who over a period of time changed her witness statement to include the possibility that Watson was aboard a water taxi at the same time she was. This was proof of witness manipulation that Hope readily revealed - hinted at his own manipulation by police. Amelia Hope now joins a number of other witnesses in a catagory of those that were convinced that their evidence wasn't entirely accurate and accepted helpful suggestions that would get the bad bugger Watson inside. Most interestingly from Hope's admissions to this was his use of the concept of the ends justifying the means, he spoke of the trial being the most expensive of any to that time, his misgivings about the quality of the police work and his real disappointment that a mystery ketch was never ruled out or indeed ruled in which may have resulted at least in part of the mystery being solved. Gerald in his honesty told the public what many suspect about the Watson case, that essentially only 1 man was targeted and that therefore consequently it may never be known if the police in fact ever arrested the right man.

To a direct question from Watson, Hope revealed that it was police who raised with him a lot of information to convince him not of Watson's guilt,  but his likelihood of being guilty for reasons nothing to do with the murders of the missing couple. One of those, though how it could possibly be significant to deciding evidence or lack of evidence against Watson, was the unsubstantiated claim that Watson and his sister slept together. Watson, with some energy, wanted to know who had told Hope that story but Hope would not say although he generally agreed that it was all part of the landscape prevailing where evidence of guilt was sparse. In the subtext Hope was perhaps inadvertently revealing his deepest thoughts and misgivings - his doubt about Watson's guilt. That doubt of course folks is the reasonable doubt a Jury must consider, and one thing the interview revealed that since the trial there are more reasons to add to that doubt on critical evidence the Jury never got to here. At this juncture 2 points cross, Hope was inadvertently perhaps acknowledging the weaknesses in the case, and to my mind why it still remains a travesty that Watson's petition for Exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy was turned down, a result which since has never been appealed by Watson through Judicial Review.

Some questions from Hope to Watson perhaps showed the strain that Hope has endured all the years since losing his youngest child.

GH "Did you as some suggested, put all your clothes into a plastic bag and swim ashore?
SW "Seriously?"
GH "I'm not serious but I am asking you."
SW "No."

To be fair nobody would have expected a sudden confession of this type from Watson, again underlying the elements of futility expected from this meeting. One cannot help but think that Gerald knew that Watson certainly was not, about admitting, something he has denied for 2 decades. Watson, at least in part, knew he had the chance to get some information he needed, or at least have it confirmed that Hope, in his position, as a leading figure in the search for his daughter and Ben, was also a leading figure in spreading some of the myths arisen in this case. Though Hope did admit frankly anyway, that the missing ketch, the recanted witness testimony, the discovery of the 2 critical hairs from Olivia's genetic line in the forensic lab where a blanket from Watson's boat was being examined, was only part of his disquiet about whether or not police had got the right man. Disquiet which at the very least remains. It's clear by his own statements that Gerald Hope does not know if Watson is guilty or not and that it was unlikely that the meeting would have ever resulted in that.

In the paper Hope says that Watson's responses to some of his questions were rehearsed and absolutely silent on the more circumstantial elements of the prosecution case such as the disposal of the bodies in a sleeping bag. He said he was mute, unemotional, disconnected without considering that Watson was hardly likely to animated in rejecting assertions that he had rejected for 2 decades. It seems Gerald could not accept that the muteness and lack of emotion may have been from offence at being asked such questions when he was being truthful, or that Watson was simply bewildered by them or the lack of Gerald being able to appreciate he didn't know. It also appears that Gerald could not discern that events going over perhaps millions of times in the mind of Watson in the last 20 years would be in a monotone, almost a resigned defeat, that the truth of his innocence is obvious. Gerald I think fell into what would be a ready mistake, that Watson would know the answers to things he couldn't possibly know if he was innocent, and that not having those answers certainly did not mean guilt.

All of this it now appears turns on 'art work' taken from Watson's cell while on remand which Hope somehow getting a copy from police - no doubt to convince of Watson's guilt. Hope is quoted as saying that looking at the drawings he sees (in Watson) a disturbed person, even undertones of death and retribution. I think that more than anything else those comments reveal the position he has held for 20 years, that he doesn't know if Watson is guilty but that his interpretation of the drawings (which certainly are bleak and dark - like other art drawn before and since by 1000s of others) have convinced Gerald that Watson is disturbed and evil. Exactly what police could have anticipated when giving a copy to Gerald.

It's a little surprising on that point that Gerald who acknowledged the manipulation by police (and himself) of the media and the pubic at the time of the arrest and trials, holds such aloft as reasons for being convinced not by hard evidence, not by the finding of the mystery yacht or a credible explanation that it never existed, by the disclosure that the hairs found in the lab that were or were not those of his daughter, that identifications were no longer in question, that evidence had not been recanted, that it was accepted that evidence had been changed by witnesses in response to pressure or convincing by police and so on - had it's answer in a drawing stolen taken from a prison cell.

Gerald Hope plainly didn't get what he imagined he might, but which he no doubt realised would not be forthcoming anyway. Those with doubts about this case got no further ahead though they now have the admission from someone very close and involved that there was indeed witness and evidence manipulation by the police in this case - the signature of all recent NZ Miscarriages of Justice.

Thanks to Gerald Hope for that concession of the truth from the other side.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Controversial NZ criminal cases as 2016 closes..

Here is a list of the status of particular high profile cases, many going back decades which have featured prominently this year.

In no particular order, and only my opinions of course.

Scott Watson: This has been a interesting though another frustrating year in the Watson case. I had the chance to learn more about the case and in particular about the Watson family courtesy of a book published by Ian Wishart titled 'Elementary.' Ian, possibly inadvertently, gave weight to Watson's innocence and wasn't happy when I put the case for that in this blog:

Ian amply pointed out enough facts which showed Watson's innocence in a remarkable way even though as the title of his book suggests that wasn't his purpose. I 'got' Ian's facts but not his interpretation of them.

Aside from that I remain frustrated that the Watson case is back in the Courts for the wrong reasons, the right to be interviewed and to meet Gerald Hope the father of Amelia Hope. His Court cases should be challenges to the bull crap reasons his application for The Royal Prerogative of Mercy was dismissed. He's fought the wrong fights as far as I can see.

Teina Pora; This case has been important for many reasons, yet like other miscarriages of Justice the Government of the day have not been able to settle all the matters fairly and dispassionately. It isn't only that there is now a Judicial Review lodged over the Government failing to pay, without good and equitable cause, inflation for the years during which Teina was falsely imprisoned.

There is also the fact that the probable killer of Susan Burdett was not only a gang member but an active police informant, one who was let go at a time when he should have been being investigated for the murder of Susan Burdett. Malcom Rewa is imprisoned for charges that occured after he allegedly killed Susan Burdett, there is evidence that police that police let Rewa off the suspect list after which he went on to commit rapes for which he is now convicted. That lies open to be observed by the Government for the women involved, they should not be left to fight for compensation and apology - they should instead by reached out to by this Government and their agencies. It is known, and shouldn't need to wait until one, some, or all of the women succeed in some legal action against the system that let them down by error, perhaps deliberate error.

Arthur Thomas: Support of Watson, adds to his support of Bain and adds to his public statement some years ago that he understood what a tough time his imprisonment was for his late first wife, Vivian. For a man to endure what he had to suffer and able to put a true perspective to his lost first marriage takes remarkable character, and Arthur has that in spades.

Mark Lundy: A case which I have deliberately left to last for a particular reason. Namely, it's fairly accepted that retrials are often less than fair. But Lundy got the worse retrial in living history in my opinion. The Crown not only dropped aspects of the original prosecution because they were disproved but changed aspects to diagrammatically opposite claims made in the first trial and held onto bitterly for 15 years. But most of all despite international forensics having entered a phase of accepting that samples submitted with from a known or suspect known source revealed to testers, no longer being acceptable, the Crown used exactly the same unapproved for forensic testing and giving the evidence to the same in America Doctor Miller. When for all intents and purposes the retrial evidence had to be right they went back to the same pathetic tester and not one of thousand of approved labs in the world where origins of samples were not known to first testers, or indeed 2nd or 3rd parallel testers.s

I was fortunate to have the co-operation of a leading and many times published forensic scientist on this matter and his opinion, from his in depth and up to date knowledge of the Lundy case, was that ML is proven innocent by scene evidence.

I understand much is happening in the Lundy case and I am very supportive of it's chances to be corrected and ML freed. If ever a case needed a crystal clear narrative to put it in order this one case cries out for shape.

David Bain: What happened in the Bain case was plain to see this year for anybody with either 2 eyes or 1. The culmination was simple, what Binnie found by using Bayesian testing was DB's innocence on the balance of probabilities. What the Aussie retired Judge, Callinan, found by totally ignoring Bayes testing was a $400,000 pay cheque. The Government then paid off Bain to go away. Justice? Who knows, but at least it was Bain's prerogative to walk away on his own terms - found innocent by a Jury.

Allan Hall: Under the radar as always, just the way the Justice Department like it. A  middle aged white man of modest intelligence and size fitted up for a murder said to have been committed by witnesses who fought the attacker and said he was polynesian, youthful and large.

David Tamihere: Somewhat a late arrival in cases of interest to me. I always appreciated that Tamihere had been framed, of course that doesn't he was not guilty. I felt for his son and the hand that had been cruelly dealt to him when the late Detective John Hughes, who features poorly in a number of case of wrongful imprisonment, planted the watch in the young Tamihere's bedroom. In recent months I was able to watch an old video of DT's wife and late(?) father which was revealing of what his family was put through. DT's wife is a terrific woman, not in the least the way police tried to portray the Tamihere family.

The whole case has taken on a new perspective with my old mate, the formidable legal beagle, Arthur Taylor on the case. It's hard to think of anyone more capable of showing how Tamihere was stitched up by Hughes and his paid informers. Whether that can result, as it should in a retrial at least, is going to be a watching point for 2017.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

3 Strike legislation misses the mark?

Possibly the most controversial Criminal Justice System Laws of the past decade have been the knee jerk reaction to the Weatherston  case in Christchurch where the Law was changed to close a 'loop hole' that was seen by Law makers regarding the defence of Weatherston in using provocation. A defence that the Jury rejected after finding Clayton Weatherston guilty anyway of the murder of one of his ex students Sophie Elliot.

The second would be the 3 Strikes Legislation, a improvised Law taken from the States and applied here in NZ. It was ostensibly going to punish the worst of the worst. It went onto became a hot political subject and would never be far from controversy and historically may be remembered for the most unusual reason that it's patron David Garrett, was forced to resign from Parliament for not having come clean about a checkered past. That past has never deterred him from voicing opinions of others, primarily anyone that doesn't agree with his often one-eyed opinions and apparent lack of insight. Somehow he thought Parliamentary Law did not apply to him by reason that he was a soldier of Law and order. He has written publicly about his desire as a youth to track down and kill gang members a statement which undermines his claim that he stole the identity of a deceased child as a 'joke.' He said he got the idea from reading the book 'The Jackal' about an assassin such are the contradictions of the man, he has never been able to explain what the joke was and certainly nobody else has. In the past  has also written about his admiration for Britain's hangman Pierrepoint in a manner that shows more of his vindictive nature that his apparent care for the Law. He is indeed a Lawyer who was stopped from practising for a time, has had unsuccessful marriages, neighbours speak out against him and his manner. He claims to have fallen on hard times and if there is any affection for anything in his life other than himself, and booze, then in must be 'his law' the 3 Strikes Legislation.

It's clear that the seldom used defence of provocation soon settled in the public mind as a non event although the legislation to ban it remains an awkward outpost in the fairness of a defendant not having available to them the opportunity to prove they were suffering enduring abuse, or physical harm and finally cracked - something that at least has the tone of reality of real life situations attending its cause. Many will, in my opinion, sympathise with those driven to striking out against physical abuse in a marriage, partnership or some other form of partnership that has gone wrong. Of course such situations will seldom result in death or serious harm to the perpetrator but there may be rare exceptions. Weatherston was not married to his victim, nor had they been in a long term relationship. She was simply moving on with her life and after killing her he claimed that she had provoked him, a claim that was rejected by a Jury.

In the following link there is a blog by Andrew Geddis which sets out his views on 3 Strikes and the predictions of Auckland Law Professor Warren Brookbanks who contemplated that the Law would actually throw up ambiguities and not capture the anticipated big fish Garrett promised. The Law Professor looks to be right as the first person to be 'captured' by the new Law was not the violent and dangerous type of offender that the public were told would be incarcerated for serious offences, and on their third strike serve the maximum sentence the law allowed without parole subject to the discretion of the sentencing Judge.

I have no intention to attempt to downplay that the man involved in fact frightened his victim, a female prison officer who he touched on the bottom for 1 to 2 seconds. But I think by any account it would never have made the newspapers, and also hasn't  struck satisfaction to the public who brought the idea that dangerous criminals were about to be thrown in prison and have the key thrown away. Instead it was a Clayton's moment, the bottom fondler received 7 years (with the chance of parole) for an inappropriate touch. After 6 or so years in the making, potentially millions of dollars spent and the public get a fizzer no matter how much die hards say 'good job.' The result is not the resounding triumph predicted. How much they must have hoped for a 'big name' a trophy instead they got a 25 year old who some would call a kid without any record of any type of sexual offence. One who according to the sentencing notes not only admitted the offence, but apologised, Even the prison officer, who was unnamed was reported, as saying that a long sentence was not warranted.

Where these points meet is a interesting place, a defendant who acknowledges guilt for a crime that he may not have been convicted of had he not pleaded guilty, a man who speaks apparently honestly of his remorse, a victim who doesn't want the door closed on the convicted man and a Judge who acknowledges that he had no alternative but to impose the maximum sentence which to his mind may have only attracted a maximum sentence of 12 months. In other words 3 parties reasonably in agreement about an out of kilter sentence that had to be imposed anyway because it is the Law. It's important to reflect that this man was not a 3 time robber or violent offender, he also was not a serial sex offender. As written above he had no convictions of a sexual nature. There could be other more appropriate situations where a 3 Striker might be shown to at least be fitting into the concept on which it became Law. Regardless, this one does not, and the 3S legislation (as Garrett fondly calls the Law when he speaks about it at every chance) has been years in the making only to prove it didn't fly. The prisoner was a teen at the times of the campaigning for this Law, blissfully unaware that one day he would have the less than enviable distinction to be the first 3 striker sentenced. However, what we don't know from the Judgement, as I recall, is if the prisoner even knew he was committing a 3rd strike offence when he touched the prison officer's butt. If he didn't, the labyrinth of understanding required of the Law would not appear to be reside in the very group the law targets.

I don't think that is the only short coming the first 3S sentence has revealed. Frankly not knowing all the details of the Law which does appear fairly complex, arguably far too complex for those intended to absorb the possible consequences of falling foul of the Law - I am left with the impression of another flaw, that a person on 2 strikes for offences of the same type can actually be dealing with that type of offending only to be tripped up for some other type of offence on the 3S calendar not committed before by he or she, even of a type which is arguably minor compared to potential more serious assaults.

If, as it appears, the Law is itself in fact an ass, only time will tell. 6 years or so on some will feel it is, others will not. This will take many more years before that becomes clear and opponents will always have the opportunity to point out its failure here. In the meantime perhaps the message has resonated not to touch the bottoms of other people. The Sensible Sentencing Trust, who pushed for the Law in a deal with the Act party have been silent about the small fish their net harvested. The Act Party leader on the other hand has said that it was a good job (the third strike sentence). David Garrett, the adopter of the idea from America who presented the Law to the NZ Parliament during his time as an MP has understandably defended the Law and marked it in someway as a credit to himself. It appears David Garrett may have possibly found favour among some groups who formerly opposed him for his manner, there were many speaking out with horror as to what bottom touching represents in the modern world. Who knows it may represent a chance to become a spokesperson for women in the future, after all there must be other crazy Laws somewhere out there looking for a new home.