There has been much talk about the '2-hairs' in the Scott Watson case this week. I was encouraged to read on a blog a person saying that he didn't know it took 3 months to find the 2-hairs. Fact is most people don't, and the media generally mistakenly report the 2-hairs as being found on Scott's yacht, but they weren't. They were found in a lab 3 months after the couple's disappearance.
Scott's boat was pulled out of the water on January 11th 1998 after it was seized under a High Court warrant to look for 'bodies, body parts and forensic evidence'. The first searches were by police, it would be fair to say that each officer that went aboard the sloop would have been looking for any signs of evidence. Police were very interested in the sails in the forward department because of claims the bodies had been wrapped in sails and sunk in the Cook Strait. First things first, they found no bodies, no body parts and the sails were intact. Before we go further it must be remembered that a High Court Judge had been told there was evidence supporting the warrant, in 20 years there has not been a single clue or explanation as to what evidence existed to make the claim about bodies and body parts. I think after all this time we can say it was made up.
Soon after, at least 3 ESR staff searched the sloop, found hairs, and blood which were collected. They searched for fingerprints and recovered all they found including a scrubbing brush. The woman who found the hairs and blood inside the cabin identified the positions of the finds and noted them. None of those hairs were identified as being from Ben or Olivia, nor was the blood. The hairs in the brush also did not belong to the couple. So we come to the tiger blanket off the bed which was collected and taken away with clothing and other items of interest.
Over a year later The Crown would say that Scott had thoroughly cleaned down his yacht to hide traces of the couple, the lie to this of course was the blood and hairs, also the scrubbing brush, but the biggest indication of the lie was a further year later after Scott had been charged when, on a request from the defence, the Crown revealed that there had been 390 hairs found on the blanket - it's not certain how they reached that figure because a big mistake in this case was that nobody apparently remembered to count possible evidentiary hairs except from the 1st search of the sloop by the 3 ESR staff.
Sometime in January 2 ESR staff had the blanket released to them to take off all the hairs individually and place them in 2 plastic bags. Common sense tells us that those staff, like the earlier ESR staff aboard the sloop would have looked for long blond hairs because hardly a person in NZ would not have known that the missing Olivia had long blond hair. So now we are at least 2 or 3 police searches of sloop, and at least 2 or 3 ESR searches for hairs on the sloop. We have 2 more in the removal of hairs from the blanket - 2 staff, 2 searches. The 2 bags were then put the storage facility before being released to the ESR 'hair expert' Sue Vintiner, who searched the 2 bags in January and collected 11 hairs 'mostly with roots.' Hair roots are necessary for DNA analysis, she found that none of the hairs belonged to Ben or Olivia. In a memo she recorded this fact and said the case was a 'hard' one and that none of the hairs were Ben or Olivia's, so another unsuccessful search and this time by the celebrated 'expert.'
All of this is tricky enough. We have a warrant to look for bodies and body parts, none are found, however blood and hairs are found and none belong to the couple. When the cabin was searched the most obvious place was to search the bed and the blanket for that is where the alleged killings and rape must have silently taken place, with a couple apparently co-operating in their own deaths by remaining so silent that people on 2 other boats rafted up to Scott's sloop never heard a word or a scream. We have a blanket with 390 hairs on it after the sloop was cleaned down of evidence - I'd welcome anyone to explain that, cleaning down paint, leaving spots of blood, hairs and a blanket with 390 hairs on it. No sign of the 2-hairs yet and we're into March.
Switch your mind to the Thomas case, the Bain case and that of Lundy. Everything searched and nothing found - then suddenly a new search of the Crewe garden in the Thomas case and a cartridge found weeks after a full grid searches and sifting had found nothing. Then to Bain, Stephens room carefully gridded and checked for 2 days and then on the 3rd night of the inquiry a detective not tasked with the job going into the house after hours searching Stephen's room and suddenly finding a glass lens. Exhausting. Lundy, his shirt clean as a whistle, never put into the custody of the exhibits officer but instead kept in the 'safe' of the officer in charge, weeks later when the case is in deep trouble suddenly 2 small spots found on the shirt which are argued about until today and are currently the subject of appeal. Meanwhile between Bain and Lundy, its March of 1998 and Ms Vintiner decides to check the 2 bags again in the third month after the inquiry began, this day there is a someone in the Lab with her who is not from ESR or police, Vintiner also contrary to ESR accreditation rules has sample hairs believed to be that of Oliva taken from the Hope household, - also on a 2nd search for long blond hairs. Ms Vintiner searches the bags again like every other search since January finds nothing. But she doesn't give up just because she is finding the case 'hard' so she searches again and hello, not one long blond hair but 2! Whatever could have happened, but don't worry she is a 'hair comparison' expert. She could presumably walk past you in the supermarket note the colour of your hair and pick it off a table mixed with 100s of other hairs months later.
No surprises there, don't bat a eyelid. Not even for the next details. Until March 1998 and through all those searches the longest hair found was 7.5 cms. But wait, the 2 blond hairs that were never photographed or videod in situ were 25 and 15 cm long, twice and three times longer than any other hairs found. Before moving to the next point it should be noted that both times hairs were taken from the Hope household they were not counted so even if the hair expert had been surprised at the sudden find she couldn't count the Hope household hairs, find 2 missing and say 'silly me.'
There is a tonne of other evidence to show that the 2-hair evidence is decidedly weak despite that a previous Minister of Justice said the case against Scott was 'held together' by the 2 hairs. The strongest might be that 'hair comparison' methods our local 'expert' used were found to have to have resulted in 95% of those convicted by the American FBI using 'hair comparison' methods in the 20 years to 2015 being exonerated. Yes, 95%. In New Zealand, as it is in Britain, experts witnesses duty is to the Court, they are not there for the defence or Crown but as an expert to the Court. If as science methods change or faults are identified in processes, the experts are required to inform the Court of any cases they may have worked on where faulty process has been identified. I can tell you today neither Ms Vintiner or the New Zealand ESR have put their hands up, but have kept silent, deadly quiet.