The Cleaning Evidence
One of the main planks of the prosecution case against Scott Watson was the evidence of the scrupulous and selective cleaning of his boat. It seems that this was first deduced by detective sergeant Landreth who was in charge of the seizure and search of the 'Blade' from the 12th of January 1998. Mr. Landreth did a thorough job of searching the boat and made out a job sheet listing all that he found and I will quote from his entry for the 13th of January 1998 between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.
It became extremely obvious during the course of this fingerprint examination that every hard surface inside the boat had been completely wiped down.
Two questions arise from this statement.
- Why was this not obvious to the fingerprint expert who conducted the examination? He stated in court that the number of fingerprints found were neither more nor less than he would expect to find in a similar area of a house (the kitchen or bathroom). He also stated that the signs of cleaning (wipe marks highlighted by the fingerprint powder) covered only 30 to 50% of the areas.
- The second Question is, Just what is Mr. Landreths mindset? His job, one would think would be to impartially seek evidence of a crime, not to deduce that a crime has been committed because there is no evidence to be had.
A meteorologist was called to testify (by the defense) to compare the actual weather conditions pertaining in early December 1997 with the conditions and comments recorded in Blade's log. He stated that Scott would be a very unlucky man to be caught out in those conditions and that the log was an accurate record of the weather that was encountered, Strong gale and high seas.
There was also further evidence (defense) of a major clean up after this storm. A neighbour who saw carpet pieces drying out during December 1997 and a dry cleaner who was brought bedding to clean at about the same time. A yacht designer (also defense) stated that cleaning of a boat after being out in far less rigorous conditions would be a normal practice and that he would throw out a tape that had been wet rather than put it in his stereo. Detective Landreth contrasted this cleaning with the fact that there were dirty dishes in the sink, although he, in two months, did not check to see if there was any water in the tanks. (They were empty).
All in all, the mindset of the police is amply demonstrated by the conclusions drawn by Landreth on the 13th of February. I quote:
"At the time of completing this job sheet we are still awaiting final results from the ESR in regard to many of the samples taken from Blade, however items of particular note in regard to my examination of the vessel are:
- One can only speculate on the logic that finds a lack of evidence of a crime to be evidence that a crime has been committed.
- "It would appear as that some person(s) has gone to considerable trouble in totally wiping down every hard surface on the vessel. It would appear as though such items as the VHF radio and depth sounder have been removed from their brackets and also wiped down. Every item on the vessel (including plastic containers, pots, plates etc.) Have been fingerprinted and not only is there clear evidence [in contrast to the general untidiness of the boat] but the almost total absence of fingerprints is very unusual".
- "The fact that one squab cover on one of the seats is missing and a piece of the foam rubber has been cut out of the seat is of great concern especially when coupled to the fact that another squab cover has had a large hole circular hole made in it and then been put back on the squab the wrong way round so as to disguise the fact that that squab has also had some of the foam cut and removed from it in the corresponding place to where the hole would be if it was correctly fitted. Added to this is the fact that Olivia had her period at the time of her disappearance and that Watson's mother and sister are very evasive when questioned about the missing squab cover"
- - Apart from the fact that Scott's family were no longer helping the police with their inquiries after the police had seized the blade (on legal advice) it is hard to imagine how Landreth was able to form a conclusion that Scott's mother and sister were evasive, when he had never spoken with them. That one of the damaged squabs was caused by burning was confirmed by an ESR scientist when he said that burnt foam rubber was found in the depression in the foam and that the circular hole had burnt edges. This was pretty obvious by just looking at the damage. The damage to the other squab was certainly where a crutch might rest (as stated by Paul Davison QC) if one were sitting at the table. But it would be a pretty awkward position for violent rape and murder.
"The fact that Watson's auto-steer vane which can be seen on his boat in the photographs taken of his boat at Furneaux Lodge on new years eve had clearly been "hidden" in a very obscure place on his boat is of major concern. We know that the steering mechanism only cost him $250.00 and as there are many other items on the vessel worth much more than this that are quite accessible therefore I doubt that this was hidden to prevent theft".
- The police were in possession of the instruction manual for this self steering gear which states that if it is not intended to use this gear in the immediate future (three days is the time specified) that it should be removed and stowed. While this vane does not look large it becomes so when taken inside the cabin of a small boat. The police found this when they "stowed" it in the forward cabin when they "returned " it in April 1998. It took up all the usable space and it was found that the place that Scott had "hidden" it in, (to use Landreth's words) was really the only place that one could store it where it would be out of the way and not susceptible to damage.
"The fact that watson went to a reasonable amount of trouble to paint his vessel, while at sea, on New Years day (and also hid the wind vane) leads me to suspect that he has attempted to change its appearance".
- This is a distinctive little boat. And is probably the only example of this design in the Marlborough Sounds area. To paint the trim a different colour would hardly disguise it (One witness recognised Scott's boat both on the 1st and 3rd of January. The trim was painted on the 2nd.) and the boat had only been back in the area with the vane on it for about three weeks. To most people who knew the boat it would be more disguised with the vane on than off. Erie Bay could hardly be considered "at sea" as it would most probably be far calmer there than at the Shakespeare Bay mooring, where it was normally berthed.
These conclusions made by a police officer lead one to think that:
That this officer did not have any insight into the type of people he was investigating. (cruising yachtsmen).
That rather than looking for evidence, he was actively looking for evidence against Scott Watson.
That he is clairvoyant.
At this stage of the investigation Witnesses were identifying an unshaven and long haired mystery man. Witnesses were identifying a forty-foot ketch. The hair had not even been found, let alone tested at this stage. Secret witnesses had not been contracted. It is also worth noting that no other boats were searched or seized in this fashion. These conclusions were all that existed on the 13th of February to cause the police to abandon all other lines of inquiry in this case and concentrate on Scott Watson.