By Simon Bradwell


A skull recovered from the sea may be that of murdered teenager Olivia Hope.


It was pulled up by a fishing trawler at the mouth of the Waimakariri River, near Christchurch.


Tests have showed it was from a Pakeha woman in her late teens or early 20s.


Olivia’s dad Gerald Hope said he wanted DNA tests on the skull. "Let's use the science" he said.


And Chris Watson, the father of Scott Watson - convicted of killing Olivia, 17 and her friend Ben smart, 21 - has backed  the call.


"If the skull is Olivia’s, it would be powerful evidence Ben and Olivia were on a boat other than. Scott’s Blade when they went missing," Watson's said.


"That would basically prove Scott  didn’t kill them".


When the skull was found three years ago police thought it belong to a missing fisherman.


But Sunday News can reveal tests showed it belonged to woman about Olivia’s age.


The skull was sent to skeletal anatomist John Dennison at Otago University two months ago.


He told Sunday News there were no teeth to compare with Olivia’s records.


It was not clear how the person died, Dennison said. But the skull would be tested to see how long it had been in the water.


The head of the police enquiry, superintendent Rob Pope, said more tests would be done to see if the skull was Olivia’s.


Now you’ve raised it with me, I'll certainly organize for it to be looked at to see if there is a connection, he said.


"The police have an obligation to identify any skeletal remains".


Ben and Olivia were last seen boarding a yacht in the Marlborough sounds early on January 1, 1998, their bodies were never found.


Scott Watson was convicted the next year for both murders and sentenced to 17 years without parole. He has always maintained his innocence.


Chris Watson said a ketch was seen leaving the sounds on January 1.

"Ben and Olivia it could have been aboard" he said.


"Once out of the sounds this boat could have gone almost anywhere and the skull was found only twenty four hours sail away."


Chris said police should have investigated this skull fully when it was discovered.


"In a proper investigation, every stone needs to be picked up, turned over, weighed in looked under." he said.


Gerald Hope there was angry he learned about the skull from Sunday News and not from the police. "It's disappointing that we hear about this from the media" he said.






January 1,1998: Ben and Olivia our last seen boarding a yacht after celebrating New Year at Furneaux lodge.


May 16, 1998: Ben and Olivia’s parents fear a large item pulled from the Sounds seabed is a body, but it is un-connected to the case.


June 15, 1998: Picton yachtie Scott Watson charged the pair’s murder.


October 10,1998: Olivia’s father, Gerald wins the Marlborough mayoralty and dedicates victory to Olivia


September 11,1999: Watson convicted, sentenced to 17 years jail without parole


May at 8,2000: The Court of appeal dismisses Watson's appeal. His lawyers say they'll go to the Privy Council


August 2000: A Navy vessel detects two objects of interest on the Tory channel seabed but it's too expensive to recover them


May 5, 2002: Gerald Hope tells Sunday News he isn't sure Watson was Olivia’s killer


September 1, 2002: Enquiry Head Rob pope orders analysis of the skull found off the Canterbury coast to see if it is Olivia’s



Sunday News    September 1, 2002