Supporters of convicted Sounds murderer Scott Watson say they have information linking an entirely different man to the disappearances of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart.
The new theory has gained support on internet chat rooms, and led to a half-hour phone call from a senior police detective whose investigation led to the North Island man being jailed for another murder.
But police still believe Scott Watson killed the Marlborough Sounds duo and are not reopening their inquiry, despite the Government appointing Queen's Council Kristy McDonald to help review Watson's application for a pardon.
The new Sounds suspect - at least in animated online forums - is already in jail.
The North Islander and another man are said by locals to have been in the area of Endeavour Inlet on that New Year's Eve, 11 years ago. And he looks like the police Identikit issued by police.
That is enough to have prompted the detective senior sergeant who put the man behind bars to ring Picton photographer Nicci Bergman, who has promoted the new theory.
He discussed the allegation with her for 30 minutes but does not accept a link between the two cases.
The discussion on internet community boards has centred on the conviction of Scott Watson for the murders of Hope and Smart - a case which has been the focus of a concerted campaign over claims of a wrongful conviction.
Despite the campaign raising questions about evidence used to convict Watson, it had never before offered an alternative suspect.
Now, Bergman has questioned whether police ever considered the North Island man, who she said bore a striking resemblance to early Identikit images distributed by police searching for the killer of Hope and Smart.
Bergman had used computer software to lift the hair from the Identikit and place it over an image of the convicted North Island murderer. Doing so, showed stronger similarities between the artist's impression and the North Island man than it did to Watson.
The internet discussion, which has attracted more than 1200 comments, also raised the question of whether the North Island man was in the Marlborough Sounds' bay from which Hope and Smart disappeared.
Bergman said that the man's family owned land close to Endeavour Inlet. Hope and Smart disappeared after a New Year's Eve party at Furneaux Lodge at the inlet in 1998-1999.
She said it was commonly stated in the area that the North Islander and another local man had been seen in the area of the party. The man was also known to be a bourbon drinker - a "mystery" man at the lodge that night had drunk bourbon.
The man had previously shown himself capable of horrific sex and violence crimes, Bergman said. As well as the North Island attack and murder, he previously pleaded guilty to raping another young woman after overpowering her partner.
"Everything just makes perfect sense," said Bergman. She said she emailed details of the discussion to Coward, who rang her to speak about the theory for half an hour.
Coward confirmed he had discussed the matter but said: "We don't believe the two matters were linked." .
Former police detective Michael Chappell, who worked on the case for six weeks, said he never heard the North Island man's name mentioned. However, there had also been other leads ignored.By David Fisher @@DFisherJourno Email David