Restraining order for 'Olivia Hope' stalker

By Hana Garrett-Walker

Simon Hugh Bell has been convicted and given a restraining order against a woman he believed was slain kidnap victim Olivia Hope (right). Photos / File
Simon Hugh Bell has been convicted and given a restraining order against a woman he believed was slain kidnap victim Olivia Hope (right). Photos / File

A man has been convicted and handed a five-year restraining order against a woman and her family, after criminally harassing her because he thought she was Olivia Hope.

Simon Hugh Bell, 54, of Blenheim appeared today in the Wellington District Court, and was told he could be called up for sentence in the next 12 months.

He was found guilty of harassing the 44-year-old woman after a jury deliberated for less than an hour following a two-day trail at the Wellington District Court in March.

The woman was born in Australia, held an Australian passport, and had no idea who Olivia Hope or Ben Smart were when Bell accused her of being Olivia.

The missing pair were last seen boarding a yacht in the Marlborough Sounds early on New Year's day in 1998. Their bodies have never been found.

In 1999 Scott Watson was convicted of murdering the pair, and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

The woman whom Bell believed to be Olivia had told of how Bell's alleged accosting her in the street and taking her photo, combined with his distribution of leaflets throughout Blenheim showing her photo, caused her anxiety and led to her having a panic attack while she was out with her children.

She had needed medication from her doctor to cope.

But Bell, who represented himself at the trial, said he had taken necessary action.

"I stand on the side of right," he said.

He hoped that if he was ever wrongly convicted of a crime then someone would stand up for him as he was doing for Watson.

It was not his intention to cause the woman any harm.

Bell had decided the woman was Olivia Hope, that she was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, and that he had to put together an "evidence package" to prove this. Stockholm Syndrome is a condition in which hostages begin to side with their kidnappers.

- APNZ

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