The father of murdered Olivia Hope remains unconvinced by Scott Watson's claims of innocence.
Gerald Hope released a statement today that said after six hours of talking with convicted murderer Watson he couldn't be convinced he was innocent.
Ben Smart and Olivia disappeared in the early hours of New Year's Day 1998 after boarding a yacht with a stranger in the Marlborough Sounds. Watson has always maintained he wasn't that person. The Crown said he was.
"Some years ago I challenged Scott Watson 'To convince me that you are innocent and I'll back you'," Hope's statement said.
"His response was absolute silence on some of the more circumstantial elements of the prosecution case such as the disposal of the bodies in a sleeping bag.
"When confronted with this he was mute, unemotional, disconnected - Watson definitely did not convince me that he is innocent on this point."
Hope and Watson met in prison last month. Reporter Mike White was with them and yesterday his 16-page story about the two-day meeting ran in North & South magazine.
Watson and Hope's meeting took more than three years to come together and was rejected by the Corrections Department three times.
"I respect what you say, but there are questions I'll be asking today so I really, really need to know we're getting it from your heart and your head. And it's got to be absolutely honest," Hope told Watson, according to North & South.
"And you also need to be prepared to hear the truth and actually take it on board, because you've obviously been close to [investigation head] Rob Pope and his cronies," Watson replied.
White said he was able to attend the meeting as both the men wanted an independent person there.
Hope's desire to meet with Watson was about "an effort to more overturn every stone . . . to make sure you've done everything you can to get Olivia the voice she doesn't have and to try and find the truth about what happened to Olivia and Ben," White said.
Each was too guarded to shake the other's hand, White said.
"There was too much distrust, too many preconceptions."
But one thing they agreed on was that they were both victims.
"You and I are both victims. You believe you're a victim," Hope said.
"I know I'm a victim - I know I'm a victim," said Watson.
Hope added: "We're a victim. We never got the truth. We haven't got the truth yet".
"Most people have got the comfort of the police, the legal system having done their job, so that's why you're in here. That's the bottom line.
"Most people just get on with their lives, they don't want to have anything change what's already been decided. And I know that, I understand that."
White said Hope had "significant concerns" about how the police investigation and trial had been handled.
"[He] has many doubts about the case that convicted Scott Watson. He now rejects crucial evidence that underpinned Watson's conviction, and this will add to debate about whether Scott Watson is guilty of the murders, or whether he is the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice."
White has remained tightlipped on his own views about the case and whether Watson is innocent or guilty.
The men spoke for six hours over two days, according to North & South magazine.
Hope said there were a few key items of evidence he focused on to determine Watson's guilt. They were the time Watson returned to his yacht Blade, whether he and Blade were at Marine Head around 9am on January 1, 1998, the time of arrival at Erie Bay and what Watson did on New Year's day.
Hope said it felt Watson had rehearsed his responses to many of the questions.
After the meeting Hope felt Watson had failed to convince him of his innocence on four points.
"Sighting at Marine Head - his response was that he never stopped. The evidence was that a boat was seen there and that it was confirmed as Blade and Watson.
"The squabs from the main cabin with large sections cut out and then carefully picked out are crucial to the case. I was not convinced that they were caused by paint spillage or accidental burning from a cigarette.
"His arrival time at Erie Bay. He said he was there by lunchtime - whereas [others] confirmed his arrival around 5pm. This is crucial to the conviction and leaves many hours in the day unaccounted for. What was Watson doing?
"Finally, the art work - supposedly a personal statement, a visual expression by Watson not long after he was arrested. When I look at the drawing I see a disturbed person, evil depictions and undertones of death and retribution. This draws me to the conclusion that at that time in his life Watson had no respect for women and was living a dark fantasy where death was the currency of the day."