The deaths of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart have sparked another verbal scrap - this time between author Ian Wishart and a group of yachties who have investigated the case and believe a drug syndicate to be behind the killings.
The self-styled Maritime Research Group has fired a broadside at Wishart's own investigation into the case after the author claimed to have debunked the headline-grabbing claim that Hope had been photographed days after she went missing on New Year's Day in 1998.
The group's organiser Warwick Jenness took a shot at Wishart's book Elementary: "We pointed out that his bombshells were fizzers and his claims are without credibility."
The claim that Hope, 17, had been photographed was made in a detailed report from the Maritime Research Group which included a distant and grainy snap of a woman at Mary's Bay in Marlborough Sounds. They also claimed she could be seen seated alongside Smart, 21, and that the pair seemed to have their hands tied behind their backs.
The group's theory - recently updated in a three-part Youtube series - is that an international drug smuggling syndicate is behind the abduction and murder of the pair. The theory has been developed with input from dozens of people who hold doubts over whether the man convicted for murdering the pair, Scott Watson, actually committed the crime.
It was this theory which Wishart attacked in an investigation released yesterday - a follow-on from Elementary in which he said Watson was the killer but had committed the crime with an accomplice and in a way different from that police claimed.
Jenness said he would study Wishart's findings but had faith the group's research was solid.
"When the photograph was taken of these kids on the launch - it fits the timeline perfectly. Then you've got the fact the kids are sitting on the back of the launch with their hands behind their back."
He said he welcomed Wishart's comments because it served to bring greater public attention to the case.
"In a roundabout way, he's done us a favour. I'm sure what we've written will stand."
He said information from more than 80 people had gone into the report and expected others would approach the group with fresh details.
Jenness said Watson's imprisonment was "unfortunate" and his release would be a by-product of the group's inquiries, if they were accepted by authorities.
"To be honest, our concern is bring to justice the scumbags who did this. Our concern is bring to justice those that deserve to be prosecuted for this crime."
The Herald spoke to Nelson-based cleaning company owner and devout Buddhist Bruce Farley who believed the blonde woman at the back of the launch to be his wife at the time. Farley had made similar comments to Wishart.
The murder case continues to provoke strong emotions even as the 19th anniversary of the pair's disappearance approaches.
This month has seen the publication of a North & South article which covered a meeting between Hope's father Gerald and Watson. Watson's father Chris went public with his frustration over Gerald Hope's comments that he was not convinced of the convicted killer's claimed innocence.
Wishart is no stranger to public scraps over the case. Elementary included a number of criticisms of author Keith Hunter, whose book Trial By Trickery maintained Watson was innocent. The pair went public to attack each other after Elementary was published, including making legal threats leading to the book's temporary withdrawal from sale in some shops.