PROSECUTE AT ANY COST
"I had come to an entirely erroneous conclusion which shows, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data."
Manipulation of evidence:
At what point in a police investigation should a suspect be considered "eliminated"?
By as early as the 7th of January 1998 Scott Watson was considered a "suspect" in the OP TAM investigation. Only he and Guy Wallace were ever seriously considered as suspects. Other "nominated" suspects (people reported as resembling the identikit pictures) were quickly "eliminated" from the investigation. Sometimes as little as a phone call to a mother was enough to do this (Christopher Greig) or a short interview at the suspect's home (Sir Thomas Fry). The only other lone yachtsman found to be at Furneaux Lodge was eliminated because the policeman who interviewed him Made the following observations.
This Ketch was not searched in the manner of Blade. Why knowing Scott Watson should have a bearing on this is a mystery, as is the fixation with a "lone sailor" as numerous people at Furneaux returned to their vessels either before or after the rest of their group
By the end of January 1998 there was a considerable body of evidence available to the police that Scott Watson was not involved. That he was at Furneaux Lodge was never in question as he had told the police this in statements on the 7th ,8th, and 12th of January. Evidence that The police held which excluded him was:
1- That he was back on his boat alone between 3:00 and 4:00am. This evidence came from two witnesses predominately and was backed by three others.
2- That he did not match witness descriptions of the "mystery man" as shown by the photo taken the previous evening.
3- That blade did not match the description of the "mystery Ketch" in any way. At least three witnesses verify this.
4- A complete lack of evidence found in the search of Blade (the only boat to be searched in this fashion). One must keep in mind that the two hairs said to have come from Olivia Hope were found much later.
5- A complete lack of evidence found in the searches of the caretakers house at Erie Bay, the home of his parents and the home of his sister.
6- Painting of Blade was planned some time before the new year.
By the end of January or thereabouts it had been reported that some two million dollars had been spent on this investigation. There would be some seriously rapped knuckles were police to say at that stage that they had no idea 'who dunnit'. They could not return to the Ketch hunt (abandoned by January 11th). It could have traveled some three thousand miles or more by this date.
The other option open was to 'press on' and explain away the evidence:
Nothing of significance was found aboard Blade: 'He cleaned it up'
The photo: A trick of the light. Watson really had long hair and up to two weeks growth on his face. The flash did not show it up.
Back aboard his boat: "He went back". Although it was never specified how, either in theory or fact. [This theory was never a part of police thinking and was only brought up by Paul Davison QC in the closing hours of the trial.]
Blade does not fit the description of the ketch: Witnesses are "honestly mistaken" even though this is probably the one consistent thread of evidence throughout the case.
Planned Painting: Emphasize painting. Don't leak the planning.
To counter this was the evidence of Guy Wallace that the 'Ketch' was in a raft of at least two boats and was to the port side of this raft. Wallace also said that this raft of boats was to the left of the Furneaux wharf . Everything else that he said had to be disregarded before Blade could enter the picture. It was, even though the disregarded information was confirmed by another witness on the taxi.
This was the case as of February 1998. It had become entrenched by, at the latest, January 11th and never changed.
There is in the police file a single mention of Guy Wallace having been shown a montage prior to April 1998. This is contained within a deleted document and was confirmed by the Deputy Solicitor General in a letter dated 22nd December 2000. This letter was written after inquiries were made by the defence regarding the contents of the book "Silent Evidence" where it is stated that Wallace was shown a montage and "failed to pick Watson out". This book is purported to be the "official" police story and mention is made of this point four times in the book. It is obvious that this is something that stuck in the authors mind.
It is floated by the Deputy Solicitor -General that this was all an "honest mistake" on the part of inspector Pope when being interviewed by the author, John Goulter, and there it would lie, if it were not for a statement made by Wallace to a defence private investigator in February of 1998. In this tape recorded statement Wallace describes the montage that he was shown and the colour of the shirt worn by Watson in it. He describes how he now knows who Watson is having twice been shown photos of him by police and also video footage by television reporters.
The power of this statement lies not so much with what Wallace says as in the detail he provides about the layout and construction of the montage itself. Remember, he supposedly has never seen one at this time.
All of this evidence was in the hands of the police by the end of January 1998.
It was not enough to eliminate Scott Watson as a suspect.