Secret And Semi-Secret Witnesses
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour"
Some of the evidence presented at Scott Watson's trial was, and still is suppressed. Suppressions ranged from the odd phrase out of a witness’s testimony to a total ban on publishing anything that could lead to a person’s identity. In the case the so-called cellmate confession witnesses police argued that they needed anonymity to protect them from possible reprisals. There was obviously no threat to their safety as what they were doing was well known in their respective communities. One thing that their testimonies had in common was that they had an enormous impact on the case in one way or another. One could almost be lead to believe that the real reason behind all the secrecy was to prevent members of the general public recognizing them and coming forward with information that might counter their controversial testimonies and thus aid the defence case.
The provision for the use of secret witnesses in court cases was put there to allow people who feared for their general safety to testify against organized crime groups or gangs. Over that last ten years or so the tables have been turned and it has become common place for gang members to testify against ordinary citizens, especially in cases where evidence is lacking. This suppressed evidence is often bought in a number of ways. Police can and do reduce pending charges to minor offences. There can also be cash payments as has been shown with the recent case of Christopher Lewis and his secret witness ($30,000 dollars cash).
Secret Prisoner J:
Mr J was placed with Scott early in his remand period at Addington prison. Due to his mental condition there were serious doubts as to whether his testimony could be relied upon.
Mr J testified in court that he had formed such a close relationship with Scott that he had confessed to him about murdering Olivia Hope. This is hard to believe when you consider that they were celled together for less than a week.
Late last year(2000) it was reported that Witness J had recanted his evidence given at trial. And that he was coerced by the police into giving it in the first place. The police have responded with the suggestion of perjury charges and have issued a warrant for his arrest on an unrelated charge. It is a strange Quirk of our legal system that allows the accused (police) to arrest the accuser (witness J).
The police have stated publicly that they were approached by this witness of his own volition. Records show that this was not so.
In October of 1998, while speaking to a policeman on an unrelated matter. This man mentioned to the officer that he thought that Scott had murdered the missing pair and that " he never came out and said it but he thought he wanted to". What he effectively told the policeman was that Scott had never admitted to anything at all. There is no mention on file about how this 'unrelated matter' was proceeded with.
In April 1999 while J was in a rehabilitation program he was visited by detective Tom Fitzgerald assigned to operation TAM. He did not expect this visit and did not welcome it. He was then visited a number of times by this detective before signing a statement on the 18th of May1999.
The police have also stated that Witness J was provided with legal advice. And that he had counsel with him when in contact with them. This is denied by the witness and is not backed up by documentary evidence.
After Scott’s trial and before his appeal Scott’s lawyers were approached by this witness. He said that he wanted to recant but was wary of signing a statement. Within days he was visited by detective Fitzgerald and no more was heard from him by the defense. It would seem that a witness has appeared to say that this detective was leaning on J. at this time.
A Police Complaints Authority investigation into this witness and the police recruitment of him is still not completed at this time (Dec. 2001)
The question remains:
How did this witness come to change his statements from those of his initial contact with the police?
Was Detective Fitzgerald just passing through Auckland and did he just happen to drop in and see the witness in prison after he saw the defence (Fitzgerald is based in Christchurch)
It should also be noted that this detective also ‘discovered’ the other secret witness, witness K.
Secret Prisoner K
Mr K could be described as a serial secret witness. The gang he is associated with exist only out of hatred for other races and nearly all of its members are in Prison. He was on remand for a very serious crime at the time Scott was at Addington prison which carried a term of imprisonment of 10 years. This charge was reduced to that of a minor offence on the very day that he decided to testify against Scott. The police then provided this witness with a car and a cell phone.
His testimony was that Scott had confessed to him that he had murdered Olivia Hope and that he had come forward with this information because he didn't approve of violence toward women and children. When he was reminded that he was on remand for a rather serious assault on his girlfriend, he said that he didn't agree with killing them. Scott was well warned that Mr K was a "jailhouse nark" so it is highly unlikely that he would have made any such confession. A warning about him from his previous victims was even written on the cell walls of the Blenheim District Court.
Mr K is a career secret witness having starred in at least two other trials. Secret witnesses are a very good thing for the police, as they never wear out. Their identities are never publicly revealed, so they can be used over and over again.
It has recently been reported by TV1 News that a man has come forward to state that He was in Addington Prison at the time that both of the above witnesses and Scott. He said that both J and K were well known to be informers and were given a wide berth by the rest of the prison population and that Scott never spoke about his case in any conversation he ever heard. He said that if the subject of the missing pair was ever raised in Scott’s presence he (Scott) would either change the subject or walk away from the group.
It was well shown at trial that secret witness B’s testimony had been bought and paid for by the police. It seems that no censure is ever given the police for producing witnesses of this calibre. It should be noted that witness K was also the product of Detective Tom Fitzgerald’s work. He was also involved in a case in Christchurch in 1998 (The Tinny house case) where it was alleged that the star prosecution witness was paid the sum of $25,000 cash and immunity from prosecution to testify.
Quoted here is a portion of the recommendations of a Canadian Commission of inquiry into a wrongful conviction. The full report is available elsewhere on this site.
1- Jailhouse informants are polished and convincing liars.
2 - All confessions of an accused will be given great weight by jurors.
3 - Jurors will give the same weight to "confessions" made to jailhouse informants as they will to one made to a police officer.
4 - "Confessions" made to jailhouse informants have a cumulative effect and thus the evidence of three jailhouse informants will have a greater impact on a jury than the evidence of one.
5 - Jailhouse informants rush to testify particularly in high profile cases.
6 - They always appear to have evidence that could only come from one who committed the offence.
7 - Their mendacity and ability to convince those who hear them of their veracity make them a threat to the principle of a fair trial and thus to the administration of justice.
Secret Witness L
Mr L was a man with a mission. He had been wanting revenge on the Picton boat yard where Scott once worked ever since he crashed his boats into the piles opposite.
One day the staff at the boatyard were slipping a large fishing boat and had to give the engines full throttle in order to get it up on its cradle. This caused a lot of turbulence in the small channel opposite the boatyard where boats had to pass under the Coathanger overbridge to get to their moorings. Instead of waiting until the fishing boat was up on its cradle and the water was calm, Mr L decided that he would navigate the channel regardless (classic stupidity). He was applauded with cheers and laughter as his boat was swept to the other side of the channel and caught up in the structures supporting the Coathanger footbridge.
When Mr L heard that that the police were looking for people who might have some dirt on Scott, his revenge was complete. His evidence at the trial was that Scott had confided in him about the marital problems that they both faced and that Scott had told him that he was going to kill all women and to watch the papers. The person he describes as Scott does not fit his description at all and was possibly another of the boatyard staff. Scott was not involved in any sort of marriage or relationship at or about the time of this alleged incident so it is hardly likely that he said these things. Defence council considered Mr L so mentally deranged that they did not even attempt to cross-examine him. He was liable to say anything. In closing they suggested that perhaps Mr L was merely told what he wanted to hear.
The use of Mr L's evidence at the trial was one of the points of appeal. It was argued that Mr L's evidence was not relative to the trial as the conversation was said to have taken place nearly a year earlier and only served to blacken Scott's character.
Secret Witness T
Mr T was a secret witness in an unrelated trail who was relocated to the to the sounds area. Locals knew of his shady past and were very wary of his presence in the community, especially after his involvement in an incident following a drinking session at a local pub.
When Chris Watson (Scott's father) was approached by this man, his suspicions were aroused. Chris had an old Honda Civic that was on its last legs and probably only worth the value of the registration fee. Mr T offered to swap the car for a dive computer. To this Chris replied "$200 cash will be fine thank you", realising that dive computers were worth upwards of $800. Mr T then left and returned later that afternoon with an offer of a microwave oven and was again told that $200 cash was the asking price.
After doing a bit of asking around, it was revealed that this man was indeed Mr T and that he was due to be sentenced for a crime that he was recently found guilty of. Within weeks of the dive computer incident he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment at Wellington's Rimitaka prison. By coincidence the same place where Scott was being held on remand. One would have to question as to whether Mr T would have been given a custodial sentence if he had managed to pull off the dive computer deal. After all, what better way to discredit Scott's biggest voice on the outside than to have him up on charges of receiving stolen property? The recent court case between Joe Karram and two policemen who claimed that he had discredited them is a good example of just how far the police will go to silence anyone who has the courage to speak out against them.
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