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The Disappearance
In the early hours of New Years Day 1998, friends Olivia Hope (17) and Ben Smart (21) were delivered by water-taxi, along with a mystery man, to a yacht moored in Endeavor Inlet off Furneaux Lodge. Neither has been seen since, and a major police investigation Operation Tam began the following day. In spite of police efforts, the fate of the pair has not been established.
Olivia Hope had left her parent’s Grovetown, Marlborough home to drive to Whatamonga Bay in Queen Charlotte Sound on the afternoon of Thursday, 30 December. She joined a chartered yacht, the Tamarack (from which the subsequent police operation drew its name). There were nine people on board including Olivia and her sister Amelia.

The following day Tamarack returned to Picton and picked up three more people. In the afternoon, Olivia, her sister and friends water-taxied from the Tamarack, now in Endeavour Inlet to Furneaux Lodge to take part in the New Years Eve celebrations, along with 2000 other people.

There she met her long-standing friend Ben Smart of Blenheim, who was staying in a batch at nearby Punga Cove. In the early hours of New Year’s morning Ben and Olivia caught the Furneaux Lodge’s water taxi back to the Tamarack but found it crowded with 12 people occupying all the berths. Olivia collected her backpack, sleeping bag and other personal belongings and between 4am and 5 am, when the same water taxi returned to the Tamarack with another person, she and Ben left on it, to find somewhere else to bunk down.

Furneaux Lodge water taxi driver Guy Wallace said the pair at first asked to be taken ashore, but when another passenger in the taxi offered them beds aboard his yacht, they accepted. Mr Wallace describes this mystery man who became central to the investigation, as scruffy and drunk. Mr Wallace said the trio boarded a 12-metre wooden, two masted ketch painted white with a blue stripe and round portholes. The vessel was tied up among 160 or so other yachts, there for the Furneaux Lodge celebrations. It was gone from its mooring by 8:30am on New Years Day.

There were concerns when Olivia did not rejoin the Tamarack on New Years Day. By 2 January her parents were satisfied something was seriously wrong and reported her missing. At first, police thought there might have been an innocent explanation but they quickly came to treat the situation as serious. As time went on without a sighting, the searches became increasingly more urgent and intense and the numbers of police deployed to the scene steadily increased, but all to no avail.

Were the two friends kidnapped and spirited overseas as crew by some itinerant yachtsman? Did they run away? Or were they abducted and murdered? In spite of the best efforts of a large team of police and volunteers and of the families, these questions remain unanswered.

Given that they were both dependable, well-adjusted young people on excellent terms with their families, a sinister scenario seems most likely. Police subsequently told the families to expect the worst.

For more information refer to any of the 20 topics isolated for you by CrimeCo. Sequentially, the file The Victims is recommended.

Next related article: Forward to The VictimsThe Victims
Prev related article: Back to Introduction -  OPERATION TAMIntroduction - OPERATION TAM

Back to Operation TAM - Olivia Hope and Ben Smart Index

Olivia Hope and Ben Smart disappear in the early hours of New Years Day 1998.

 Map of Marlborough Sounds 

 Map of Marlborough Sounds 

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