'He wanted her to die'

A 12-person jury must now decide if Peter Beckett deliberately killed his wife.

Laura Letts-Beckett, an elementary school teacher near Westlock, Alta., north of Edmonton, was vacationing with her husband on Upper Arrow Lake on Aug. 18, 2010, when she drowned during an early evening fishing trip.

The death was initially believed to be a tragic accident, but Peter Beckett, a former New Zealand city councillor who married Letts-Beckett in 2003, was charged with first-degree murder the following summer.

Beckett's Kelowna Supreme Court trial began on Aug. 21, and concluded with the Crown's closing submissions Tuesday.

Crown prosecutor Iain Currie called Beckett's own statement to police, given just hours after the death, the “most important piece of evidence in the case.”

Beckett told police his wife, who was sitting at the front of their Zodiac boat without a life jacket, fell into the lake, and his “fisherman's instinct” kicked in, forcing him to reel in his rod as the boat drifted past her, before he attempted a rescue.

“Can you imagine yourself in a circumstance where you would not reach out to help?” Currie posed to the jury. “Try to form that picture in your head in a way inconsistent with murder. I suggest that that is impossible to do.”

Currie also highlighted that Beckett did not throw his wife the lifejacket that was sitting in the boat, or reach out to her with the fishing rod in his hand, or the fishing net near him.

“His wife didn't fall in unexpectedly, his wife fell in because he pushed her,” Currie said. “He didn't rescue her because he wanted her to die.”

Currie said that in the context of the circumstances of Letts-Beckett's death, the fact that the couple bought a $200,000 accidental death insurance policy two months prior, is evidence of Beckett's motive.

Following Justice Alison Beames directions Tuesday afternoon, the jury began their deliberations.

In her directions, Justice Beames informed the jury that if they can't come to a unanimous decision, she will be forced to declare a mistrial.

Beckett would not be blindsided by such an outcome, as his four-month trial in Kamloops in 2016 resulted in a hung jury, with just one juror dissenting from the other 11. The findings of the majority of the jurors in that trial is unknown.

Beckett's second trial in Kelowna almost didn't make it to completion on two occasions, the details of which were previously protected under a publication ban.

On the third day of trial, Beckett's defence lawyer, Marilyn Sandford, applied for a mistrial, based on testimony from Beckett's former cellmate, who said Beckett had asked him to “take care of” several witnesses involved in the case.

Sandford argued parts of the cellmate's testimony had been previously deemed inadmissible, specifically the plans to “torch” Letts-Beckett's parents' home and “take out” another witness “MVA-style,” which presumably refers to a motor vehicle accident.

A week after Justice Beames ruled against the mistrial application, following the completion of the Crown's case, Sandford made a “directed verdict application,” asking the judge to dismiss the case due to a lack of evidence.

Justice Beames dismissed this application as well.

Beckett, along with Letts-Beckett's parents and aunt who sat in on Tuesday's proceedings, now wait for the jury's decision, which could come at any time.  

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