KELOWNA – Peter Beckett has been found guilty of first degree murder of his wife.
After years of delays, two trials, one hung jury, a change of venue and a change of mind not to self-represent in court, a Kelowna jury took four days of deliberations to find that he drowned his wife near Revelstoke seven years ago. He has been sentenced to 25 years with no parole, life in prison.
Before she died, Beckett, born 1961 in New Zealand, was living with Laura Letts-Beckett in a small Northern Alberta town. They spent the summer of 2010 in Revelstoke where they fished and camped.
Letts-Beckett drowned in Upper Arrow Lake Aug. 18, 2010. What happened that day has been the subject of two trials in two years.
Beckett says his wife fell off their rigid-hull inflatable fishing boat and, despite attempts to save and resuscitate her, she drowned. Crown said she was pushed deliberately in an attempt to collect life insurance and a chance at her family’s estate.
The first trial began early 2016 in Kamloops Supreme Court, nearly six years after he was arrested, but after three months the jury was unable to come to a verdict and a new trial was ordered.
After the hung jury, Beckett's lawyer Marilyn Sandford filed an application to have the trial moved to a different location. It was initially denied but eventually granted and a second trial began in Kelowna Supreme Court last month.
One of the first witnesses was a jailhouse informant who testified that Beckett, his cell mate for a brief time, told him how much money he stood to make on his late wife’s life insurance and inheritance, and showed interest in having her parents and their lawyer threatened, hurt or even killed.
Sandford dismissed the informant’s testimony, calling him a “liar” and a “con man” who was “playing games” with law enforcement. She described him as a loving husband who tried his best to save her. She pointed out that no life insurance policy was ever claimed and that all of his actions after her death – including swimming to shore to get a rock to weigh him down – were the actions of a panicked husband trying to save his wife.
The 12-person jury heard closing testimony from crown lawyer Iain Currie and Beckett’s lawyer this week and began deliberations Tuesday, Sept. 13.
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