KELOWNA – Jurors were instructed to ignore some shocking testimony today from a former cellmate of a New Zealand man on trial in Kelowna for drowning his wife in 2010.
Peter Beckett, a former city councilor from New Zealand, is charged with first degree murder and made his first appearance in Kelowna Supreme Court yesterday, Aug. 21. Beckett and his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, were in an inflatable boat on vacation near Revelstoke Aug. 18, 2010 when Laura drowned.
Crown says Beckett drowned her for the insurance money and a chance at her inheritance. His lawyer Marilyn Sandford says Beckett claims she fell in the water and he didn’t notice until the boat passed her “flailing under water.”
He was charged with the murder nearly one year after her death in August 2011, and has been in custody ever since. He already faced trial once in Kamloops, however the jury was unable to reach a verdict.
While in prison, Beckett spent a few days in a cell with a man who testified today, Aug. 22, that when Beckett told him his version of the events surrounding the drowning, he thought it implausible. His name is protected by publication ban. The witness's identity is protected by a court ordered publication ban.
“I asked if that was his story he said ‘yeah.’ I said he was fucked,” the witness testified. “That bow (of the boat) would have been standing straight in the air as soon as she fell off.”
Over the next few weeks and months, Beckett and the witness formed a friendship inside jail until Beckett allegedly showed him a list of names of people he was not allowed to contact.
The list included his wife’s parents, wealthy cattle ranchers from Alberta, an RCMP investigator, a lawyer who testified yesterday and several others.
“He had a bail conditions form with some names on it of no contacts. He said there is a lot of money involved with wills, property, life insurance policies... He started going on more and more that we could live a lavish lifestyle on the (outside). He knew I was getting out soon. He knew I was very well-known in the system and that I hung with some pretty shady characters on the street. Things started to develop a little bit more after that.”
The witness testified that Beckett inquired about a retainer to hire him to “take care” of some people. He also testified that Beckett wanted him to kill one of the witnesses but make it look like a motor vehicle accident and that he wanted him to burn down his wife’s parent’s home with them inside.
Judge Alison Beames instructed the jury to disregard those details as they were “inadmissible” and “unreliable.”
He then testified to sending a letter to the lead investigator of the case detailing his conversations with Beckett.
“This case started to bother me … I think a lot of the reason I contacted (the investigator) was my sister was murdered and it tore my family to pieces. This kept eating at me. I was thinking about what that family was going through.”
Over the last two days, the jury also heard that Beckett took out a $200,000 life insurance policy naming himself as beneficiary, not long before her death. He never filed a claim.
Crown plans to call another 17 witnesses over the next four weeks.
— This story was updated at 2:43 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 to remove the name of a witness whose identity was protected by a publication ban.
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