KELOWNA – The lawyer who prepared the will of a woman who was drowned near Revelstoke seven years ago testified today in Kelowna court that he caught the woman’s husband rifling through personal papers in his office shortly after her death.
Alberta lawyer Raymond Bruce Barlow testified during opening day of the first-degree murder trial of Peter Beckett, that the accused, born in New Zealand in 1961, came to his office seeking copies of his wife Laura Letts-Beckett's will within months of her death. The couple lived together in a small town outside Edmonton but were vacationing in Revelstoke at the time of her death.
“He wanted a copy of her will, the 2007 will, but he also asked for a copy of her 1995 will. I didn’t see why he shouldn’t have it but I didn’t have it with me,” he said in Kelowna Supreme Court today, Aug. 21.
Barlow told the seven men and five women of the jury that he left the office to find the will and returned to Beckett leafing through a file folder belonging to his wife’s parents, who are successful cattle ranchers in Alberta.
“I kicked him out of my office,” he said. “I told him to leave and only deal with me through a lawyer.”
Barlow described Beckett's demeanor as belligerent, very unhappy and "looking to start a confrontation or an argument."
The only other contact he had with Beckett was the next spring when he called his office.
“It was difficult to follow,” Barlow testified. “It was a rambling conversation. In my opinion, he was drunk.”
Barlow says Beckett threatened to destroy his practice by reporting him to the Law Society of B.C. but he didn't know why.
"His words were so slurred,” Barlow said. “It was just a general complaint about me and what I was doing or not doing.”
Defence lawyer Marilyn Sandford called it a “a drunken conversation of which my client remembers very little.”
Jurors also heard today the victim’s parents are wealthy but live a conservative lifestyle, that Letts-Beckett owned only a vehicle and a condo, and that according to her will, only the condo would pass to her husband upon her death. Her parents were listed as beneficiaries in both the 1995 and 2007 will prepared by Barlow.
The body of Letts-Becket, a teacher in a small community north of Edmonton, was found at Upper Arrow Lake near Revelstoke on Aug. 18, 2010.
Beckett was charged with the murder nearly one year after her death in August 2011, and he has been in custody ever since. He already faced trial once in Kamloops, however the jury in that trial was unable to reach a verdict.
An initial application for venue change was denied in October 2016 before a judge agreed to move the trial to Kelowna.
Crown plans to call 19 witnesses over the next week and a half.
— This story was corrected at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017. It incorrectly said the Beckett's lived in Revelstoke at the time of Laura's death when they were actually on vacation.
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