New trial ordered for man found guilty of the 2010 murder of his wife in Arrow Lakes

Peter Beckett was found guilty murdering his wife 10 years ago

A new trial has been ordered for a man who was previously convicted of first-degree murder for drowning his wife while they were boating on Arrow Lakes in Aug. 2010.

Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon of the B.C. Court of Appeal said in a decision released Sept. 29, that the case against Peter Beckett was circumstantial and the trial judge made several errors in relation to the admission of evidence and instructions to the jury.

According to statements made by Peter at the time, the incident occurred when they left a campground, the two had been staying at, to boat on Arrow Lakes.

While out on the lake, Peter was sitting at the back at the boat and was faced away from Laura with two fishing rods around him. Laura was sitting on her life jacket at the front of the boat, holding an open umbrella.

Peter heard a splash and discovered that Laura had gone over the side of the boat. He then grabbed one of the fishing rods and started to wind it in, calling it a “stupid fisherman’s instinct” during the trial.

As Peter saw Laura drifting away from him and go underneath the water, he grabbed the other fishing rod, either threw it in the water or let it go, and spun the boat around.

He claimed he turned the engine off and went into the water to try and save Laura. He tried grabbing her underneath the water but could not reach her.

Peter stated he managed to grab his wife and pull her to the surface, but was unable to resuscitate her and so dragged her onto shore, but to no avail.

Beckett, a former city councillor from New Zealand, was charged with first-degree murder a year later.

His first trial ended in a hung jury and a mistrial before he was convicted at a second trial in 2017.

The three-justice panel of the Appeal Court was unanimous in overturning the conviction.

At the second trial, Crown counsel alleged that Beckett pushed his wife into the water, killing her so he could cash in on her life insurance policy and pension. The defence said Beckett’s wife accidentally fell in and Beckett tried to save her.

Fenlon wrote that the trial judge erred in instructing jurors that they could use Beckett’s statement to police shortly after the drowning as evidence of fabrication that would support a guilty verdict in the absence of independent evidence that he intentionally made up the story.

She also stated the judge also erred accepting evidence in the trial used by the Crown counsel to show there were issues with the couples’ relationship, claiming it invited the jury to engage in improper speculation.

While she also wrote that the Crown made improper submissions to the jury that referred to unproven facts.

Mr. Titsworth, the manager of the campground where the Becketts were staying on Arrow Lakes, was called by the Crown counsel to describe an unpleasant interaction he had with Peter leading up to Laura’s death.

“I am of the view that the Crown’s case was not a strong one, and is likely to be less so on retrial given the conclusions I have reached,” Fenlon wrote in her reasons for judgment.

“In these circumstances, a very real question arises as to whether it is in the interests of justice to proceed with yet a third trial. That decision, however, ultimately lies with the Crown.”

She added that although the verdict “raises concern and unease,” it could not be said that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable and an acquittal was not warranted.

Dan McLaughlin of British Columbia’s prosecution service said the Crown will review the decision to determine what happens next, but in the meantime, it will arrange to bring the matter back before the court to proceed with the prosecution.

“While we are mindful of the comments of the court in their reasons, the decision regarding a further prosecution will be made only after a complete and comprehensive review of the available evidence,” he said in an email.

The date for the new trial is still yet to be determined.

~With files from The Canadian Press~

READ MORE: Update: Kiwi charged with murdering wife near Revelstoke arrested for plotting to kill five


@connortrembley
connor.trembley@castlegarnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Nakusp

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Naramata Slow is almost at its goal of raising $850,000 to save Centre Beach from being sold.
Final push is on to save Naramata beach by Oct. 31 deadline

Village has already raised 90 per cent of the $850K goal

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media file)
Penticton RCMP cleared of wrongdoing after man seriously injured in custody

B.C.’s police watchdog found no evidence of harm caused by police in Sept. 21 incident

Apex Mountain Resort received 35 centimetres of fresh snow over the weekend, prompting some to head out for some early season turns. (Apex Mountain Resort / Facebook)
Stay off the mountain: Apex warns of early season dangers

Recreational use of the mountain before opening day comes with serious risks

The Penticton Indian Band is opposing any hunting of local big horn sheep which are an at-risk population. (submitted photo)
Penticton Indian Band oppose big horn sheep hunts

Local big horn sheep are an at-risk population

A house on Highway 3A caught fire Sunday evening, Oct. 25, 2020.
House fire on Highway 3A in Keremeos

Neighbours acted quickly to help save home

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kelowna Secondary School. (SD23 photo)
Second case of COVID-19 confirmed at Kelowna Secondary School

Interior Health has confirmed the new case is unrelated to the one announced Sunday

Summerland’s fallen soldiers and nurses are displayed on banners displayed around the community prior to Remembrance Day. (Contributed)
Remembrance banners depict Summerland’s fallen soldiers

Efforts to create banners began in 2000

The Stuart Park ice rink in January 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Popular Kelowna outdoor ice rink will open amid COVID-19 pandemic

City council approved COVID-related changes to the Stuart Park ice rink’s operations

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health sees 31 new cases of COVID-19 over record-breaking weekend

Eighty-six cases remain active and one person is hospitalized with the virus

Salmon Arm RCMP responded to a seven-vehicle chain reaction collision early Monday morning, Oct. 26. (File photo)
One person injured in seven-vehicle chain-reaction collision in Salmon Arm

Snow packed to ice, speed contributing factors behind collisions

RCMP responded to a single-vehicle collision on Highway 1 east of Salmon Arm early Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (File photo)
Salmon Arm man killed in collision on Highway 1

RCMP say slippery road conditions contributing factor behind collision

Most Read