Peter Beckett. ~ File photo

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo

Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

  • Dec. 1, 2020 12:49 p.m.

-Kamloops This Week

The fate of a former New Zealand politician accused of murdering his wife while on vacation in B.C. more than a decade ago could be decided once and for all by Canada’s highest court.

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett — once in Kamloops and again in Kelowna. The first trial ended with a hung jury after jurors remained deadlocked following more than a week of deliberation; the second trial resulted in a first-degree murder conviction, which was successfully appealed by Beckett on a number of grounds.

On Monday (Nov. 30), prosecutors made public their intention to appeal Beckett’s overturned conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Letts-Beckett drowned on Aug. 18, 2010, in Upper Arrow Lake, near Revelstoke. The couple lived in Westlock, Alta., and was in B.C. on vacation.

Court has heard Letts-Beckett went into the water while the couple was boating. No physical evidence exists suggesting Beckett caused her to enter the water. The Crown has relied heavily on post-offence conduct — actions undertaken by Beckett in the days, weeks and months after his wife’s death.

Beckett, who has been in custody since his arrest in August of 2011, appealed his conviction successfully on the grounds that the Kelowna trial judge erred in instructing jurors and that prosecutors made improper submissions to the jury.

A three-judge B.C. Court of Appeal panel released its decision in Beckett’s favour in September, calling the Crown case weak and suggesting in no uncertain terms that prosecutors think twice about running a third trial.

“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,” B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Laurie Ann Fenlon wrote on behalf of the panel. “That decision, however, ultimately lies with the Crown.”

The B.C. Court of Appeal is the province’s highest level of court.

During a brief hearing in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on Monday, defence lawyer Marilyn Sanford said she was “surprised” to hear the Crown was seeking leave to appeal to Canada’s highest court.

“We had been deferring applying for bail in hopes that this sad saga would come to an end today,” she said. “We’re very surprised to hear that the [Crown counsel] appeals department — notwithstanding that there were several grounds of appeal the court found meritorious — has chosen to seek leave, which is, of course, their right.”

READ MORE: New trial ordered for man found guilty of the 2010 murder of his wife

The decision by Crown to appeal makes any talk of a potential third trial moot for now.

The Crown will file an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, then Beckett will file a response. After that, the high court will determine whether to hear the appeal. If it does not, the matter will return to B.C. Supreme Court and prosecutors will decide whether to run a third trial.

Beckett moved from New Zealand, where he was a councillor in the city of Napier, to Canada in 2000 to live with Letts-Beckett. The two met five years earlier while Letts-Beckett, a schoolteacher in Westlock, Alta., toured New Zealand.

On the evening of Letts’ death, she and Beckett were riding in their Zodiac on Upper Arrow Lake. Letts, who was not a strong swimmer, drowned in the lake. No one witnessed the incident.

Through both trials, prosecutors contended Beckett killed Letts out of greed, hoping to cash in on life insurance payouts and her teachers’ pension.

Beckett has steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout, claiming Letts simply fell off the boat and drowned before he could save her.

During his trial in Kamloops, jurors were shown a video in which Beckett, an exceptionally large man, told police he was too buoyant to rescue his wife.

Beckett took the stand in his own defence during his Kamloops trial, becoming involved in heated verbal confrontations with Crown prosecutor Joel Gold. In Kelowna, Beckett did not testify.

Sanford said Beckett will apply for bail as soon as possible. Lawyers are expected to meet early next week to set a date for a bail hearing.

READ MORE: Former New Zealand politician attacked in jail

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Court

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

Just Posted

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

Danielle Groenendijk raised more than twice her goal for Parkinson’s Canada. (Photo submitted)
VIU volleyball athlete doubles fundraising goal for Parkinson’s

Daily runs over 30 days by Groenendijk add up to 254 kilometres

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New street signs in Duncan in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional native names on signs

Possible COVID-19 exposures may have occurred at Alexander Elementary School on Jan. 13, 14 and 15. (Google Maps)
Alexander Elementary in Duncan announces possible COVID-19 exposures

Exposures may have occurred on Jan. 13, 14 and 15

North Cowichan to add three more off-leash dog areas in the new year. (File photo)
North Cowichan adds three new off-leash areas

Trial program runs through 2021, but not the summer months

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Nanaimo RCMP are seeking the public’s help after a man allegedly assaulted a clerk at James General Store on Victoria Road on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)
Suspect screams at customer then assaults store clerk in Nanaimo

RCMP asking for information about Jan. 18 incident at James General Store

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Most Read