Is Peter Beckett a grieving husband who lost his wife in a tragic accident or the mastermind of a murder plot set into motion for financial gain?
Crown counsel Iain Currie told jurors that the answer to that question can be found in a statement the former New Zealand politician gave to police Aug. 18, 2010—the day his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, drowned on Upper Arrow Lakes.
“She kind of went down the side on the boat, I think, and I grabbed the (fishing) rod and I started (to reel it in) … stupid, but I guess as a fisherman— when something like that happens— instinctively, you grab the rod,” said Currie, reading from the statement Beckett made to police.
It’s the first time Beckett makes the comment about a “fisherman’s instinct,” though he repeated it later in his statement.
“She was moving out the back of the boat quick and, you know, stupid, I was thinking if I could get the rod in I could get around to her. So I was winding the rod in and she was getting behind me,” Currie read.
Consider that statement, he told the jury. What would it be like to reel in a fishing rod, while floating by a loved one who was flailing, kicking and screaming in the water next to them?
“Think about a ‘fisherman’s instinct’ … Could that be anything but a lie? Could that be true?” Currie said.
Few have been in the circumstance that Beckett found himself in that day, said Currie, but most have found themselves in a moment of perceived danger for either themselves or a loved one.
Pointing to personal experience, Currie said he remembers, from his childhood, his mother throwing out her arm whenever she made a sudden stop and they were driving together.
“She couldn’t restrain me, it’s more likely her arm would be broken than it is she could stop me,” he said, adding that she did it for years, nevertheless. Helping someone you love when they’re in need, he argued, is a real instinct.
“It’s like the reflex to gasp when you fall into water. It’s a human instinct,” said Currie.”Mr. Beckett’s fisherman instinct is a lie. Mr. Beckett tells you that when his wife falls in the water his instinct it to turn away from her. That’s not instinctive.”
That said, Beckett isn’t on trial for failing to save his wife.
“We say Mr. Beckett murdered his wife, just to be clear,” said Currie. “We’re saying the fact he didn’t save her when that would have been easy — easy to try, instinctive to try, unavoidable to try, unless you don’t want to. The fact he didn’t save his wife is evidence that he pushed her out.”
Currie told jurors that when Beckett said that he had a fisherman’s instinct and no instinct to save his wife, it’s because he’s lying.
“He’s lying because he pushed her in,” said Currie. “The evidence is that he wanted her dead and he pushed her in.”
That, he said, puts the decision to take out an accidental death policy just a month before his wife’s death, and allegations that he plotted with a known criminal to rid himself of witnesses posed to testify against him in the years after her death in a very suspicious light.
Marilyn Sandford, the defence lawyer for Beckett argued the day before that there was no incentive for murder and if her client was motivated by money at all, he’d be better off keeping his wife alive. As a longtime school teacher Letts-Beckett made a good wage that couldn’t be replaced by the pension she’d leave behind which, including CPP, amounted to around $2,600 a month.
Also, she said, any concerns over the accidental death insurance policy taken out in the weeks before the drowning were inconsequential as well.
Between work benefits and a $200,000 life insurance policy attached to a loan for a large motorhome the couple shared, Letts-Beckett was insured for roughly $644,000 as early as 2006.
That amount dipped for around a year when the couple switched over financing for the motorhome and the policy they took out months before the drowning brought them back up.
“That’s the same total amount of life insurance she had in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009,” said Sandford.
“Where is the planning and deliberation? When did it start? …Was Peter Beckett planning and deliberating in 2006 when he bought the motorhome? ‘Well let’s buy that and get life insurance on that debt. Four years from now I will kill you and I will get that money.’”
It doesn’t make sense, she told jurors.
“There’s no evidence of a financial motive for claiming life insurance — and you may have thought this is a life insurance case,” she said.
She also told jurors that in the months after Letts-Beckett’s death, Beckett never tried to cash in on the life insurance policy that had been taken out, nor did he make any real efforts to secure any potential inheritance from his wife’s well-off parents — another Crown theory.
“What is the Crown premise? Peter Beckett believes that by killing his wife he could then sue the Letts (family) for the money that his wife would have inherited from them someday, if they predeceased her?” she said. “If you accept that you have to put aside all common sense about how wills work and how estates work.”
Prosecution, she said, would like you to ignore the fact that Letts-Beckett’s parents were still alive and if he wanted to gain from their future death he could have sued them when Letts-Beckett was alive.
“It’s a tortured theory,” she said.
She also dismissed all evidence from a jail-cell informant alleged to have been asked to get rid of anything that may get in the way of Beckett’s future freedom.
His motivation was self-serving and unreliable.
The trial is now over and the jury is set to start deliberations. Check kelownacapnews.com for updates to the story.