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

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of UVic varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

It’s time to upgrade Metchosin’s connectivity, some residents are saying. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Petition signals desire for Metchosin cellphone coverage

It’s crazy for a Victoria suburb to be a dead-cell zone, petition writer said

Victoria police are searching for Andrew Swanson who was last seen in Victoria April 7 and is wanted on warrants for choking and obstructing police. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police searching for missing man wanted for choking police

Andrew Swanson, 47, last seen in Victoria April 7

A total of 10 flight exposures have affected the Victoria International Airport in April so far, making it the highest monthly total since the start of the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hits record-breaking number of monthly COVID-19 flight exposures

As of April 21, 10 flight exposures reported for the month

A new round of COVID-19 exposures has been reported at Dunsmuir Middle School, with potential exposure dates on April 7 to 15. (Google Streetview/Screenshot)
New COVID-19 exposures reported at Colwood middle school

People may bave been exposed on April 7 to 15

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read