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

In September 2018, former Vancouver Canucks player Dave Babych tees off at Northview Golf & Country Club in Surrey during the 35th annual Jake Milford Charity Invitational tournament. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
No ‘shotguns’ or banquets: Surrey golf courses pitch COVID-safe tournaments for 2021

With spring on the way, course operators book tournaments that will involve ‘tweaks and adjustments’

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)
Surrey council approves $420,570 in grants for local arts, culture groups

This happened at Monday night’s council meeting, to cover 2021

Surrey native Dylan Kinley, shown here with the Douglas College Royals, has signed with the UFV Cascades. (Douglas Royals photo)
UFV Cascades sign Surrey native Dylan Kinley

Tweedsmuir grad, Douglas Royals star joins Abbotsford-based team for 2021-22

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
OUR VIEW: Surrey’s public hearings are for being heard

Surrey public hearings of late have been devolving into something less than intended

Members of the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society picked up their new van from Mainland Ford in Surrey Wednesday (Jan. 27, 2021) after the society’s old van was stolen and damaged. (Submitted photo: Dylan Van Rooyen)
After thrift store van stolen and damaged, Surrey dealership helps out firefighters’ charitable society

The Community Thrift Store van was stolen in South Surrey in December

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

BC Place Stadium in a photo posted to cisc-icca.ca.
Roof of BC Place a stage for performers during online music festival

‘This will be the first time any artists have performed from the 204-foot iconic Vancouver rooftop’

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

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Driver crashes vehicle twice in one day near Princeton

Abbotsford woman, 29, wasn’t injured in either incident

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Most Read