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

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Sickle Point as seen from the air. (Kaleden Community Association - David Mai)
Second town hall for Sickle Point on Jan. 27

The first town hall was cut short due to technical issues

Nate Brown photo
Okanagan-Shuswap says goodbye sunshine, hello winter

Temperatures are forecasted to drop by mid-next week

The facility in Summerland has 112 long-term care beds. Interior Health funds 75 of the beds. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Six more months for temporary Summerland Seniors Village adminstrator

The temporary administrator was appointed following site visits and concerns from Interior Health

President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington. The President is traveling to Texas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Black Press Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

In case you missed it, here’s what made waves throughout the week

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
13 more cases of COVID-19 tied to Big White Mountain cluster

This brings the total case count to 175, of which 32 cases are active

RCMP on scene at a home on Sylvania Cres. (Phil McLachlan /Capital News/FILE)
Two Kelowna men arrested after Rutland home invasion

Two Kelowna men, including a prolific offender, facing slew of potential charges

Most Read