Defendant drilled by prosecutor

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Peter Beckett.
Peter Beckett.

A former Napier city councillor charged with first-degree murder in connection to the death of his wife became visibly agitated in a Kamloops courtroom on Thursday as a prosecutor repeatedly drilled him with questions about inconsistencies in his version of events.

Peter Beckett's cross-examination in BC Supreme Court began late in the day Wednesday and is expected to continue tomorrow, after the Easter long weekend.

Beckett, 59, is accused of killing his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, who died in a lake near Revelstoke more than five years ago. Letts-Beckett drowned in Upper Arrow Lake on August 18, 2010. Her death was initially believed to be accidental, but Beckett was charged one year later.

The Crown has alleged Letts-Beckett was killed out of greed, saying Beckett's motive was financial. Prosecutor Sarah Firestone has told jurors Beckett stood to gain a significant amount of money in life insurance and accidental-death benefits, as well as his wife's schoolteacher's pension. The court has heard Letts-Beckett drowned after falling off of a Zodiac boat she was on with her husband.

At the time, Beckett said, he was fishing and she was reading.

"I'm going to suggest to you that it was helpful for you to have her [Letts-Beckett] in a situation where she would drown if you didn't save her if she went in the water," Crown prosecutor Joel Gold said.

"That is offensive and that is total nonsense and I am surprised your mind would even go there," Beckett replied.

"You know I'm the prosecutor in this case, right?" Gold shot back.

"Do you know what the word 'prosecute' means, Mr Gold?" Beckett replied. "It means, 'To put before the court'."

Gold also pressed Beckett about what he heard after his wife went into the water. At various times, he described hearing Letts-Beckett screaming or nothing at all.

"You heard her screaming?" Gold asked.

"I heard nothing at all, Mr Gold," Beckett replied. "Drowning is a silent death. People think it's panicking and screaming. It's not. It's a silent death, apparently. I've done a lot of research."

In court, Beckett said he believed his wife's death could have been a suicide.

He said she was depressed and dealing with the effects of a rape she suffered at the hands of a family friend when she was 7 years old.

"I felt Laura's pain, I felt Laura's anxiety," he said.

His trial, which began in mid-January, had been expected to last three months.

- Kamloops This Week

- Hawkes Bay Today

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