Informant gives evidence in murder trial of former Napier city councillor Peter Beckett

By Tim Petruk

Peter Beckett is accused of killing his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, who died in 2010. Photo / Supplied
Peter Beckett is accused of killing his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, who died in 2010. Photo / Supplied

A stash of diamonds hidden in a luxury car, a secret cache of dynamite bound for the black market, a plot hatched behind bars to kill a police officer and other witnesses and a career criminal turned police agent for pay.

Those are some of the details jurors heard as Peter Beckett's trial on one count of first-degree murder resumed Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops after a one-week break.

The 59-year-old former New Zealand politician is accused of killing his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, who died in 2010.

Letts-Beckett drowned in Upper Arrow Lake near Revelstoke on Aug. 18, 2010. Her death was initially believed to be accidental, but Beckett was charged one year later.

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The Crown has alleged Letts-Beckett was killed out of greed, saying Beckett's motive was financial.

Peter Beckett is accused of killing his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, who died in 2010. Photo / Supplied
Peter Beckett is accused of killing his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, who died in 2010. Photo / Supplied

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 Letts-Beckett's schoolteacher's pension.

Taking the stand Monday, a former cellmate of Beckett's said the Kiwi described his version of events shortly after they first met in June 2012.

"He said his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, fell off the Zodiac they were on in the lake and basically sunk," said the informant, whose identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban.

"He said that he didn't notice she had fell off and, by the time he did, he could see her flailing underwater."

"I told him, I'm sorry for my language, but I said, 'If that's your version, you're f-ed," the informant testified.

The informant said when he questioned how Beckett could not notice his wife falling off a small inflatable boat, the accused's story began to change.

"Then he said that she just kind of slowly lowered herself in, kind of stealth into the water," the informant said. "Basically like a suicide."

The informant told jurors he and Beckett became close over time.

"We established a pretty tight relationship," he said.

"He knew I was being released soon from prison. I felt like I was being groomed, actually. There were a lot of conversations around a large amount of money, I think in the $4.5-million range, if things were handled properly on the street."

The informant said Beckett gave him a list of names of people to kill. On it was the lead RCMP investigator, Letts-Beckett's parents, a cousin and a lawyer.

"I went along with it," the informant said. "It developed to where I was to take out witnesses for him upon my release - and by take out, I mean kill witnesses."

The informant said he eventually decided to contact police, largely because his sister was murdered in 2000.

"Once I started finding out more about his case, something happened to me and I started thinking about doing something right for once," he said.

"I know the effect the murder of my sister had on me and my family. Even as a hardened, seasoned criminal, something told me that Laura and her family and these potential targets, something told me that I had to do something to prevent this from happening. For the first time in my life, I gave the RCMP information."

The informant said he wrote a letter to police. A few days later, he was escorted to a nearby RCMP detachment to meet with detectives.

The investigators told the informant to keep detailed notes of his interactions with Beckett. They also had him sign a contract, court heard, that saw him work as an agent in exchange for $10,000.

The informant said Beckett's conspiracy continued to unfold in jail. The two men developed an alpha-numeric code to discuss targets on the phone, court heard, and Beckett told him places he could find money and weapons.

"He told me in his Jaguar, if I needed some money, he had diamonds that were stashed in his Jaguar," the informant said.

"They were stashed in the windshield-wiper reservoir."

The informant said Beckett drew him a map showing where the Letts family lived and where he could find a stash of dynamite, which would be used as a weapon and to sell on the black market to finance additional murders.

The informant appeared nervous in his testimony, rocking back and forth in the witness dock. He said he has been in segregation in jail since 2013 because of his involvement with police.

"Given my background and history, my record, that's probably the worst thing someone of my calibre could do, to say the least," he said.

"It's against every con code known to man.

"Inside, in a prison setting, it's the worst thing you can do. There's absolutely nothing worse. It's against every code there is. That's universal - that's in every prison."

The informant, who is serving a three-year prison sentence, is expected to return to the witness stand Tuesday.

Beckett and Letts-Beckett met in 1995 in New Zealand. Five years later, he moved to Westlock, Alta., to be closer to her. The couple married in 2003.

Previous witnesses have described their relationship as a rocky one. The Becketts split up in late 2007, but reconciled months later.

Letts-Beckett also went to police alleging physical abuse on the part of her husband, but no charges were laid.

Through her questioning, defence lawyer Donna Turko has suggested Letts-Beckett was depressed prior to her drowning.

Beckett was formerly a city councillor in Napier, New Zealand.

His trial began in mid-January and is expected to last three months.

- NZ Herald

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