Peter Beckett slams 'kangaroo court'

By Tim Petruk

The Crown alleged Peter Beckett killed his wife out of greed, hoping to cash in on life insurance and accidental death benefits. Photo /Supplied
The Crown alleged Peter Beckett killed his wife out of greed, hoping to cash in on life insurance and accidental death benefits. Photo /Supplied

A week after a 12-person British Columbia Supreme Court jury was unable to come to a unanimous verdict as to whether Peter Beckett killed his Canadian wife in 2010, the former New Zealand politician is maintaining his innocence, calling the local justice system a "kangaroo court".

"I've been disgusted with the whole Kamloops kangaroo court from the get-go," the 59-year-old told KTW in a jailhouse interview after his jury returned hung.

"You can't convict a guy of first-degree murder based on the Crown's theory that he lied. Kangaroo court doesn't even begin to describe what goes on in Kamloops."

Beckett's wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, drowned in Upper Arrow Lake near Revelstoke on August 18, 2010.

The death was initially believed to have been an accident, but Beckett was charged with murder a year later.

At his trial, which spanned three months before wrapping up last week with no decision, the Crown alleged Beckett killed his wife out of greed, hoping to cash in on life insurance and accidental death benefits.

Beckett, formerly a city councillor in Napier, maintained Letts-Beckett's death was either an accident or a suicide. Letts-Beckett had previously had suicidal thoughts, as jurors saw in a 2007 diary entry.

Letts-Beckett drowned after going into the water while on an evening boat ride with her husband. She was not wearing a life jacket and was not a strong swimmer.

A week after they were sent out to deliberate, Beckett's jury returned hung on April 12. In a note passed to the judge, the jury foreperson said the impasse was the result of "one dissenting voice".

Beckett told KTW he believed the jury was voting 11-1 in favour of his acquittal.

"I know that for a fact," he said.

"There is no way that there was any legal parameter to convict me.

"There was plenty of evidence to support accident, medical reasoning, vertigo, blackout, fainting, temperature sensitivity. There was plenty of evidence to suggest it could have been suicide.

"So, before a jury could even come to the conclusion it was homicide, they had to first discard the idea that it was medical, accidental or suicide."

Jury deliberations are secret.

There is no way to know which way the majority of Beckett's jurors were leaning when they came back hung.

Beckett told KTW he thought justice officials were out to get him, at the urging of his deceased wife's family.

"There's nothing wrong with the law," he said, speculating that a juror was planted in order to prevent an acquittal.

"I'm not blaming the law for this kangaroo court. It's only the actors, and that's what they are -- actors."

Beckett, who is still wearing his wedding ring nearly six years after his wife's death, said he looks forward to a new trial.

"I want to go back to trial," he said. "I want to save my wife's legacy - and mine."

Beckett has spent more than four years in jail since his 2011 arrest. He said the time behind bars was just part of clearing his name.

"It's not as hard as what my father, my grandfathers, endured in the war," he said.

"And, looking over myself, this has to be done, not just for the benefit of my wife, but for shaking the crap out of the judicial system in B.C."

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

A number of Crown witnesses have described their relationship as a rocky one, but a defence witness called the couple "lovebirds".

The Becketts separated in late 2007, but reconciled six weeks later.

Letts-Beckett also went to police in 2007 alleging physical abuse on the part of her husband, but no charges were laid.

_ Kamloops This Week

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