A one-time cellmate of murder-accused former Napier city councillor Peter Beckett has been accused of fabricating claims the New Zealander wanted to eliminate key witnesses against him in a trial in Canada.
The accusation was levelled by defence counsel Marilyn Sandford on the fourth day of Beckett's trial in the British Columbia Supreme Court in Kelowna, a city of more than 120,000 people east of Vancouver, the Kelowna Daily Courier reports.
It came during cross-examination of the former cellmate in relation to a letter he wrote to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on July 29, 2012, near the end of Beckett's first year in jail on remand awaiting trial after being charged with murdering second wife Laura Letts-Beckett.
The Canadian schoolteacher, whom Beckett met when he was running a Cape Kidnappers tours operation, died in what was initially reported as a drowning while the couple were boating on Upper Arrow Lake, on August 18, 2010.
In July 2012, Beckett was placed in a cell at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre with another man who later became a police informant and is the key Crown witness in the trial which started on Monday.
The Kelowna Daily Courier reported the ex-cellmate, one of 19 prosecution witnesses in an expected three-week trial, told the court he and Beckett talked constantly and shared information about their cases, Beckett changing his account of what had happened on the lake as the cellmate became more and more doubtful and ultimately talking about the riches available to the cellmate if he could arrange on the outside to have the key witnesses dealt with.
"Within a couple of days at most, you decided Mr Beckett was guilty," Ms Sandford told the witness, who replied: "I made up my mind when he told me his version and then he changed it.
"When your client gave me his version of what happened and then changed it again, I knew something was wrong, very very wrong," the witness said. "When he started asking me to take care of witnesses, I knew for a fact what happened."
But Ms Sandford challenged: "I suggest, sir, that what you did is take bits and pieces of information about Mr Beckett's case . . . that he told you and take those pieces and add on to them outright lies and take that information to the police," said Sandford. "You're an impulsive and reckless man, and without thinking through the consequences, you do things like this. You start blabbing about all sorts of things that aren't true."
Suggesting the reason the witness went to the police was so he could become a police informant and receive monetary compensation, Ms Sandford said: "At the end of the letter you said to Sgt Jacklin, 'be sure to bring some money; I recall things better that way,'" said Sandford.
The witness said he gave all the information he had to the police without asking for any money, but Ms Sandford said: "I suggest sir you were bored with your life . . . [and] you decided to spice things up."
With the court having been told on Wednesday that the witness was paid by the RCMP to testify in the trial and was also paid for providing information, Ms Sandford challenged the witness: "And the money didn't hurt either, did it sir? You hated Mr Beckett and you decided to go after him with these lies."