A campground manager has told a Canadian court he warned staff to avoid former Napier city councillor Peter Beckett after an intimidating encounter a few nights before Beckett is alleged to have killed his wife while boating on a lake.
Shelter Bay provincial park manager Colin Titsworth was giving evidence in Beckett's murder trial. Beckett, 60, is charged with murdering Alberta schoolteacher Laura Letts-Beckett who died on August 18, 2010, in what was initially reported as a drowning in Upper Arrow Lake, about 630km east of Vancouver.
Beckett, who grew up in Hawke's Bay and served a single three-year term on the Napier City Council in 1998-2001 before moving to Canada and marrying the Canadian national he had met when he was running a tour business between Napier and Cape Kidnappers, denies the charge.
The Daily Courier in Kelowna, where the trial is being held before Justice Alison Beames and a jury in the British Columbia Supreme Court, reported Titsworth told the court he met the Becketts in 2008.
Typically he saw the couple about four nights a week when he would attend the campsite, and found them to be "very social people" who would often invite campground staff into their motorhome for drinks and snacks.
Titsworth that on one evening in August 2010 he went to the Becketts' campsite to give the couple firewood, but Beckett, apparently intoxicated, "wasn't impressed" with the amount of wood and that Titsworth hadn't brought a weather report for that day.
"I ended up giving them the bundle of firewood for free because he was chirping me about it," said Titsworth, adding he then left because he didn't want to be there any longer than he had to be.
"This would have been the third year I met him, and you could just tell he had been drinking throughout the day," he said. "I normally wouldn't see Peter that drunk."
Laura Letts-Beckett did not appear intoxicated, he said.
The next evening, Titsworth returned to the Shelter Bay campsite, where he ran into Letts-Beckett near the garbage area.
"We had a good conversation; we were laughing and joking and I actually brought down a special printed-off weather report for Peter that night since he was harassing me about it the night before."
Titsworth said he did not speak with Beckett that evening, but he did have an uncomfortable encounter with him.
"He left his site and went down into his motorboat and he drove it out into the bay and did a loop and came back pointing towards shore. Then [he] stood on the front of the bow and stared me down as I walked back to my truck down by the boat launch," said Titsworth, adding Beckett had his hands on his hips as he stared.
"That was particularly disturbing to me as I walked down and kept looking over my shoulder at a 400-pound, six-foot [180kg, 1.82m] guy standing at the front of his boat staring me down," he said. "It was uncomfortable enough of a situation that I told my staff to stay away from him."
The trial started on August 21 and was scheduled to take about three weeks.