A former Napier City councillor accused of drowning his Canadian wife while on holiday in British Columbia more than five years ago angrily stood his ground in court this week as a Crown prosecutor accused him of forcefully holding his wife underwater.

Peter Beckett is on trial before a British Columbia Supreme Court jury in Kamloops, charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, who drowned on August 18, 2010.

The court heard the Becketts were holidaying at Upper Arrow Lake when Letts-Beckett went into the water on a boating trip and died.

The Crown alleges Beckett killed Letts-Beckett out of greed, hoping to cash in on more than $600,000 in life-insurance and accidental-death payouts, as well as her teacher's pension and family inheritance.


In his testimony, Beckett said his wife likely committed suicide after years of depression brought about by a rape at the hands of a family friend when she was 7.

But Beckett painted a very rosy picture of Letts-Beckett's final hours. He said he went with her into Revelstoke to go grocery shopping and get a haircut before returning to Shelter Bay Provincial Park campground and going out for an evening boat ride.

Crown prosecutor Joel Gold pressed Beckett on his depiction of that day and said it did not sound like the actions of a suicidal woman.

"You can't have it both ways, sir," he said to Beckett. "You're saying she was happy with you, but that she was depressed and suicidal. You cannot explain it both ways. It does not make sense."

Gold then asked Beckett about the shirt his wife was wearing when she was pulled from the lake - a shirt the Crown said was on backwards.

"It came off, I suggest to you, when you were drowning her and you re-clothed her in a way that did not make sense," Gold said.

Beckett: "You disgust me, Mr Gold."

Beckett then asked God to have mercy on Gold's soul at the conclusion of his questioning.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations next week.

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.

Witnesses have described their relationship as rocky. The Becketts split up in late 2007, but reconciled months later. Letts-Beckett also went to police alleging physical abuse by her husband, but no charges were laid.

The trial has been under way since mid-January.

- Kamloops This Week