The defence case for murder-accused former Napier city councillor has opened in Canada with suggestions the wife he is alleged to have killed had to put him before her parents to revive their marriage.

It came during evidence in the British Columbia Supreme Court in Kelowna on Friday, at the end of the second week of a trial in which Peter Ernest Edward Beckett, now 60, denies murdering second wife Laura Letts-Beckett.

Peter Beckett
Peter Beckett

Letts-Beckett died on August 18, 2010, while the couple were boating in remote Shelter Bay on Upper Arrow Lake, inland northeast of Vancouver.

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Beckett - elected to Napier City Council in 1998 and leaving after one three-year term to move to Canada to join the then Laura Letts he'd met when he was running tour excursions from Napier to Cape Kidnappers - claimed she fell from the boat and it was an accidental drowning.

Laura Letts-Beckett
Laura Letts-Beckett

But he was arrested in August 2011 and charged with murder, the prosecution claiming he killed her intending to claim on a life insurance policy he had taken out in her name.

A cellmate from the early days of Beckett's remand awaiting trial has claimed Beckett tried to arrange hits on key trial witnesses to stop them giving evidence against him.

Evidence of the couple's fractured relationship was given by a former Dapp Elementary School workmate of Letts-Beckett.

Justice Alison Beames and the jury were told the couple split for about three months in 2007 because Letts-Beckett had had enough of Beckett's bad-mouthing her parents, Park and Beth Betts, the Kelowna Daily Courier reported.

Questioned by Crown prosecutor Iain Currie, Alberta school administrative assistant Delores English conceded Beckett was a friend and she believed it was a "tragedy" he had been charged with murder.

She initially denied her work colleague had had to make compromises to be with Beckett but, referred by Mr Currie to previous statements, said Letts-Beckett had become estranged from her parents after the couple reunited.

She agreed Letts-Beckett had to accept her parents were out of her life and Beckett was going to continue bad-mouthing them, but accepted she had told police Letts-Becket didn't know how long she could keep living that way.


"At that point she was looking at confronting [her parents]," Ms English told the court. "She said 'I'm going to have to do something;' she was trying to find the way to talk to them, how she was going to approach it."

The trial continues this week.