Former Napier City Councillor Peter Beckett was yesterday found guilty of murdering his second wife Laura Letts-Beckett in Upper Arrow Lake in 2010.

The 60-year-old stood trial at the British Columbia Supreme Court in Kelowna, Canada, charged with the murder of his wife while the couple were boating.

The jury took several days to return the verdict, finding Beckett guilty of first degree murder. Sentencing took place immediately with Beckett receiving 25 years' imprisonment with no possibility of parole.

Her death was initially reported as a drowning, Beckett claiming she accidentally fell from the boat, however he was arrested one year after the death and his trial for murder began on August 21.


The Crown said Beckett pushed Letts-Beckett off a rigid hull inflatable boat knowing she could not swim and then watched her drown. Beckett's lawyer said she fell in accidentally and sank so quickly he couldn't save her despite jumping in after her.

In response to the verdict, Beckett's first wife Wendy Sail said she didn't have anything to say except their four children were "devastated".

Beckett, who served one term on the Napier City Council between 1998 and 2001 met Letts-Beckett, when she was travelling New Zealand in 1995.

He was operating a Cape Kidnappers tourist venture, Unimog Adventure Tours, and
Beckett had said the job kept him busy enough that it was rare he'd have individual conversations with patrons.

Letts-Beckett, however, caught his attention.

"She brought me a banana skin," he, told KTW in an interview in Kamloops jail. "She asked me, 'Where's your garbage?' I just kind of looked at her. In New Zealand, we say 'rubbish'."

Eventually, Beckett said, she made her request clear and the banana peel was disposed of.

They hit it off. After further discussions - during a conversation about the taste of paua - Beckett said he took a leap of faith.


"We were just talking and I said, straight out of my mouth, 'Would you like to come home and try some?'" he said. "And, I thought, 'What have you just done?'

"We went to buy some salad stuff, and then right back to my house," Beckett said.

"I had some wine and whipped up some paua fritters on the barbie. We visited until 2.30 in the morning."

The couple spent the next two weeks together. Beckett took 10 days off work to travel with her to the South Island.

"We just clicked," he said. "It wasn't a love-at-first-sight thing; it was more a meeting of the minds.

"I hate to use clichés, but it was soulmate stuff. I'd been married before, I'd had break-ups before, I'd fallen in love before - but this was different."

"It's just an amazing love story."

Afterwards the two parted ways and Letts-Beckett returned to Canada.

On Christmas Day in 2000, Beckett flew to Edmonton and drove north to Westlock, Alberta, where Letts lived. In 2002 fresh off a three-year term on Napier's city council, Beckett sold everything and moved to Westlock.

They married in 2003.

John Latimer, who lived next door to Letts-Beckett said he thought highly of the relationship, however there had been marital bumps.

In 2007, Letts-Beckett went to Westlock police alleging Beckett had been abusive but no charges were laid. They separated and she filed for divorce. The couple reconciled within months and things appeared to get back to normal.

The couple loved to go away on trips in their motorhome and it was in August 2010 when they went to Shelter Bay that Letts-Beckett drowned.

Crown called 19 witnesses in the second trial, including insurance agents, police, campers and a lawyer who said he kicked Beckett out of his office shortly after Laura died.

He testified that while getting copies of two of Letts-Beckett's wills, he returned to find Beckett going through a private file. He said Beckett came "looking for a fight" that day and the file he went through belonged to Laura's parents who own thousands of acres and a cattle ranch in Northern Alberta.

Letts-Beckett's father Park Letts said this verdict had finally given the family closure in what was a difficult few years with the first jury after three months of evidence not able to come to a verdict.

Former Napier mayor Alan Dick said he wouldn't be surprised if Beckett was found guilty or not guilty, but said he was as an "unusual person in reality".

"He was an odd character."

Beckett served one term between 1998 and 2001 and Mr Dick said he had strong views and had a conspiracy mentality.

"At one stage he made very serious allegations about the CEO at the time Neil Taylor and the allegations were clearly totally unfounded."

Mr Dick said apart from finding him difficult around the council table he would also often ring him up at night abusing him "out of the blue".

"It was like he flicked a switch, as he could also be charming."

A former councillor, who didn't want to be named, said he was "erratic, self-serving and obnoxious".

"And that's a fact."

Napier councillors said he didn't deliver around the council table and became a loner. They said he had a pattern of arriving late at councillors' get-togethers and then would leave with a bottle or two of the stocks they collectively paid for.

"That became a matter of concern to others to the point of an unexpected explanation at the table, including details of private problems."

Beckett was voted on to council in 1998 in what was one of the most hotly contested elections in the city's history.

Using caricatures mocking election opponents in a sophisticated campaign Beckett stood opposing the National Aquarium project, and claimed he could expose corruption within city administration.

In the citywide voting, he snuck in just 92 votes ahead of the highest-polling unsuccessful candidate.

Beckett was at the time essentially a Hastings person, who moved to Napier for business, including Unimog Adventure Tours from the city to Cape Kidnappers. He was also running a gift-pack marketing business and an antique, brass and silverware business.

The former Karamu High School student was known for losing his cool in public and on one occasion arrived intoxicated at a Napier bar after closing time and abused staff for not serving him.

On another occasion he met the Hawke's Bay Magpies at Shed 2 and demanded of one player "Don't you know who I am?" before slapping him in the face. Beckett apologised for the incident and said he was "playing up on the booze".