Judge may urge jurors in Peter Beckett murder trial to come to a resolution

After six days, jurors undecided on verdict in trial of man accused of killing his wife in lake south of Revelstoke

  • Apr. 12, 2016 9:00 a.m.

Peter Beckett is accused of drowning his wife Laura Letts in Upper Arrow Lake near Shelter Bay.

By Tim Petruk, Kamloops This Week

Six days after deliberations began, the judge presiding over the B.C. Supreme Court jury trial of a former New Zealand politician accused of murdering his Canadian wife may urge jurors on Wednesday to come to a resolution.

The 12-person jury tasked with deciding Peter Beckett’s fate following a trial that spanned four months was sent out to deliberate on Wednesday, April 6.

Beckett, 59, is accused of killing his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, while on vacation at a lake near Revelstoke more than five years ago.

Letts-Beckett drowned in Upper Arrow Lake on Aug. 18, 2010. Her death was initially believed to have been an accident, but Beckett was charged one year later.

At trial, court heard Letts-Beckett went into the water while on an evening boat ride with her husband. She was not wearing a life jacket and was not a strong swimmer.

The Crown’s case is circumstantial. Prosecutors have alleged Beckett killed his wife out of greed, hoping to cash in on life-insurance and accidental-death benefits, as well as her teachers’ pension.

Beckett, meanwhile, maintained Letts-Beckett either committed suicide or fell into the water accidentally.

On Tuesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Meiklem called lawyers and Beckett into court. They discussed exhortation — a legal maneuver in which a judge urges a jury to come to a resolution.

Meiklem said exhortation could take place on Wednesday.

The jury has deliberated for four full days and three partial days. Deliberations on Monday were cut short due to the illness of a juror.

In court on Tuesday, Meiklem said that juror’s health issue has been resolved and the jury has resumed deliberations. If the jury cannot come to a unanimous verdict, a hung jury will be declared and jurors will be selected for a new trial.

Beckett and Letts-Beckett met in 1995 in New Zealand. Five years later, he moved to Westlock, Alta., to be closer to her. The couple married in 2003.

A number of Crown witnesses have described their relationship as a rocky one. The Becketts separated in late 2007, but reconciled months later.

A defence witness, Anita Leigh, described the couple as “lovebirds.”

In 2007, Letts-Beckett went to police alleging physical abuse on the part of her husband, but no charges were laid.

Beckett was formerly a city councillor in Napier, New Zealand.

 

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