Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Queensland DPP Defends Watson's Manslaughter Charges, US Prosecutors May Seek Murder

In the on-going saga that is the honeymoon scuba diving murder/death, the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions defended the decision to drop the murder charges, which led to David Gabriel Watson's manslaughter guilty plea.

THE decision to drop a murder charge against an American whose wife died during their honeymoon on the Great Barrier Reef has been defended by the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions, who said "there was no reasonable prospect of proving" David Gabriel Watson murdered his bride.

Watson, 32, will spend just one year in jail after pleading guilty in Brisbane's Supreme Court last Friday to the manslaughter of 26-year-old Tina Thomas in October 2003. Scuba diving together around a shipwreck near Townsville, Watson let his wife of 11 days sink to her death while he swam to the surface.

Ms Thomas's father, Tommy Thomas, who was present at the sentencing, called the plea deal a "total injustice", and called the Australian legal system a "sham".

But Queensland's DPP, Tony Moynihan, SC, said yesterday the decision to accept Watson's plea of guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter was made after "a careful and thorough examination of the admissible evidence, and was not taken lightly".

"Given the complex circumstantial nature of the case, Mr Watson's admission that he breached his duty to render assistance to his wife ultimately meant there was no reasonable prospect of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he was guilty of murder," he said.

American prosecutors in Watson's home state of Alabama are investigating whether there is enough evidence to charge him under US law with murder. They believe Watson plotted Ms Thomas's death at home in Alabama, because he thought she had a $US160,000 ($200,000) life insurance policy of which he was the beneficiary.

The Alabama Attorney-General has written to the sentencing judge, Justice Peter Lyons, asking him to grant an appeal from the family.

The Queensland Attorney-General, Cameron Dick, is still considering whether to mount his own appeal.

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As the story eluded to, US prosecutors believe its entirely possible Watson drowned his bride to cash in on a life insurance policy.

The Birmingham News today revealed local prosecutors in Watson's home state of Alabama are poised to lay murder charges against the 32-year-old at the conclusion of his prison sentence in Australia if they can find evidence he plotted to kill Christina "Tina" Watson while still at home in the US.

Don Valeska, the chief of the Alabama attorney-general's violent crime office, said US authorities were awaiting court documents from Watson's arraignment in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Friday, when he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his wife of 11 days.

Mr Valeska said Alabama police and prosecutors had watched the case from afar and had discussed with Queensland Crown lawyers an alternative plan to charge Watson with murder in the US if the Australian case against him failed.

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And Tina's father, Tommy Thomas, isn't having any of what he believes to be excuses from the Queensland Government.

The father of a woman who drowned in north Queensland while on her honeymoon says the Queensland Government wanted to avoid a murder trial to save money.

Tommy Thomas says his daughter's husband, who has been jailed for her manslaughter, should instead have stood trial for murder.

But Mr Thomas says prosecutors struck a plea deal against the family's wishes.

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