Crown drops murder charge against New Zealand man accused of drowning wife in lake near Revelstoke

Beckett murder count stayed

Nearly 11 years after his wife drowned in a lake near Revelstoke, legal proceedings against a New Zealand man accused in her death have officially come to an end.

The first-degree murder charge against Peter Beckett was stayed at the conclusion of a brief hearing on Monday in B.C. Supreme Court.

Laura Letts-Beckett drowned in Upper Arrow Lake on Aug. 18, 2010. At the time, the couple from Westlock, Alta., was vacationing in B.C.

Letts-Beckett’s drowning was initially believed to have been accidental.

Beckett, a former city councillor in his native New Zealand, was arrested in August 2011 and charged with his wife’s murder. He stood trial twice — first in Kamloops, which resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial, and then in Kelowna, where he was convicted.

In a hearing last summer in the B.C. Court of Appeal, Beckett appealed his conviction on a number of grounds, including claims a prosecutor made improper submissions to the jury and the judge erred in providing instructions.

The court agreed and overturned Beckett’s conviction, but the Crown appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Crown wanted the court to overturn Beckett’s appeal and reimpose his conviction.

In April, the Supreme Court of Canada announced it would not hear the Crown’s appeal. The court did not give reasons.

During a brief hearing Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops, Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg directed a stay of proceedings on the count of first-degree murder outstanding against Beckett — meaning he will not be tried a third time.

Beckett has been free on bail since December, believed to be living in a hotel in the Lower Mainland. Now that his charges have been stayed, he will no longer be bound by any bail conditions.

In August 2010, court heard, Beckett and Letts-Beckett were on vacation at Shelter Bay on Upper Arrow Lake.

On the evening of Letts-Beckett’s death, she and Beckett were riding in their Zodiac. Letts-Beckett, who was not a strong swimmer, drowned in the lake. No one witnessed the incident.

Beckett denied having any involvement in his wife’s drowning.

Through both trials, prosecutors contended Beckett killed Letts-Beckett out of greed, hoping to cash in on life insurance payouts and her teachers' pension.

No physical evidence of Beckett’s involvement in his wife’s death was presented at either trial. The case against him was entirely circumstantial.

Beckett has steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout, claiming Letts-Beckett simply fell off the boat and drowned before he could save her.

Beckett spent more than nine years in prison between his arrest in 2011 and his release on bail in December.

Beckett was not present or represented in court on Monday when his charge was stayed.

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