NZ councillor’s murder trial begins

  • 20/01/2016

After nearly six years, the murder trial of a former Napier city councillor accused of killing his wife has begun in Canada.

Peter Beckett, a Hastings-born 59-year-old is on trial, accused of not only killing his wife, Canadian school teacher Laura Letts-Beckett, but also with trying to arrange the murder of five witnesses, including his wife's parents, a policeman who investigated his case and a lawyer.

On Wednesday, NZT, Justice Ian Meiklem began the trial at the Supreme Court in Kamloops, by addressing the 14-person jury.

At more than two metres tall and weighing 180kg, Beckett has been given permission to sit outside the prisoner's box, according to Kamloops BC Now.

The trial is expected to feature 50 witnesses and run until March.

Ms Letts-Beckett drowned in August 2010 while fishing on Arrow Lake, 200km east of Kamloops, where the trial is being heard.

Beckett, described as having a booming voice with a thick Kiwi accent, previously told local radio stations it was all an "amazing love story" that ended in tragedy.

The pair met in 1995, while then-35-year-old Ms Letts was travelling New Zealand as a tourist - while Beckett was still married.

He claims he and Ms Letts-Becket were fishing when a gust of wind blew an umbrella off their boat, causing her to fall overboard. He claims he tried to rescue her, but due to his size, was unable to pull her out.

But the Crown says Beckett is a calculating killer who murdered Mrs Letts-Beckett by shoving her off the boat.

On Wednesday, prosecutor Sarah Firestone said Beckett had killed his wife over money, hoping to profit from her inheritance, insurance money and their house, Kamloops BC Now reported.

Beckett was arrested in August 2011 and has been awaiting trial since.

He has changed lawyers a number of times and alleges abuse of process, bias by police and court officials, and failure of the Crown to disclose documents.

He has also accused the Royal Mounted Canadian Police of being financially motivated to get convictions.