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July 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 23, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Diver Charged with Killing Wife on Honeymoon

from the July, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

After months of investigation, Australian police charged American Gabe Watson on June 20 with murder. He allegedly drowned wife Tina, 26, on a honeymoon dive trip aboard Mike Ballís Spoilsport in 2003 after only 11 days of marriage. The coroner ruled there were suspicious circumstances, and rejected a claim by Watsonís attorney that he was denied the presumption of innocence due to media attention (Australian press covered the inquest and NBCís Dateline ran a story this spring).

Watson didnít go to Australia for the inquest. He was videotaped during police interviews, claiming Tina, a novice diver, had panicked during a dive to the Yongala wreck near Townsville. He said she thrashed around in the water, grabbed hold of his mask and pushed it off his face. Despite his dive experience, Watson said he decided to go for help rather than follow his bride downwards and attempt a rescue.

Police initially believed it was an accident but became suspicious when Watson kept changing details of his story. They found no pre-existing medical conditions nor anything wrong with Tinaís dive gear. After reenacting the dive, police believe Watson restrained Tina, turned off her air supply until she was dead or close to it, then turned it back on and let her sink to the seabed.

Evidence showed Watson made some moves for financial gain before and after the fatal trip. Tinaís father said that shortly before the wedding Watson had asked Tina to increase her life insurance and make him sole beneficiary (she didnít). Watson had tried to sue his travel insurer five days after his wifeís death but discontinued legal proceedings in May. In January, the inquest attendees saw undercover video footage of him using bolt-cutters to remove flowers secured to his wifeís grave in Alabama.

Queensland police are preparing a warrant for Watson, the first step in whatís expected to be a long, drawn-out extradition battle.

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