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Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures of the Seven Seas : WET & HOT NEWS !

18 December 2010

Death on the reef: evidence slanted

Hedley Thomas -

Queesnland police who spent five years investigating the scuba-diving death of an Alabama woman on her honeymoon misstated key evidence.

The evidence was presented to the media in ways that made it appear more likely her husband murdered her.

The key evidence was misstated as recently as four months ago in a two-part special by the ABC's Australian Story, in which Gabe Watson was depicted as a cold-blooded and sociopathic murderer of his wife of 11 days, Tina, an examination by The Australian shows.

The program, strongly slanted against Watson, omitted facts and findings which would have shown his actions in a different light. It has added momentum to a powerful public push for Watson to be tried for murder in Alabama where he will this morning face a bail hearing.

Watson has strenuously protested his innocence of murder. Having pleaded guilty to being criminally negligent for failing to rescue Tina, 26, when she got into difficulty on the October 2003 dive on the Great Barrier Reef, he was convicted of manslaughter last year.

The Queensland Court of Appeal said he was wrongly accused of murder, and that he had been grief-stricken over the death of his wife whom he had abandoned when he made a reprehensible decision to go to the surface to seek help.

The Weekend Australian reported how police probing the case had made an error in the testing of Watson's dive computer, which led the detectives to come to an early and strongly adverse view that he was lying to them about a beeping alarm minutes before Tina's fatal dive.

The adverse view had a profound impact on the police probe, propelling it in a direction sought by Tina's parents who have relentlessly lobbied Queensland and Alabama authorities to pursue Watson for murder.

In misstating key evidence, police have claimed that Watson, who they suspect turned off Tina's air tanks and then turned the air back on when she was dead, deliberately did not rush to the surface to raise the alarm.

Detective Senior Constable Kevin Gehringer told Australian Story in August: "He said he rocketed to the surface to seek help."

Detective Sergeant Gary Campbell, the lead officer on the case, added: "It took him between two and three minutes. That was classed by some as literally pedestrian."


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