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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

'Honeymoon killer' faces charges

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Gabe Watson, whose wife Tina died in 2003, has returned to the US (AP)

An American jailed in Australia for his wife’s drowning death during their honeymoon has returned to the US, where he faces two murder charges.

Gabe Watson, 33, dubbed the “Honeymoon Killer” by the Australian media, arrived in Los Angeles after he was deported on a commercial flight from Melbourne.

Watson, who was accompanied by two Australian immigration department staff and three Queensland police officers, was taken away in handcuffs after clearing customs. He was booked at a local police sub-station after his arrival and will probably make a court appearance in Los Angeles before being sent back to his home state of Alabama early next week.

Alabama’s attorney general Troy King accused Australian authorities of showing too much leniency to Watson, who served an 18-month jail sentence after pleading guilty last year to manslaughter.

His wife Tina, 26, drowned in 2003 while scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef with her husband of 11 days, who was an accomplished diver. Watson had been in immigration custody since completing his sentence earlier this month because Australia, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, delayed his deportation until it received a pledge that US authorities would not seek the death penalty.

Watson’s lawyer, Brett Bloomston, said his client would not fight extradition to Alabama because he wanted to be home with friends and family.

US prosecutors said Watson was indicted by an Alabama grand jury on capital murder in the course of kidnapping, and capital murder for pecuniary gain. The charges were sealed until Watson reached the US and Mr King refused to discuss the evidence in detail. But he said prosecutors believed Watson hatched a plan to kill his wife while they were in Alabama, which gives the state jurisdiction over her death.

In 2008 Queensland state coroner David Glasgow found there was sufficient evidence to charge Watson with her death and he was officially charged with murder a few months later. In 2009 Watson, who had remarried, travelled to Australia to face trial, where prosecutors said he killed his wife by turning off her air supply and holding her underwater.

Mr Glasgow said a possible motive for the killing was Mrs Watson’s modest life insurance policy.

Mr Bloomston said Watson admitted in his plea in Australia that he committed a negligent act, failing to do enough to save his wife, but denied deliberately trying to kill her. He said a £21,000 insurance payment was made to Mrs Watson’s father, not her husband.

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