The family of an American woman who drowned on her honeymoon in Australia is outraged that a court in that country has given her husband, who had been accused of her murder, only a one-year jail sentence for manslaughter.
The woman, Tina Watson, was just 26 years old when she drowned in October 2003 while scuba diving with her husband and others off the Great Barrier Reef. The death was initially ruled an accident, but after an inquest three years later, her husband, Gabe Watson, was charged with her murder.
Prosecutors said he held her in a bear hug and turned off her air supply. Then, they said, after turning her air back on, he allowed her lifeless body to sink to the bottom of the sea.
Watson had proclaimed his innocence, but at a hearing Thursday in Brisbane, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and accepted a sentence that will keep him in jail for a year. Prosecutor Brendan Campbell told the court the manslaughter plea was accepted on the basis that the 32-year-old Watson — trained to rescue panicked divers — failed in his duty as her dive buddy by not giving her emergency oxygen.
‘This is not justice’
“We were convinced and are today that Gabe Watson murdered Tina,” Tommy Thomas, the dead woman’s father, told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Friday from Brisbane. Earlier, he had told NBC News, “This is not justice and this is not over.”
“I’m shocked. It’s unbelievable,” added Tina’s sister, Alanda Thomas, who was with her father in Brisbane. “It’s complete injustice all the way around. It’s disgusting. It’s just unbelievable.”
Local prosecutors said that one reason they accepted the plea deal with Watson was to save Tina’s family from the hardship of going through a trial. The family had attended the lengthy inquest during which 65 witnesses from all over the world testified. They had also attended all preliminary hearings and had hoped to see Watson convicted of murder.
“The fact of the matter is, there’s no greater hardship than losing your daughter, your sister, your best friend for the rest of your life,” Tommy Thomas told Lauer.