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Prosecutor: Gabe Watson had financial motive to drown wife on honeymoon

Gabe and Tina Watson in an undated photo
Gabe and Tina Watson in an undated photo CBS

(CBS/AP) BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Gabe Watson drowned his new bride during a dive on Australia's Great Barrier Reef in hopes of collecting $210,000 in insurance benefits and belongings that included her diamond engagement ring, a prosecutor told jurors in opening statements Tuesday.

Watson, 34, planned the honeymoon on the other side of the world and then used it to kill 26-year-old Tina Thomas Watson just 11 days after they wed in October 2003, said Assistant Alabama Attorney General Andrew Arrington. 

Watson is being tried on a charge of capital murder. The defense argued the woman's death was an unfortunate accident compounded by her own actions.

Watson had plenty of motive to kill, Arrington said: He thought he could make $210,000 by collecting on a life insurance policy and a separate travel policy. Australian police didn't believe Watson's varying tales about what happened the day his wife drowned, Arrington said, and neither should jurors.

"Tina trusted her husband. She felt safe diving with him," Arrington said in quiet, measured tones.

The prosecution contends Watson turned off his wife's air supply while both were underwater and held her in a bear-hug until she lost consciousness. Watson turned the air back on and let her sink to her death before swimming to the top, prosecutors say.

The defense argues the woman's death was an accident. According to defense lawyer Brett Bloomston, rather than being murdered Tina Watson struggled and knocked off her husband's air supply and diving mask, forcing him to resurface without her, Bloomston said. She drowned on her own, he said.

Tina Watson died just 11 days after her wedding in October 2003. Gabe Watson pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served 18 months in prison in Australia.

Bloomston denied that Watson had any financial motive. He argued that Tina Watson contributed to her own death by waiving an orientation dive and placing too much weight in a device meant to help her stay underwater during the dive. She panicked once during a diving class in a flooded suburban rock quarry, Bloomston said, suggesting that she may have panicked again during the fatal dive.

Complete coverage of Gabe Watson on Crimesider

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