Revelstoke Times Review

Update: Kiwi charged with murdering wife near Revelstoke arrested for plotting to kill five

Accused murderer Peter Beckett was a newly-minted city councillor in New Zealand when this 1998 photo was taken. In addition to first degree murder charges filed in 2011, he is now facing new charges for an alleged plot to counsel others to commit murder. - handout
Accused murderer Peter Beckett was a newly-minted city councillor in New Zealand when this 1998 photo was taken. In addition to first degree murder charges filed in 2011, he is now facing new charges for an alleged plot to counsel others to commit murder.
— image credit: handout

The Revelstoke Times Review has learned that a former New Zealand town councillor accused of murdering his wife by pushing her off a fishing boat at Shelter Bay in August of 2010 is now facing more charges.

Members of the RCMP Southeast District Major Crime Unit arrested Peter Beckett, 56, at the Surrey Pre-Trial Centre in the Lower Mainland on Monday, Dec. 10 on charges of counselling to commit murder and obstruction of justice.

Police say the charges stem from a four-month investigation that ended last week.

The Southeast District Major Crime Unit said that the new charges, "focused on allegations that Peter Beckett was attempting to influence the outcome of the upcoming criminal proceedings related to his first degree murder charge."

A court document obtained by the Revelstoke Times Review paints the picture of a jailhouse police sting, with an undercover officer or informant gathering information on Beckett's alleged plot.

The document alleges that Beckett counselled and unnamed "Agent A" to commit murder, and names five targets of the alleged plot.

Park Letts and Beth Letts, the parents of Laura Letts-Beckett are named.

Another alleged target is Sgt. Terry Jacklin, an officer with the Southeast District Major Crime Unit, the police department that investigated Beckett following his wife's death and recommended the charge of first degree murder to the Crown.

A fourth alleged target is lawyer Raymond Barlow, who is listed as a partner at law office Lennon and Barlow in Westlock, Alberta, which is very near to where Beckett resided.

The fifth alleged target is Virginia Lyons-Friesen. It is unclear what her connection is to Beckett.

The court document said "Agent A" collected information on the alleged plot from July 1 to Dec. 6, 2012 in Maple Ridge, B.C. The Fraser Regional Correctional Centre is located in Maple Ridge.

Peter Beckett is currently awaiting trial for first degree murder of his wife Laura Letts-Beckett on Aug. 18, 2010 near Shelter Bay, a small recreation area with a popular fishing boat launch that is located about 50 kilometres south of Revelstoke.

The Revelstoke Times Review first reported her drowning death on Aug. 19 of 2010. At the time, RCMP indicated that the Alberta teacher had drowned in an accident.

It wasn't until a year later on Aug. 12, 2011 that her husband, Peter Beckett, was arrested and charged with her murder. He has been in custody ever since and has appeared in criminal proceedings at the Salmon Arm courts. That trial is subject to a publication ban.

In a statement, Southeast District RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said: "Beckett is alleged to have counselled to commit the murders of persons whom the Crown would be relying upon as witnesses for those criminal proceedings. Fortunately this police investigation prevented any harm or loss of life from coming to these individuals."

The Revelstoke Times Review first reported on the drowning in August of 2010 and then followed up with three stories. The first was an appeal by the RCMP for information, the following two were published after Beckett was charged with murder. Here are those stories:

RCMP believe Shelter Bay drowning was a homicide

By Aaron Orlando

June 14, 2012

The RCMP are now classifying the August 2010 drowning of an Alberta schoolteacher at Shelter Bay as a homicide.

Laura Letts-Beckett, a 50-year-old elementary schoolteacher from Westlock, Alberta, was in a boat with her husband on Aug. 18, 2010.

An August 19 report in the Revelstoke Times Review, which was based on information provided by the RCMP, said that Letts-Beckett was standing up in the Zodiac when she fell overboard. She was not wearing a lifejacket and it was reported she couldn't swim.

At the time, the RCMP reported her husband attempted to rescue her but was unable to.

RCMP Southeast District spokesperson Cpl. Dan Moskaluk confirmed the RCMP suspect foul play. "The death is being classified as a homicide," he told the Times Review in a June 14 telephone interview. "[RCMP Southeast District Major Crime Unit] has been involved and continue to be involved in the investigation. It is an ongoing investigation. They are still seeking information from anybody that might have anything."

When asked if it was only the pair in the boat at the time of the drowning, Moskaluk said: "I can't clarify 'only with' but I do know she was out on the water at the time of her death and the death was reported by her spouse."

He said he did not know Letts Beckett's husband's name.

Moskaluk confirmed that investigators from the Major Crime Unit (MCU) were currently in Westlock working on the investigation.

There have been no arrests. "Police do not have anybody in custody at this time, nor have any charges been laid," he said.

Moskaluk said he didn't know if Letts Beckett had any friends, family or connections in the Revelstoke or Arrow Lakes area.

On Monday, June 6, members from the MCU teamed up with Revelstoke RCMP to investigate the scene of the suspected homicide at Shelter Bay. They used an RCMP boat and at least one helicopter as part of that operation.

Letts-Beckett had taught at Dapp Elementary School in Dapp, Alberta for 27 years at the time of her death. Dapp is a hamlet near her home in Westlock and about 100 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Moskaluk said the purpose of a June 13 media release was to seek tips or information from the public. They are asking anyone with information to contact the Southeast District Major Crime Unit in Kelowna at 250-469-7800. Those wishing to remain anonymous can contact Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or leave info online at bccrimestoppers.com.

First-degree murder charge laid in 2010 Shelter Bay drowning

By Alex Cooper

August 15, 2011

The husband of a woman who drowned in the Upper Arrow Lake near Shelter Bay one year ago has been charged with first degree murder, the RCMP announced Monday.

Laura Letts-Beckett died on August 18, 2010. Police were called Shelter Bay Provincial Park shortly after 8 p.m. after receiving a report that she fell out of a small Zodiac fishing boat. CPR attempts to resuscitate her failed.

At the time the RCMP reported she was a non-swimmer and was not wearing a lifejacket.

Peter Ernest Edward Beckett, 54, from Westlock, Alta., was charged with first degree murder on Aug. 8, 2011. He was arrested on Aug. 12 near Christina Lake, B.C., and appeared in Kelowna Provincial Court that afternoon.

He has been remanded to custody and will appear in court again by video on Aug. 18.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Annie Linteau would not provide any more details about the incident. She would not reveal the cause of death nor why charges were laid.

PHOTO: Alberta schoolteacher Laura Letts-Beckett drowned at Shelter Bay on Aug. 18, 2011. Her husband Peter Beckett was charged with her murder a year after her death following major crimes investigation. Facebook image

Accused in Shelter Bay drowning a former Kiwi city councillor

By Aaron Orlando

August 30, 2011

Revelstoke has been mentioned again and again in the New Zealand press over the past week, but they were unfortunately not previewing the upcoming ski season.

They’ve picked up on the story of accused murderer Peter Beckett, 54, who stands charged in the August, 2010 drowning death of his wife Laura Letts-Beckett at Shelter Bay.

The New Zealand Herald reports that Beckett was a one-term city councillor in the eastern coastal town of Napier, on New Zealand’s North Island.

Current Napier mayor Barbara Arnott panned Beckett’s term from 1998 to 2001, saying he was a “stirrer” who didn’t contribute much to the city or the council.

Other New Zealand media reports paint the picture of an outsider who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and didn’t gel with his fellow politicians once elected.

He was known for a couple of embarrassing incidents. His fellow councillors confronted him about his habit of leaving city social get-togethers with bottles of council-funded liquor in his pockets.

In another incident while councillor, he allegedly confronted a rugby team at a local pub, smacking the captain in the face while braying about his status as a city councillor. He was later made to apologize for the incident.

Beckett is reported to have left his wife and four young children in New Zealand seven years ago, moving to Canada. His ex-wife hadn’t heard from him since then, until the RCMP called with questions about the alleged homicide.

Most recently, he worked as a school bus driver for the Pembina Hills Regional School Division north of Edmonton. Laura Letts-Beckett was a long-serving elementary school teacher in that district.

Her family members have issued a statement through the RCMP: “We are relieved that the investigation is over, as a family we are waiting for the justice system to take its course. Please respect our family’s privacy as we remember the anniversary of Laura’s death.”

Beckett is charged with first degree murder, a charge that indicates prosecutors believe there was likely some level of planning involved in the death.

Beckett is scheduled for a court appearance in Salmon Arm this week.

Beckett reported that his wife fell off a small boat while they were fishing near Shelter Bay in August of 2010, saying she couldn’t swim and he was unable to save her. At the time, it appeared to be an accident. Revelstoke RCMP issued the almost obligatory statement about the importance of wearing a lifejacket while boating.

In June of this year, the RCMP revealed an ongoing homicide investigation into the incident.

 

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