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WHAT THE PROSECUTION CLAIMS HAPPENED
From everything I have read and from what the Coroner found, I think that the case against Gabe was that:
The Coroner, David Robert Glasgow, delivered his findings on 20 June 2008 (not 24 April 2008 like the Findings say) , the main ones were:
Comment: The Coroner also did not seem to have an understanding of scuba diving. For example, in his findings he states "get an alternative oxygen supply from what is referred to as a safe second". Diver's never, ever use oxygen for diving except for technical diving and then, only for decompression. Oxygen used deeper than about seven metres can be fatal. This is a typical mistake made by non-divers. I have never heard the term "safe second" (used liberally thoughout the Inquest) used until this inquest. It is called an octopus.
When I first wrote this article back in 2009 I was pretty certain that Gabe killed Tina, not just by inaction, but by actively murdering her. I am now certain that he did not murder her.
I think that a statement I read once about investigations into crashes of privately piloted aircraft really summarises what went wrong here. This statement, in a 1974 US National Transport Safety Board report, pointed to "a pilot's inexperience mixed with a dose of overconfidence as a fatal mix". I am pretty sure that Gabe thought he was far more experienced than he really was due to the type and number of courses he had done and this overconfidence led to him wanting to dive alone with Tina rather than accompany Wade Singleton.
It is also possible that the current (since about 1995) practice of dive agencies encouraging divers to do more courses (Advanced, Deep, Rescue and even Dive Master) before they have actually gained any sort of real experience is creating a similar situation where divers are overconfident about their own ability to dive.
The problems and apparent failures with the Police and Coroner's case against Gabe that I see are:
As I indicated, I am certain that Gabe is not guilty of murder. I think the following probably happened:
As mentioned, the Coroner charged Gabe with Tina's murder. This right no longer exists and now the matter would be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
On 15 August 2008 Gabe married Kim Lewis. They were introduced by a mutual friend some years after Tina died. They actually went to the same school but did not really know each other till they were introduced. Kim is a schoolteacher.
LEGAL PROCEEDINGS AND SENTENCING
On 28 November 2008, an indictment for murder against Gabe Watson was presented to Justice Kieran Cullinane at the Townsville Supreme Court. He adjourned the matter to 3 February 2009 for mention and appearance of the accused.
On 27 January 2009, a video conference was held between the Director of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), Anthony Moynihan, SC, the Assistant Director (and prosecutor), Brendan Campbell, SC, Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart of the Queensland Police, Detective Senior Sergeant Gary Campbell and Detective Senior Constable Kevin Gehringer. This meeting was held to discuss withdrawing the murder charge and accepting a manslaughter plea.
In late January 2009 Gabe's Australian lawyers travelled to Alabama to meet with him, presumably to discuss the plea bargain. Of course, Gabe Watson was not in the country when the matter returned to court and on 3 February 2009 Justice Cullinane adjourned the matter to a date to be fixed.
On the 13th May 2009 Gabe arrived at Brisbane Airport voluntarily and was met by Police. He was arrested and formally charged with murder. The same day Gabe appeared before the Supreme Court's Senior Judge Administrator John Byrne. He remanded Gabe in custody until further notice.
The day after this, Brendan Campbell from ODPP and Gary Campbell (togerther with an ODPP media officer) left Queensland and flew to the US. On 16 and 17 May 2009 they meet with Tommy Thomas and other members of Tina's family. At these meetings, the potential plea bargain was discussed. Later, Tommy Thomas was advised that a plea deal had been reached (which he later denied knowing).
On 3 June 2009, Brendan Campbell met with Tommy Thomas, Brad Flynn (Helena Police Department), Gary Campbell and Kevin Gehringer to discuss the sentencing procedure. This was held in Brisbane, showing that Tommy Thomas knew by now that the murder charge against Gabe had been dropped in favour of a manslaughter guilty plea.
At his second appearance in court on 5 June 2009, Gabe pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter. The basis of that plea was criminal negligence under s 290 of the Criminal Code, which provides:
"When a person undertakes to do any act the omission to do which is or may be dangerous to human life or health, it is the person's duty to do that act, and the person is held to have caused any consequences which result to the life or health of any person by reason of any omission to perform that duty."
This was accepted by the Judge, Justice Peter Lyons, and Gabe was sentenced to four and a half years gaol. The imprisonment was to be suspended after 12 months. This was not a 12 month non-parole period, as if this had happened, Gabe would have had to stay in Australia for the full four and a half years.
Justice Lyons' sentencing remarks can be read by clicking here. The sentencing remarks start on page 48 of the document but shown as page 54 in the document itself.
One particular comments by the Judge was "I also accept that in that period you have been subject to accusations of matters of which you are not guilty." That is, he was not guilty of murdering Tina.
Note that the Thomas family later claimed that they had no knowledge that Gabe was going to plead guilty to manslaughter. However, Cindy, Alanda and Tommy Thomas as well as Amanda Phillips provided victim impact statements to the Supreme Court for the 5 June 2009 appearance. I also now know that Tommy and Alanda Thomas as well as Amanda Phillips were actually in Australia for this appearance (I base this on the fact that Tommy put a claim in for airfares and travel expenses from Tina's estate for them for this trip as well as other information from a book that says this). Therefore, it is certain that they must have had warning that Gabe was going to be sentenced on this day as you are unlikely to come to Australia for what normally would only be a brief appearance and another adjournment.
The Crown appealed against the length of the sentence. This was heard on 17 July 2009 by the Queensland Court of Appeal. The Chief Justice (de Jersey) recommended increasing the period that had to be served before suspension to two years and three months and Justice Chesterman recommended 18 months. However, the third judge, Justice Muir, would have dismissed the appeal altogether. The net result was that the term Gabe had to serve was increased to 18 months before it was suspended. This majority (that is not unanimous) decision was handed down on 18 September 2009.
Comments made in the Court of Appeal judgement:
He served his time in a Queensland gaol, the Borallon Correctional Centre near Ipswich, west of Brisbane. His wife, Kim, visited him a number of times. She was variously accompanied by her mother and Gabe's mother, Glenda.
RELEASE AND DEPORTATION
It was announced in August 2010 that Gabe would be released from gaol in November 2010. He was released on 10 November 2010. He was not immediately deported to the US as Australia will not deport anyone to a location where there is a likelihood that they may be executed if found guilty. As in all such cases, Australia will only deport someone if the jurisdiction gives an undertaking that they will not seek the death penalty.
When the US Attorney General provided assurances that Alabama would not seek the death penalty, Gabe was deported back to the USA on 25 November 2010. When he arrived in the USA he was arrested and held in custody.
The Alabama authorites decided that they would also prosecute Gabe. On the anniversary of Tina's death, 22 October 2010, a grand jury indicted Gabe on two counts of capital murder. They decided that this would not be a "double jeopardy" situation as they believed Gabe planned the murder in Alabama, thus giving them jurisdiction.
He was released on bail on 14 December 2010.
COMMENTS BY AUSTRALIA'S DIVING MEDICINE EXPERT - 2 JULY 2011
In the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 July 2011, Dr Carl Edmonds, perhaps the world's most knowledgeable person in relation to dive medicine, as well as the author of numerous dive medicine books (including THE book Diving and Subaquatic Medicine which I have had for many years) commented on this death in an article written by Jennifer Cooke.
In this article, Dr Edmonds stated:
The comments by Dr Edmonds appeared to be almost identical to the views I had put forward since about September 2010. It seems that he has concluded exactly what I have done. I have since spoken to and met with him and discussed this matter in great detail. We virtually agree 100% on what really happened in this case.
Also in this article, it was stated that Col McKenzie, "Queensland veteran diver" [but not mentioned as being a spokesperson for the Queensland dive industry and former Dive Australia executive member] "had retracted what he had told Police". Mr McKenzie now thinks that Watson was incompetent and inept, but not a murderer. He had been presented with certificates and diver [sic] logs, not shown to him by Police, which revealed Watson had little ocean diving experience".
I totally agree with Mr McKenzie's now new view.
OTHER MEDIA COVERAGE
In 2011 a number of articles written by Andy Toulson were published in the Townsville Bulletin. Some of these were (in my view as a diver with over 3,700 dives) total rubbish, quoting a person (who I would consider a novice diver) as an "international diver" and "dive expert". However, all I can find about this person is that he has dived overseas (so I suppose it makes him an "international diver") but he has no standing in the Australian dive community and cannot be considered in anyway a "dive expert".
MY INVOLVEMENT IN THIS MATTER
I was asked to be the defence diving expert witness at the Alabama trial. I advised the defence about all matters related to the scuba diving in the lead up to the trial. In addition, my wife Kelly and I travelled to Alabama where I was to appear at the trial as the defence's diving expert. More about how I got involved in a separate article. Dr Carl Edmonds was also asked to the defence medical expert witness and he attended the trial as well.
This commenced on 13 February 2012 in Birmingham, Alabama. Click on the link below to see about that trial. At this trial, Gabe Watson was acquitted.
Click here to read about the Alabama Trial.
DR CARL EDMONDS' VIEWS
Dr Edmonds, lead author of Diving and SubAquatic Medicine, the bible for dive medicine, has now written two papers on this matter. The paper submitted to the Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine Journal, the Journal of the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society (Incorporated in Victoria A0020660B) and the European Underwater and Baromedical Society. While this has not yet been published, Dr Edmonds' conclusions were:
Dr Edmonds also submitted a separate article for publication in the journal of DAN and it was published in their DAN Alert Diver Asia-Pacific August-December 2012 edition. You can read it at DAN Alert Diver Asia-Pacific August-December 2012 edition
MOVIE - FATAL HONEYMOON
A movie was shot on the Gold Coast in Australia in the period after March 2012. It was shown on US pay TV channel Lifetime on Saturday 25 August 2012. The short time between the end of the trial, the shooting of the movie and its airing date gives you some idea of its quality. It was supposed to be released at the theatre in Australia in 2013 but it appears it never was.
I finally saw it in February 2015 when it was shown on Sydney television. It is not accurate, neither based on what Gabe said happened nor what the only possible witness said happened. Much of the rest of the movie is also fiction based on my knowledge of what happened. The writers and production staff do not appear to have consulted with the Watsons nor the Thomases nor their legal advisers nor the writers of the book nor me nor anyone who seems to have at least some knowledge of what happened. It is hard to see how it could be accurate when they do not seem to have talked to anyone with even any sort of knowledge of what went on before during and after the accident.
It is very poorly made, with incorrect diving and other information and biased towards the premise that Gabe was guilty. Even the Thomases are not happy with it! On 2 October 2012 it was reported that in Australia the movie would now not be released at the theatre and will instead go straight to DVD. Must be really bad to be doing this!!!
It is very hard to see how an actor of the calibre of Harvey Keitel could get involved with it (he plays Tommy Thomas). Surely he could not have been that hard up for money? See my review of Fatal Honeymoon.
ANOTHER BOOK - A Second Chance for Justice: The Prosecutions of Gabe Watson for the Death of Tina Thomas
This book was written by Dr Asher Flynn and Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon. They are Australian legal academics and were present at the trial. At the time I thought that they were law students (that is what I was told by others present). I have now read this book (but do not own it as it is too expensive - about AUS$150) and appears to have been written so they can set it as a text book for their students.
The authors have appeared on many television and radio shows in Australia publicising the book. It has also been mentioned in many newspapers. I have corresponded with one of the authors expressing my amazement that they did not attempt to speak to either Dr Carl Edmonds or myself about what our evidence would have been at the trial.
I get several mentions in the book, as does Carl. Click on the link above or right at the bottom of this page to see what I think of it as a book on this matter (it basically ignores all the facts and is rubbish).
A LEGAL PAPER
In 2015 a peer-reviewed paper was published in the University of Queensland Law Journal. This was written by Victoria Colvin, a PhD student. From 2001 to 2009 she was a prosecutor with the Ministry of the Attorney-General in British Columbia, Canada. The paper was entitled PLEA BARGAINING AND MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE: A CASE STUDY OF THE PROSECUTION OF GABE WATSON, THE SO-CALLED "HONEYMOON KILLER". Victoria wrote this paper after utilising my web site and asking me for some additional information which I provided.
The following quote from Victoria summarises accurately the paper:
Broadly, my argument is that the Watson case was a miscarriage of justice on the manslaughter, both in law and on errors of fact about diving that were put before the court. Most seriously, the court was told divers ascend by inflating their BCDs, and was not told there was any danger associated with doing this. I also argue that there was no admissible evidence supporting the murder allegation, and strong evidence against it, and the police's public statements about the alleged evidence are both erroneous and contrary to the state's duty of fairness. [some text omited by me] My conclusions on the diving aspects of the case are certainly consistent with yours and Dr. Edmonds', and I have provided a reference to your conclusions.
If you would like to read it, click here to download a pdf copy.
Again, to summarise, this was a case of an overconfident, possibly incompetent and panicking diver failing to rescue a panicking, overweighted novice diver, both of whom should never have been allowed to dive the Yongala without close expert supervision.
Like all accidents, it is not one simple thing that caused Tina to die. It is a series of things, all of which multiplied on top of each other and led to the final outcome. If any of these had been removed, even one, then Tina would not have died.
- Tina learning to dive to please Gabe
- The dive instructor certifying Tina without making her do dives that could have properly assessed her abilities and disposition to be a scuba diver
- Dive agencies hype that made Gabe believe that if you are certified as a "xxxx diver" then you are an experienced xxxx diver
- Whoever advised Gabe to record dives in his log book that were not really dives and thus overstating his level of experience
- MBDE waiver form that does not ask about the number of ocean dives that a person has done when this is the factor that divers are assessed on
- Wade Singleton interviewing Gabe and Tina together in breach of MBDE rules and Queensland law
- Wade Singleton not enforcing the MBDE rules and Queensland law in letting Gabe and Tina dive together without supervision
- Tina panicking
- Gabe panicking
- Gabe making a wrong decision to go for help
Even though Gabe has more points above, he should still not be held responsible as the main cause of this accident. It lies with far more experienced people than him. As I keep pointing out, he was a novice diver himself who was not capable of making a decision as to whether he was suitable as an appropriate dive buddy for Tina in the conditions prevailing.
Click here to read the next part of this article - the Alabama Trial.
FINAL DISGRACEFUL ACTS OF INJUSTICE
To make matters even worse than they were, some of the key participants in the crusade against Gabe Watson have been given awards recognising their "good" work in the prosecution of Gabe Watson.
Andy Toulson, who wrote some of the most biased and incorrect articles about this case, received the Best Daily News Story in Print at the 2010 Queensland Multi Media Awards for her article "The Ongoing Saga of Gabe Watson". Her reporting of this matter for the Townsville Bulletin was generally totally biased and contained "expert" witnesses comment from people who were hardly even experienced scuba divers. In addition, as of 2013 she was reported to be co-writing a book about the whole thing with Tina's parents. As of late 2014 it does not yet appear to have been published.
On 7 December 2010 Detective Senior Sergeant Gary Campbell and Detective Senior Constable Kevin Gehringer were awarded Regional Excellence Awards by the Deputy Police Commissioner for Queensland, Ian Stewart, particularly for their work in this case. What a joke! They failed completely in the job of investigating what happened and showed a total disregard for unbiased investigation.
Even worse, Campbell was awarded the Australian Police Medal in the 2012 Queen's Birthday Order of Australia Awards. This was after he was shown to be a liar (lying to Gabe, his lawyer and father about tape recording them) during the 2012 Alabama trial.
All the above awards should be withdrawn, especially those for Gehringer and Campbell.