Witness says drowning victim had ‘fainting issues,’ Kelowna jury hears

Defence in the murder trial of a former New Zealand politician begins

A witness in Peter Beckett’s trial told a Kelowna jury Friday that fundamental differences between the accused killer and his dead wife often led to friction.

Dolores English was a longtime friend and coworker of Laura Letts-Beckett, and told a jury the former New Zealand politician was fun and prone to saying everything and anything that came to mind — an extrovert.

Letts-Beckett, on the other hand, was an introvert who didn’t like airing her personal business, though she enjoyed a good conversation.

That difference, English told the court, led to some friction over the years, most notably when it came to the way Beckett talked about his wife’s family.

In 2010 Letts-Beckett was estranged from her parents and her brothers, who were described in court as conservative, evangelical Christians.

“Laura was afraid to drive downtown … she had a lot of anxiety about running into them,” English told the court, adding that it happened once at a service station.

“(She) wanted to figure out some way to make it better,” she said.

Although Letts-Beckett shared the burden she was carrying to English, many of the other people they worked with at the Alberta K to Grade 6 school didn’t know about it.

Despite her desire to keep the issue private, English said that Beckett spoke freely about the situation.

He was bothered by how it “saddened” Letts-Beckett. In turn, the way Beckett talked about the Letts family was a real problem for his wife.

It was such an issue that they broke up over the issue.

English at one point told police that she remembered Letts-Beckett telling her that she didn’t think she could keep living in that way and that there might be a decision she had to make.

When pressed by Crown counsel Ian Currie on details surrounding that conversation, English offered slightly different evidence to what she’d given previously.

“I’m going to suggest to you m’am that what’s happening here is your answers are drifting just a little bit. I’m not suggesting there’s anything sinister or you’re doing this intentionally, but your answers are drifting from answers that are as truthful as you can be to answers that are as truthful as can be but also with a view of assisting Mr Beckett. Is that possible?” said Currie, in cross examination.

“Yes,” said English.

“In fact, in this particular instance, probably quite likely,” Currie said.

It was the second time Currie questioned the testimony English offered.

In direct question, English was asked about Letts-Beckett’s history with fainting.

English told her that Letts-Beckett had fainted years before her death while her students were getting their immunization shots.

Years later, when the two women were going to a Patsy Cline tribute concert they discussed that event because Letts-Beckett was wondering whether she should get some new shots for an upcoming trip. She also told English that she’d fainted in the past, when she was school age, commenting that she had a “fainting issue.”

Currie at that point said that English was “thinking about ways to assist Peter Beckett.”

English also said that she had been boating with the couple and Letts-Beckett may have started her boating adventures with a lifejacket on, but she was comfortable in the boat and often took the floatation device off when she was sunning herself.

Defence will continue throughout next week.