Husband Charged in Honeymoon Murder Mystery

Wife drowned while scuba diving in Australia; police say the motive was money.

June 23, 2008 — -- Eleven days after a fairy tale wedding in Birmingham, Ala., 26-year-old Tina Watson and her new husband went on a scuba diving adventure off the coast of Australia.

Tina never returned from that scuba trip, and now, five years later, Gabe Watson has been charged with her murder and faces a trial in Australia.

Prosecutors believe that while scuba diving in October 2003 near the Great Barrier Reef, Watson drowned his new wife by turning off her oxygen tank.

An underwater video camera captured an eerie final image of Tina's lifeless-looking body on the bottom of the sea.

"You never think your daughter will leave for her honeymoon and her husband will kill her," said Tina's mother, Cindy Thomas.

Watson, an experienced rescue diver, told authorities that Tina, a beginner, appeared to panic underwater and clutched at his mask, pulling it off his face.

He said she was too heavy to bring to the surface and instead he went for help as she sank to the bottom of the ocean. One of the dive leaders pulled Tina Watson to the surface, but efforts to resuscitate her failed.

Prosecutors are convinced the motive behind the alleged murder was money.

According to Australian authorities, Tina told her father, Tommy Thomas, that shortly before she and Watson were married he asked his then-fiancée to increase her life insurance policy to the maximum and make him the sole beneficiary.

Thomas said his daughter decided to lie to Watson and say she made the changes, according to authorities.

Police initially became suspicious of Watson when he changed details of his account. An autopsy found no pre-existing medical condition that could have explained Tina's death, and tests showed there was nothing wrong with her diving gear.

Because of the complexity of the alleged crime it has taken prosecutors nearly five years to charge Watson, who denied the allegations.

Authorities are in the process of extraditing Watson back to Australia to face charges. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted of murder.

Tina's family, who have been waiting five years for movement in the case, said they will be watching the trial until its resolution.

"We're just one step closer to getting justice and peace for Tina, and that's the most important thing," said Tina's sister, Alanda Thomas. The Associated Press contributed to this report.