BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Feb. 20, 2012 -- The best friend of newlywed Tina Watson said today that Watson's husband, accused "honeymoon killer" Gabe Watson, showed off pictures of his dead wife in front of "Caution: Drowning" signs at Tina's funeral.
Gabe Watson is on trial for the alleged murder of Tina, whom the prosecution says drowned while scuba diving after Gabe turned off her air supply on the bottom of the ocean floor during their 2003 honeymoon in Australia. The couple had been married 11 days when Tina Watson died.
Watson, dubbed the "honeymoon killer," has said his panicked wife accidentally knocked his mask off, and by the time he recovered she had sunk beyond his reach.
Amanda Phillips, who was Tina's maid of honor at her wedding, told an Alabama courtroom today she initially believed Gabe's story about Tina's death. Shaking and crying on the stand today, Phillips recalled when she was first told about her best friend's scuba diving death. She said she talked to Gabe Watson almost immediately after, and he convinced her it was an accident.
Gabe Watson told Phillips that his wife had "swatted at him and knocked off his mask and regulator" deep under water, and by the time he put his scuba gear back on, she had drifted dangerously far away. Rather than trying to go after her, Watson decided to ascend, Phillips said.
"He says he made a split decision to leave her. He thought it was better to get help," Phillips testified.
But after Tina Watson's funeral, Phillips began to suspect Gabe had played a more malicious role in her best friend's death. At a family gathering at his home after the service, Gabe showed pictures and videos of Tina posed next to caution signs warning of drowning. Phillips said that she may have seen other photos of the trip, including Tina in front of the opera house and zoo, but she could not fully recall which pictures she had seen aside from the warning signs.
The testimony came on day five of the trial in which Gabe faces capital murder charges in what prosecutor's say was a meticulously plotted killing in order to collect a $130,000 life and travel insurance payout.
Watson has already served 18 months in an Australian prison for negligent manslaughter, which is essentially an admission that he failed to save his wife's life when she got into difficulty.
The prosecution, which has alleged that Gabe's ascent to get help for Tina was "leisurely," also called on a scuba expert from Australian scuba gear company Oceanic to analyze the data found on Gabe's dive computer from that day. Adam White, who analyzed Watson's ascent time and dive time, said Watson's ascent to get help for Tina was "fairly rapid" but not fast enough to be considered dangerous.
He also said Gabe's breathing rate was high, which White later noted could have been a sign of panic.
The defense has continued to back up Gabe Watson's initial story that he panicked when Tina floated away from him in the deep water and ascended to the surface to get help.