BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Feb. 14, 2012 -- Alleged "honeymoon killer" Gabe Watson is a "liar" who drowned his bride for money and then showed little concern as others tried to revive her, prosecutors said today at the opening of his murder trial.
Watson's lawyer countered by telling the jury that the death of Tina Watson, 11 days after her wedding, was a "tragic accident."
The murder trial began eight years after Tina Watson drowned while scuba diving off the coast of Australia on her honeymoon. It also comes after Gabe Watson has spent 18 months in an Australian prison for negligent manslaughter, essentially admitting that he failed to save his wife, but did not kill her.
Watson and his bride were both 26 when they went to Australia on their honeymoon in October 2003 where they planned to dive in the Great Barrier Reef's historic Yongala dive site.
"They were in love and they planned their honeymoon and wedding together," Gabe Watson's lawyer Brett Bloomstom told the court today.
Watson claims his wife, a novice diver, panicked and when he tried to help her, she accidentally knocked his mask off. When he recovered, she had sunk out of his reach.
The prosecution claims that Watson grabbed his wife, turned off her air long enough to kill her, then turned it back on and let her sink to the bottom.
"The problem is all the times the defendant has lied. Why is he lying?" demanded prosecutor Andrew Arrington, arguing that Watson's story of what happened under water has changed over time.
Arrington contended that Watson killed his wife to get what he thought was a $130,000 insurance policy on her.
An illustration of Watson's allegedly grasping attitude was that he took his wife's engagement ring while at the funeral home, Arrington said, and that he "doggedly pursued to collect on insurance."
Arrington told the jury that he would produce two witnesses who were on the dive with the Watsons who confronted Gabe Watson after the dive. When Watson said his wife panicked, they told Watson they didn't believe him.
Bloomstom told the jury that the dive was a "perfect storm" of bad decisions, many of them made by the dive shop, Mike Ball Expeditions, that arranged the trip.
Bloomstom claimed that Tina Watson was a green diver sent on a dangerous "red flag" dive, that the shop did not have her take an orientation dive, and that she was outfitted with 20 pounds of weights, too heavy for her body.
"This case is not about whether or not he could have saved her. It's whether he intentionally killed her, and he did not," Bloomstom told the jury.
Bloomstom also denied claims that Watson was after insurance money, and that whatever insurance money there was went to Tina Watson's father. "He did not get a penny," the lawyer said.
The lawyer described Gabe and Tina Watson as a loving pair of newlyweds. He said Gabe Watson surprised his wife with Sydney Opera tickets during the honeymoon, producing tears of joy from his wife.
Watson's mother, Glenda Watson, cried as Bloomstom described the young couple. Sitting with Glenda Watson is her son's new wife who was stoic during the opening statements.
Tina Watson's father and sister are also in the courtroom.