Hoover man to serve one year in prison for wife’s honeymoon death

Published 8:18 am Friday, June 5, 2009

The Hoover man who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his wife during their 2003 honeymoon in Australia will serve one year in prison.

Gabe Watson, 32, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison in Brisbane Supreme Court on Friday. However, Justice Peter Lyons ordered Watson’s sentence be suspended after he has served 12 months, according to the Australian newspaper Brisbane Times.

Brisbane Times also reports Watson will be deported immediately upon his release from an Australian jail.

While in court, Watson, a certified rescue diver, admitted he failed to fulfill his responsibilities as his wife’s dive buddy during a scuba diving expedition on the Great Barrier Reef, Brisbane Times said.

Prosecutors believed Watson murdered Christina “Tina” Thomas Watson of Helena on Oct. 22, 2003, just 11 days after their wedding. An Australian coroner last year ruled Watson should be charged with Christina’s murder, alleging Watson cut off Christina’s air supply.

Watson voluntarily returned to Australia on May 12 to stand trial. He was arrested by authorities at Brisbane International Airport and jailed.

Outside the courtroom, Tommy Thomas, Christina’s father, Amanda Thomas, Christina’s sister, and friend Amanda Phillips called the court’s decision “ludicrous.”

“I believe probably the entire Australian nation as well as our nation back home shares in the shock we’ve just seen,” Tommy Thomas told Brisbane Times. “It’s total injustice, it’s ludicrous what we have seen. This is in no way, shape or form even beginning to get justice for our daughter.”

Tommy Thomas also told Brisbane Times the outcome of the case is an embarrassment to all involved.

“It’s an embarrassment to all Australians, it’s an embarrassment to the police here, the police in our country and to everyone who has been involved in this investigation,” he said.

Despite the court’s ruling, Tommy Thomas continues to believe Watson is guilty of more than manslaughter.

“We believe that Gabe Watson murdered our daughter and we will continue to believe that,” he told Brisbane Times. “This is not justice, this is not over.”