Tourist accused of killing wife on honeymoon dive

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The Independent Online

At first sight, it looks like the regular scuba-diving snap it was meant to be. But look closer and it is clear something is horribly wrong - as one of the divers can be seen hurrying towards a companion lying on the seabed.

The figure apparently in distress is Tina Watson, 26, lying 50ft below the surface of the Coral Sea in Queensland after embarking on a shipwreck tour of the Great Barrier Reef with her new husband in October 2003.

Yesterday, four-and-a half years later, Daniel Watson, 31, of Birmingham, Alabama, was charged with murdering his wife of 11 days. The Queensland state coroner, David Glasgow, issued the indictment after investigating the death for months and finding there was sufficient evidence for a murder charge.

The haunting picture of the three divers has emerged as a crucial part of that evidence. Australia has now opened extradition proceedings against the American.

After his wife drowned, Mr Watson initially told police that she panicked a few minutes into their honeymoon dive, which took place around the wreck of the SS Yongala, a passenger and steam freighter which sank during a cyclone in 1911 near the north-eastern city of Townsville.

He claimed Christina, known as Tina, thrashed around and pulled off his face-mask before sinking downwards, wide-eyed and with her arms outstretched.

Mr Watson, an experienced diver who had completed a dive rescue course, was acting as a “dive buddy” for his less experienced wife, but he told police that instead of trying to rescue her, he opted to swim off and seek help.

One of the dive leaders eventually pulled Mrs Watson to the surface, but efforts to resuscitate her failed. During the inquest, detectives said they initially thought her death was an accident, but they later became suspicious when Mr Watson changed details of his account.

An autopsy found Mrs Watson had not taken drugs or alcohol and she had no medical condition which might have explained her death. Nor was there anything wrong with her diving equipment or her oxygen tank, which was almost full.

A police re-enactment of the incident suggested that Mr Watson could have turned off his wife’s air supply during an embrace and then held her as she struggled.