Examining the Case

Tina's Wedding PictureUPDATE: Sep. 23, 2009

Tina Watson , a 26 year-old American from Alabama who died while scuba diving on her honeymoon in Queensland, Australia on October 22, 2003. She had been married to Gabe Watson only 11 days when she died.

On June 19, 2008, Townsville coroner David Glasgow ruled there is enough evidence to charge David "Gabe" Watson with the murder of his wife and subsequently issued a warrant for his arrest. Trial was set to begin February 2009, but Gabe Watson, a U.S. citizen, living in Alabama, failed to appear and extradition proceedings began. On May 18, 2009, after more than five years after Tina's death and rebuking all efforts to bring him back to Australia, Gabe Watson chose not to fight extradition proceedings and flew back to Australia voluntarily to face trial.  On June 5, 2009, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Brisbane, Australia.  He was sentenced to 4-1/2 years, of which, he will serve 12 months.  An appeal of the sentence to make it more punitive is pending.

Alabama Attorney General's office intends to pursue prosecution of murder when Gabe Watson is returned to the U.S.  If that does happen, I hope to extend this blog to discuss the issues in the case.  In the meantime, this blog will provide an index of sources, who's who and who said what.  Please feel free to leave a comment on any news story or source document you would like me to index.

As the author of this blog, I am a certified rescue diver (same certification as Gabe Watson). I live Collapse )

Sources - The Main Story

  • PHOTOGRAPH showing Tina lying on the bottom, dive master in the background going down to rescue her.  Taken by diver, Gary Stempler.


Cast of Characters


David "Gabe" Watson
Pleaded manslaughter for the death of his wife, Tina Watson
Tina Watson
Died October 22, 2003, scuba diving on her honeymoon with
Gabe Watson in Australia
Tommy Thomas
Tina's father
Cindy Thomas
Tina's mother
Alanda Thomas
Tina's sister
Harvey Walters
Tina's parents' attorney
Sonja Jordan
Witness, friend of Tina's who testified about life insurance
Amanda Phillips
Witness, Tina's best friend
Kim Lewis
Married Gabe Watson in 2008
Thomas Jackson
Witness, Scuba instructor for both Gabe Watson and Tina Watson
Craig Cleckler
Witness, assistant scuba instructor for Tina's scuba certification
Michael Moore
Witness, Gabe Watson's scuba diving buddy and childhood friend,
trained along side Gabe Watson.
Ken Snyder
Witness, diver on the Spoilsport boat
Doug Milsap
Witness, diver on the Spoilsport boat
Gavin Docking
Witness, Captain of the SpoilSport at the time of incident
Wade Singleton
Witness, dive instructor from Spoilsport who recovered Tina
Craig Steven
Witness, employee with Spoilsport who flew in to spend the night
with Watson the night of Tina's death
Uzi Barnai
Paramedic who worked on Tina for 40 minutes
Dr. Stanley Stutz
Key eye witness to Gabe Waton's contact (bear-hug) with Tina
underwater and events during crucial timeframe
Gary Stempler
Diver who took photograph of Tina on bottom, his wife (Dawn Osana) in the
foreground and dive instructor, Wade Singleton swimming towards Tina
Brendan Campbell
Australia's lead prosecutor for Watson case, accepted plea deal
Tony Moynihan
DPP attorney, agrees with plea deal
Cameron Dick
Queensland Attorney General, appealing light sentence for Watson
Walter Sofronoff
Queensland Solicitor General made the arguments for Cameron Dick at
sentencing appeal
Lawrence Springborg
Justice spokesman supports appeal of sentence
John-Paul Langbroek
Australia attorney opposing Watson sentence appeal
Peter Lyons
Brisbane Supreme Court judge sentenced Watson to 4-1/2 years
to be suspended after serving 11 months
Anna Bligh
DPP Premier, decision to boost budget to $21 million, sighting
Watson case as one of the reasons
Sgt. Glenn Lawrence
Australia law enforcement, conducted Gabe's interview
Kevin Gehringer
Australia law enforcement, detective conducted Gabe's interview
Constable Murdoch
Australian law enforcement, knowledge of tests on Gabe's
equipment and involvement with re-enactment
Donna Koch
Senior Constable Australian law enforcement, conducted tests on
Tina's equipment
David Glasgow
Australia's Coroner, who determined Gabe Watson should
stand trial
John Tate
Queensland crown attorney who presented prosecution evidence in
Colonial Inquest into Tina's death
Gary Campbell
Australia sergeant detective gave testimony at Coroner's Inquest
Professor Williams
Pathologist who performed Tina's autopsy
Brad Flynn
Alabama law enforcement, worked the case in the U.S. in
cooperation with Australian law enforcement
Steve Zillman
Gabe Watson's attorney who represented him at Coroner's
Inquest in 2008
Martin Burns
Gabe Watson's attorney who represented him at sentencing appeal
hearing in July 2009
 Eric Langley
Attorney for Old Republic, travel insurance company Gabe Watson
tried to sue.
Bob Austin w/
Bohanon & Belt
Gabe Watson's attorneys who represented him in travel insurance
against Old Republic


News Stories

9/18/09 - Brisbane Times - Honeymoon Killer Gabe Watson 'in US Kill Plot'
            Life insurance for Tina worth $160K. Alabama is starting investigation and waiting for documents from Australia.  Queensland authorities had previously discussed U.S. takeover of case.

9/18/09 -
Brisbane Times -No justice for Tina
            Alabama authorities state they will arrest Watson upon return to U.S. They claim they have evidence that Watson went to Tina's employer and tried to up her insurance before they were married without her knowledge. Contains lots of still pics of Tina and links to other stories.

- news.com.au  Honeymoon Killer Gabe Watson Gets extra six months in jail.  
              Outcome of sentencing appeal (to increase sentence).  Watson's original sentence of 4-1/2 years remains intact, but his time in jail will be extended from 12 months to 18 months.

8/18/09 - couriermail.com.au - Dive victim Tina Watson's family warns on plea deals

Alabama Attorney General, Troy King says he will seek the death penalty.

Queensland Solicitor General (SG) calls for seven year sentence for Watson.  SG Argued that Tina was offered orientation dive, but turned it down due to Watson's rescue certification and his taking responsibility for her.  SG argued that in none of the versions of Watsons story did he ever say that he panicked.  Watson's attorney argues that the fact that Watson went to the surface for help was evidence that he panicked and should be sentenced on the basis that he panicked and should have done more. [to save Tina].
Alabama AG files legal brief and believes Australia needs to hear Alabama's perspective on the case. Brief is 5 pages and sites other Australian manslaughter cases with higher sentences.
Hearing date for appeal for stronger sentence set for 7/17/09.  Watson attorneys response due date is 7/15/09.
Queensland attorney general will appeal Watons' manslaughter sentence for more punitive sentence.  Tina's father claims the plea deal was essentially made before Watson left for Australia to face charges.
Paramedic Uzi Barnai fought for 40 minutes trying to revive Tina. Describes Watson's behavior. Reports that Tina had air in her tank, her equipment was working and that her regulator was in her mouth. Report states eyewitness, Dr. Stutz was 20 meters away.
6/12/09 - Couriermail.com.au - Honeymoon Gabe Watson's Trial "too costly"
Tina's father claims plea deal struck because it would be too costly.  Claims he learned 2 days before the plea that a plea deal had been struck. At a meeting the prosecutor admitted to Tina's family, that information on how to structure a manslaughter plea before Watson's voluntary return to Australia was discussed with Watson's attorneys.  Video interview of Tina's father stating the meeting with prosecutor was not pleasant.  Claims prosecutor had already made up his mind to accept the plea before speaking to Tina's family.  Contains link to 15 pictures, including close-up of Tina on the bottom. 
6/8/09 - Brisbane Times - Why was Newlywed Left to Die?
Article claims that Watson had rescued another diver some years before.  Statement attributed to Crown prosecutor Brendan Campbell. Outlines Watson's attorney's arguments for lenient sentencing based on: 1) Evidence consisted of Watson's own statements; 2) Watson not responsible for delay; 3) Watson had to endure intense publicity; 4) Watson cooperated and returned to Australia; 5) time served in an Australian jail would be harder without family;
6/7/09 - Sydney Morning Herald - Dive Killer Faces U.S. Jail
Alabama Assistant Attorney General says they can demonstrate that Watson went to Tina's job before they were married to try and increase her life insurance without her. 
Prosecutor asking for 18 months to be served for manslaughter.  Watson attorney wants Watson to serve 16 months.
[NOTE] Sentence to be served was reduced to 12 months with one month served
Watson pleads guilty to manslaughter.  Prosecutor says "He virtually extinguished any chance of her survival."  And "Watson had failed in his duty as her dive buddy by not giving her emergency oxygen.. Watson also allowed Tina to sink to the ocean floor without making any serious attempt to retrieve her, and that he did not inflate her buoyancy vest or remove weights from her belt." 
Watson told police Tina had knocked his mask off and then had sank too quickly for him to retrieve her. But the crown rejected this explanation, saying it would not have been possible for her to sink rapidly. 
[NOTE] In the Original Sentencing Remarks, the judge accepted Watson's explanation that Watson's mask had been knocked off of his face.
Interview with Tiina's father; video of wedding
Watson returns to Brisbane, Australia to face trial.  Watson's attorney says Watson should not have been charged and wants to clear his name. For 5 years Watson has refused to return to Australia to face trial.  Tina's father claims Watson's voluntary return was a total surprise.  Australia prosecutor states that his return avoids complex and lengthy extradition process. 
Short video clips of wedding, still photos, Watson's statement to police, police re-enactment of bear-hug (to show how Watson may have turned off her air), Tina's father's statement regarding panic and Tina's sense of self-rescue, Watson family makes statement that Watson returned to Australia to clear his name.
Funeral director tells Tina's father that the Watson's instructed him that if he or his family says anything bad about Gabe Watson, they will be removed. Two days before funeral Gabe's father demands Tina's jeep and all her belongings. In 2004 Tina's family discovers plan Gabe had to move Tina to an unmarked grave.  Tina's family is prohibited by law from placing a headstone on Tina's grave and her grave remains unmarked .  Vandalism of Tina's grave goes on for one year before sureillance is set-up to catch Gabe as the perpetrator.
IN an unexpected budget adjustment, the Queensland Government has announced it will boost the funding for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) by $21million.. the extra funds would also better equip the ODPP to prosecute large, major cases, presumably a reference to, among others, the Dr Patel, Gordon Nuttall and Gabe Watson dive death actions.
[NOTE] Worldwide economic crash occurs three months later.
 Descriptions of Gabe Watson's controlling behavior. Tina's sister describes Gabe throwing pizza at Tina in anger in public. Watson placed Tina's engagement ring in a bag, placed it on the TV and ordered Tina not to look at it for six months. Watson is living in the house he inhereted from Tina. Tina's father claims that Watson did try to collect on Tina's life insurance, but was not named as the beneficiary and that Watson had instructed Tina to increase her life insurance and name him as the beneficiary.  Another motive was given at inquest hearing, that Watson was jealous of a relationship Tina had.  Link to video interview with Tina's father and sister, shows some footage of renactment.
In dismissing his insurance claim case, Watson's attorney sites Australian investigation which caused Watson to "reasonably apprehend that he risks self-incrimination in this case."  Watson's attorney added that Watson would not be voluntarily returning to Australia.
1/31/08 - Townsville Bulletin - Haunted Memory
Report of Dr. Stutz' testimony, the eyewitness who saw Watson in a bear-hug with Tina. Dr. Stutz was being certified for advanced diver, he is an emergency room doctor.  Dr. Stutz describes Tina as thrashing about oddly [perhaps supports theory of spasm due to oxygen deprevation, see 11/23/07 Couriermail story].  Stutz emphasizes that Tina being face-up is an unusual position for a diver and that she looked very scared, her arms out to her side like a crucifix. He thought Watson was going to help her as he was on top of her with his arms around her for about 30 seconds.  Then the divers split and saw Watson head to the surface.  He wanted to help, but his dive instructor made him stay with the group. He saw Singleton go after Tina and retrieve her from the bottom.  He saw vomit coming from Tina's mouth and her eyes were open. He felt at that time she was not savable.
1/30/08 - Townsville Bulletin - Strange Behavior
Days after Tina drowned, Watson told Tina's family on the phone, 'if the Australian authorities ever want me back (in Townsville), they will have to drag me kicking and screaming'.   Watson promised Tina's family he would fly back with her body, but returned the day after. Watson told Tina's family that he and Tina had discussed what each of them would want for their funerals on the plane ride to Australia. Tina's family was not permitted to have anything to do with Tina's funeral arrangements. Tina's family never heard from Watson again. 
1/26/08 - Townsville Bulletin - Scuba Dive Panic
Tina's dive instructor (Cleckler) testifies that Tina said "you don't understand.. I don't have any choice. My boyfriend will kill me if I don't get certified."  Cleckler also stated that Tina was "probably the most panicked diver I have worked with." She panicked during training and bolted to the surface from 6 meters.  He remembers thinking this girl should not be out there. Tina's best friend gives testimony of Watson's conflicting stories of what he told Tina's family and what he told the police. She also testified that Watson had picked-up his computer from the dive store and said that he was told he had put the batteries in backwards and the problem had been fixed. Tina teased Watson about it while they were packing for their trip. She also testified that Gabe had told her a month before the wedding that for an extra $10, Tina could have a million-dollar life insurance policy. Tina's father testifies that Watson had instructed Tina to up her insurance and make him the beneficiary. Tina's father told Tina to wait until she got back from the honeymoon.
1/25/08 - Townsville Bulletin - Caught on Film
Detective Flynn's account of video-taping Gabe Watson removing flowers from Tina's grave with
bolt-cutter; Watson addresses this behavior in deposition in his law suit against three named
insurance companies to collect insurance for Tina's death; report of testimony of Gabe Watson's dive instructor regarding Gabe's rescue dive training.
Link to full video of Watson removing flowers from Tina's grave: News videos - Caught on Film
1/24/08 - Townsville Bulletin - Fatal Dive Evidence Disputed
Summary of testimony from divers on the Spoilsport with Watson, Kenneth Snyder and Dr. Douglas Milsap. These divers challenged Watson to his face the day of the incident saying "..that didn't happen." Primarily over Watson's assertion that Tina was too heavy to hang onto.  Paula Snyder testified that Watson told her "she was looking at him and that he really hoped she didn't think he was leaving her there to die."  Constable Koch examined Tina's equipment and testified that it was in very good working order.
1/22/08 - Townsville Bulletin - Final Words
Townsville police officer, Sgt. Glenn Lawrence testifies at inquest regarding overhearing Watson talking to Tina as she laid in the morgue 2 days after her death.  He claims Watson said "I'm so sorry, I never meant to hurt you.  I shouldn't have kept taking you down.  I'm sorry.  I couldn't stop." Sgt. Lawrence points out inconsistency in Watson's statement "if Mr Watson was moving slower than his bubbles [Watson statement] he would have made a controlled ascent. Mr Watson had claimed he `probably never swam so fast' [Watson statement].  Lawrence also stated that Watson claimed he made physical contact with another diver, but they could not find any diver to confirm.
12/17/07 - The Australian - Police Want to End Plea Bargaining
Australian police prosecutors want to end plea bargaining by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) "to end the culture of backroom deals between lawyers at the expense of victims and their families.." concerned about "..hundreds of hours of preparation and investigative work by officers in a range of other cases that is being traded away in sleazy backroom deals.”
[NOTE] Watson's plea deal was negotiated with the DPP.
11/29/07 - Townsville Bulletin - Husband Claimed Insurance
Watson filed insurance claim (travel insurance) three months after death of Tina.  Claim was for $75,000+.  Claim was for interruption of honeymoon, mental anguish, expense of loss of dives, medical and transportation expenses & punitive damages. Watson gave deposition in the case as to what happened. Insurance company challenged Watson on some elements of his case.
11/28/07 - Townsville Bulletin - The Hug of Death
Police re-enactment of theory that Watson turned Tina's air off is presented at inquest based on testimony of eyewitness, Dr. Stutz.  Dr. Stutz, an emergency room physician saw Tina Watson in considerable distress before seeing a diver surround her in a "bear-hug." He described Tina under him facing up, Watson on top of her facing downward. Tina's arms were stretched outward, Watson's arms encircling her.  When the two divers separated, Tina's body is limp, she did not swim, Dr. Stutz did not see any bubbles. Constable Murdoch testifies that it took Watson 2 minutes and 30 seconds to reach the surface and that a safe rate of ascent would have been one minute and 18 seconds.  Murdoch mentions perfect visibility. Murdoch talks about all the things Watson said was going through his mind to save Tina, but he didn't do them. 
11/23/07 - couriermail.com.au - Diver Haunted by His Bride's Death on Reef
Report regarding testimony at inquest.  Unknown witness claims Watson was playing cards in the salon on the Spoilsport and said "As you know, my wife died today.  This really sucks."  It was also testified to that Tina had air in her tank, equipment was in working order and her regulator was in her mouth.  Starved of oxygen, she would have gone into hypoxia and spams. Witnesses claimed Watson said "I've lost my wife."  Singleton's description of her lying on her back "staring up at the fish" and realizing that there were no bubbles - is a second indication that the regulator was in Tina's mouth.  Dawn Osana is the diver in the foreground of the photograph. Watson was offered free airfare, meals, hotel to attend inquest, did not go.
11/23/07 - Townsville Bulletin - Air Tank Turned Off - Court
Hypothesis that Watson turned off Tina's air is presented to the court. "She was held to that person's chest with her breathing apparatus pressed to his chest, preventing her from spitting out her regulator as usually happens when a diver is deprived of air." [This may be the explanation of why Tina was found to have the regulator in her mouth, rather than spitting it out due to overexertion and panic].  Pathologist, Prof. Williams did find air in Tina's lungs, but could not find any medical reason to explain her drowning.  Prof. Williams testified that Tina had gas embolism that he believed was due to the rescue and resuscitation efforts.
11/20/07 - Townsville Bulletin - Death Dive
Watson will not travel to Australia to testify at the coroner's inquest, but will give testimony via video link or telephone.  Sgt. Detective Gary Campbell presented evidence at Coroner's Inquest, stating that Watson had given multiple reasons for not rescuing his wife, including ear problems, her sinking too fast and not knowing what to do to rescue her on the bottom.  Stated it only took Wade Singleton half the time at twice the distance to retrieve Tina.  Said there were contradictory medical statements about his ear problems.  Gavin Docking of the Spoilsport gave testimony that the Watsons' had received a briefing about the currents.
[NOTE: Watson did not testify at inquest.]
4/26/07 - The Australian - Sinister Twist to Death on the Reef
 FBI and Australian police execute search warrant on Watson's residence seizing computers and other materials.  Life insurance of up to $1 million at-issue.  Watson's attorney claims Watson has been undergoing therapy to deal with Tina's loss. Tina's family talks about a phone conversation with Watson hours after Tina's death. "He told us in that conversation that she was looking at him and she winked at him, and he had to make a split second decision to either go to the top for help or look after her. He was with her at 40 feet (12m) but he said he left her to go for help because she was descending. I said to him then, 'That's OK, she knew you were going for help'." 

Sentencing Remarks - June 5, 2009

These sentencing remarks can also be accessed as a PDF file at Sentencing Remarks - Queensland Judgments - Supreme Court Library

However, these remarks will only be made available until September 5, 2009 and then will be removed the Queensland's Supreme Court Library, so I am posting it in full here.


(P Lyons J)

HIS HONOUR: Stand up, please, Mr Watson. You stand convicted on your plea of guilty of the offence of manslaughter causing the death of your wife. The offence occurred when you had both been diving in the vicinity of the historical shipwreck Yongala some 48 nautical miles east of Townsville.

The deceased experienced difficulties during the dive. You made some attempts to assist her but these were unsuccessful. In the course of this, your face mask and deregulator were dislodged. However, you were able to replace your face mask and to get an alternative oxygen supply from what is referred to as a "safe second". When this happened, you could see that the deceased was sinking but you formed the view that there was nothing you could do and you swam away with a view to getting assistance.

There are circumstances beyond those I have just described which are relevant to determining your sentence. You were clearly a far more experienced diver than the deceased was. The deceased had what is called an open-water certification, which I understand to be a basic diving qualification and which she had attained some months previously. The dive at the Yongala was a significant challenge for a diver of the level of experience and competence of the deceased. On the other hand, you were a diver with substantial experience, although it is pointed out that much of your experience was not in open waters where significant currents could be encountered. You had a number of qualifications, including a rescue diver certificate which you had obtained some four and a half years before these events.

The dive was carried out using the buddy system. As your wife's buddy for the dive, you took responsibility for providing her with assistance if she encountered difficulty. The Crown alleges against you that you failed to carry out your duty to her in a number of significant ways. I accept that you failed to do so in the following respects: you failed to ensure that when the deceased had encountered difficulties she had a supply of oxygen available to her, and, in particular, you failed to share your oxygen supply with her; having released the deceased to recover your face mask and oxygen supply, you did not then take hold of her again or stay with her, or follow her as she sank; you did not attempt at any time to inflate her buoyancy control device or remove the weights which divers often carry to assist them to descend. It follows from these matters, that you failed to make any reasonable attempt to take the deceased to the surface. I therefore accept that you are guilty of a very serious departure from the standard of care which was incumbent upon you with the result that your conduct is deserving of criminal

An offence such as manslaughter which involves the loss of a human life is obviously a very serious matter. The deceased was 26 years old. You were recently married. She had every reason to look forward to a long and happy life. Her death is also a great tragedy for her family. I have read the victim impact statements. They demonstrate that she and her family were very close and that she was very close to her friend. They demonstrate how deeply her loss is felt by all of them. Her family, obviously and naturally, take a very serious view of your conduct and that, not surprisingly, appears in their statements. However, there is much in those statements from which I do not gain assistance in determining your sentence.

I propose to say something about the course of proceedings which have led to today's hearing. The events which led to the charge against you occurred in October 2003. You were interviewed by the police on that day and on some occasions subsequently. A coronial inquest was conducted in late 2007 and in 2008 resulting in your being committed in June 2008 and a warrant then issuing for your arrest. An indictment charging you with murder was presented on the 28th of November 2008.

You have voluntarily returned from the United States and have surrendered yourself into custody in Australia. In my view, it is quite significant that at the time of your return you did not know that the Crown would not persist in charging you with murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. You no doubt expected that you would be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a substantial period
in what for you is a foreign country. You have, in fact, acknowledged that you are guilty of manslaughter. You do not seek to pretend that your actions were other than what they were. In doing so, you have spared the deceased's family the agony of a trial.

While in the context of the loss of the deceased's life it may not be of great significance, it must also be recognised that you have saved the community the expense of conducting a trial. I regard your conduct as a recognition by you of your wrongdoing and an expression of remorse. I am conscious that you have no criminal history. There is, naturally, no suggestion of a risk of reoffending.

You have provided a number of references from people who appear to be quite reputable and to know you well. They confirm that you are of good character. They also reveal that you are a person who is known to help others and that you loved your wife and were devastated by her loss.

I have referred to the delay in the prosecution of the case against you. It is plainly considerable delay. When there is delay in the prosecution of a criminal charge, a major consideration which often works in reduction of the sentence is the fact that rehabilitation may have occurred in the period since the offence. That is not a relevant consideration in this case. However, you have carried the burden of these events for a substantial period. That is a matter to which I am prepared to give weight. I consider that that burden has been increased by the very extensive publicity which these events have occasioned. That is demonstrated, to some extent, by the obvious presence of a significant number of representatives of the media in the court today. I also accept that in that period you have been subject to accusations of matters of which you are not guilty.

In addition to the admission constituted by your plea, I accept that you cooperated with the police at an early stage and that, generally, the essential matters relied on now for acceptance of a plea of manslaughter were communicated by you to the police in about October of 2003. In fact, a significant number of them appear in the statement you gave to the police on that day, including your certification as a rescue diver, the fact that you and the deceased were on this dive diving as dive buddies, and the circumstances in which you left the deceased.

There have been, in some of your statements, some inconsistencies and some attempts to put blame on other people. There does not seem to be any persistence in your attempt to put blame on anyone else and I accept that the responsibility for this loss is yours alone. The
inconsistencies and those attempts, to me, while they do not speak particularly well of you, should be looked at in the circumstances in which they occurred. That is, they occurred shortly after the dive and at a time when you, no doubt, were deeply upset by the events which have occurred.

I have been referred to a number of authorities. I do not propose to refer to all of them. There is always a difficulty in finding authorities which are strongly analogous to the circumstances of a particular case in which a sentence is to be given. I do, however, note the submissions made by your Counsel in relation to the case of Pesnak [2000] QCA 245. That was a case where the accused had a significant period of
time, a matter of days, in which to identify the worsening condition of the person who ultimately died.

Your case is quite different. The precise time is unclear,but it can only have been of the order of two minutes from the time that the deceased first started to encounter difficulties until you surfaced, and the time within which you made your initial decision to leave her was obviously significantly less. I suspect that once you had made that decision and decided to go to seek other assistance, there would have been difficulty in reversing your decision and turning back again to try to assist her. I accept, nevertheless, that there is a very serious departure in your case from the requirements of the duty of care which you had undertaken in the course of this dive.

The seriousness of the matter, notwithstanding the factors which I take into account in mitigation, means that it is necessary to impose a penalty which provides for a substantial period of imprisonment. I therefore propose to impose a head sentence of four and a half years.

Because of the mitigating factors which I have identified and because I accept that for you in Australia time in prison will be harder than it will be for people who serve a sentence of imprisonment in their own country, I intend to fix a suspension date a little earlier than might otherwise have been the case.

Accordingly, I order that you be imprisoned for a period of four and a half years. I declare that the period of 23 days from the 13th of May 2009 until the 5th of June 2009 be deemed time already served under the sentence.

I order that the term of imprisonment be suspended after a period of 12 months' imprisonment which will take into account that 23 day period.

I am required to inform you that you must not commit another offence punishable by imprisonment within a period of four and a half years to avoid being dealt with for the suspended term of imprisonment. For the avoidance of any doubt, I order that a conviction be recorded.

Sentencing Appeal - Sep 18, 2009 - Part 1

The following sentencing appeal was published on the Supreme Court of Queensland's web site at: http://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2009/QCA09-279.pdf, however these documents are removed after a period of time.  Here is the contents of the sentencing appeal:

R v Watson; ex parte A-G (Qld) [2009] QCA 279
R v WATSON, David Gabriel (respondent) EX PARTE ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF QUEENSLAND (appellant)
CA No 153 of 2009 SC No 438 of 2009
Court of Appeal
Sentence Appeal by A-G (Qld)
Supreme Court at Brisbane
18 September 2009
17 July 2009
Chief Justice and Muir and Chesterman JJA Separate reasons for judgment of each member of the Court, the Chief Justice and Chesterman JA concurring as to the orders made, Muir JA dissenting
1. Appeal allowed.
2. The sentence of four and a half years imprisonment suspended after 12 months for an operational period of four years is set aside.
3. The respondent is to be imprisoned for four and a half years, suspended after 18 months for an operational period of four and a half years.
4. The declaration as to time already served (23 days, from 13 May 2009 to 5 June 2009) is to remain in place.
CRIMINAL LAW – APPEAL AND NEW TRIAL – APPEAL AGAINST SENTENCE – APPEALS BY THE CROWN – where the respondent was convicted on own plea of guilty of manslaughter on the basis of criminal negligence pursuant to s 290 of the Criminal Code – where the respondent was sentenced at first instance to four and a half years imprisonment suspended after 12 months – whether the sentence imposed was so inadequate as to warrant the court’s intervention
Criminal Code 1899 (Qld) s 290, s 669A
House v The King (1936) 55 CLR 499; [1936] HCA 40, cited R v Chard ex parte A-G (Qld) [2004] QCA 372, distinguishedR v Cramp (Unreported, Supreme Court of Queensland, White J, 30 January 2008), distinguished R v Johnson ex parte A-G (Qld) [2007] QCA 76, distinguished R v KU & Ors; ex parte A-G (Qld) (2008) 181 A Crim R 58; [2008] QCA 20, considered R v KU and Ors; ex parte A-G (Qld) [2008] QCA 154, considered R v Lacey; ex parte A-G (Qld) [2009] QCA 274, approved R v Pesnak & Anor (2000) 112 A Crim R 410; [2000] QCA 245, distinguished R v Streatfield (1991) 53 A Crim R 320, considered R v Tientjes ex parte A-G [1999] QCA 480, distinguished
W Sofronoff QC SG, with E Wilson, for the appellant M J Burns SC, with P Morreau, for the respondent
Crown Law for the appellant Roberts Nehmer McKee for the respondent
[1] CHIEF JUSTICE: The Honourable the Attorney-General appeals, under s 669A(1) of the Criminal Code, against a sentence of four and a half years imprisonment, suspended after one year (for an operational period of four and a half years) imposed in the trial division of this court on 5 June 2009, upon the respondent’s plea of guilty to manslaughter. The respondent had been charged that on 22 October 2003 at the Yongala shipwreck near Townsville he murdered Christina Mae Watson. The Crown Prosecutor informed the learned primary Judge that the Crown accepted the plea to manslaughter in full discharge of the indictment.
[2] At the time of the offence, the respondent was 26 years old. He had no prior criminal history. He was 32 years old when sentenced.



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Sentencing Appeal - Sep 18, 2009 - Part 2

[49] I would order:
1. that the appeal be allowed;
2. that the sentence of four and a half years imprisonment suspended after 12 months for an operational period of four years be set aside;
3. that the respondent be imprisoned for four and a half years, suspended after 18 months for an operational period of four and a half years; and
4. that the declaration as to time already served (23 days, from 13 May 2009 to 5 June 2009) remain in place.
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