BRISBANE, Australia – Australian prosecutors said Thursday they will appeal for stronger punishment for an American man who was sentenced to serve one year in prison for manslaughter in the death of his wife during a honeymoon scuba diving trip.
David Gabriel Watson, of Birmingham, Alabama, was sentenced earlier this month to serve one year of a four-and-a-half year sentence for the 2003 death of his wife during a trip to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
He was to stand trial in the Queensland state Supreme Court for murder, which carried a potential sentence of life in prison, until the prosecution accepted the guilty plea to the lesser charge.
"I have formed the view that this sentence is manifestly inadequate and the state will therefore lodge an appeal against the sentence in the Queensland Court of Appeal," Queensland Attorney General Cameron Dick told state parliament Thursday.
Christina Mae Watson, married just 11 days, drowned while diving with her husband on the Great Barrier Reef. Her body was found on the ocean floor.
Coroner David Glasgow formally charged Watson with murder last June. Glasgow said it was likely Watson killed his wife by holding her underwater and turning off her air supply. The coroner said a possible motive was her modest life insurance policy.
Prosecutors said the manslaughter plea was accepted on the basis that the 32-year-old Watson — trained to rescue panicked divers — failed in his duty as her dive buddy by not giving her emergency oxygen. They said Watson allowed his wife to sink to the ocean floor without attempting to retrieve her, and he did not inflate her buoyancy vest or remove weights from her belt.
Watson, an experienced diver, had said in videotaped police interviews that 26-year-old Christina, a novice diver, started having trouble a few minutes into their dive. He said he decided to go for help rather than attempt a rescue himself.
A fellow diver told Glasgow's inquest last year he saw Watson engaged in an underwater "bear hug" with his petite wife, after which he headed to the surface while she sank to the ocean floor.
Watson told police his wife knocked his mask off and then sank too quickly for him to retrieve her.