Cops, Cases and Clues: Newlywed's Scuba Diving Death

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," May 26, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight, welcome to a special edition of "On the Record: Cops, Cases and Clues." Now, for the entire hour, we will sink our teeth into some of the most intriguing and mysterious cases out there.

First, the strange diving death of newlywed Tina Watson. On October 11, 2003, 26-year-old Tina married Gabe Watson. The newlyweds were from Alabama, headed to Australia for their honeymoon. On October 22, 2003, just 11 days after the wedding, the couple went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. And suddenly, Tina died during the dive.

Watch Greta's interview

Now, you can see Tina at the bottom of the ocean in this photo. Now, how exactly did Tina die during a scuba dive? An especially disturbing question considering her husband is an accredited rescue diver. Authorities in Australia are now investigating Tina's death. So far, equipment failure and a medical condition have been ruled out as possible causes of her death.

Now, to top things off, Tina's husband, Gabe, was suing the travel insurance company after it refused to pay off the cost of his trip. But Gabe just dropped that suit because he says it risks self-incrimination.

Joining us on the phone is Sergeant Brad Flynn from the Helena Police Department. Sergeant Flynn is the lead American investigator on the case.

Sergeant, tell me, what happened? Tell me what you know.

SGT. BRAD FLYNN, HELENA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, about four-and-a- half years ago, we were contacted by the Queensland Police Service. They were requesting some assistance Stateside in reference to this -- this death. They had -- they had a cause of death. They had -- they just didn't have a manner of death as far as exactly how she died. They knew exactly what led to it. And from that point, we started working in conjunction with them, assisted by the FBI, and interviewed over 60 witnesses from around the world.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where was her husband when she died?

FLYNN: He was on -- he was on the surface, we do know that, while resuscitation efforts were being made. Mrs. Watson was taken to another boat about 100 yards away, and Mr. Watson was on another boat, watching the resuscitation efforts.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did she drown, or was she on drugs? I mean, what -- what do they think is the actual cause of her to die?

FLYNN: Actual cause of death has been listed as drowning. We just don't know how she drowned.

VAN SUSTEREN: And why -- I mean, wasn't she diving with other people?

FLYNN: Yes, it was a group dive. There were several dozen people on the boat with them. It was a cruise out of Townsville, and there were many people around. But from -- that's one of the big red flags we had as far as where Mr. Watson says they were diving in relation to the other divers and where her body was found just wasn't adding up.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was she an experienced diver?

FLYNN: No, she was not. She was very novice, had just obtained her basic scuba certification immediately prior to them leaving for Australia.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I take it she had sufficient oxygen for the dive?

FLYNN: Yes. The subsequent investigation found that her tank was almost completely full.

VAN SUSTEREN: No bruises on her body?

FLYNN: None that we could attribute to any suspicious circumstances other than the resuscitation efforts in getting her onto the boat.

VAN SUSTEREN: So somehow, the oxygen was -- she came off her oxygen in the water. Is that the theory?

FLYNN: That's correct. You know, something happened, and only Tina and Gabe know what happened, and unfortunately, Tina can't tell us.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has Gabe given a statement?

FLYNN: He has given two statements to the Queensland police. Both those statements have been taken into evidence. He has refused to speak from this point on. He did speak briefly with the Queensland detectives when they came to the United States last year, but since that time, there has been no further communication with him.

VAN SUSTEREN: One quick final question. Those two statements, were they consistent with each other?

FLYNN: No, they were not.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, then I've got to have a follow-up. How were they -- where was the gross inconsistency, if it was a gross inconsistency?

FLYNN: It wasn't as much of a gross inconsistency as the fact that several things were changed after the fact. He showed back up of his own request several days later, after giving his first one, started talking about the currents and how the currents were much stronger than he had anticipated, whereas on the first statement that he gave, he said that the currents were only approximately a 5 out of 10. And we later found out that he had done some research. And that was just an example of some of the inconsistencies that we have.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sergeant, thank you, sir. And good luck, sir.

FLYNN: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's bring in our legal panel for the entire hour. Former LAPD homicide detective Mark Fuhrman joins us in Spokane, Washington. Criminal defense attorney Michael Cardoza in San Francisco, in New York, former Westchester DA Jeanine Pirro and forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... And here with me in Washington, criminal defense attorneys Ted Williams and Bernie Grimm.

All right, Mark, what questions didn't I ask or should I have asked of this man investigating this death?

MARK FUHRMAN, FMR LAPD HOMICIDE DETECTIVE, FOX ANALYST: Well, Greta, you know, you did a good job in asking the questions. The one thing that stands out, though, that's been previously reported is Mr. Watson, the wife (SIC) of the victim, is a rescue diver, not just an experienced diver, a rescue diver. Yet he exhibited really kind of a shattered, panicked type of reaction to his wife struggling in the water.

Now, the other problem is, is I see the cause of death probably as panic because something was occurring to this inexperienced diver, like oxygen was either shut off or the mouthpiece was pulled from her mouth. And all you have to do is take in one gulp of water under pressure underwater, and you're already done. So he panicked. He should have actually pulled her up. He made a statement that, Well, her weight would have weighed him down. But in the water, weight is irrelevant.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dr. Baden, in conducting the autopsy, what would you be looking for specifically?

BADEN: Well, specifically, to find out, A, the cause of death, which was identified as drowning, to see if there's any preexisting natural disease that could have contributed to her losing consciousness, like heart disease or brain disease, to check with the family, was there any other incidents in the past of her fainting for any reason or other, and doing toxicology, which to make sure there were no drugs or alcohol. And then we rely upon the police to determine whether there was any mechanical failure of the equipment. And if all of those are negative, then half these cases turn out -- no reason is found for why the person drowned.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bernie, if you represent Mr. Watson and there is at least one inconsistency -- I don't know of what great moment or not -- what are you telling them?

BERNIE GRIMM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Mr. Watson -- obviously, somebody's already told him to stop talking. The problem is, he's already made two statements, which Mark Fuhrman talked about. One statement was he said his wife sank to the bottom. And two, he said he couldn't lift her up. But as Mark knows, in water, it's just complete weightlessness. It's like being on the moon. Plus, he's a rescue diver.

But Mark raised another good point. When people drown, they don't die from drowning, they actually die from panic. But there -- I did a little bit of diving to know I was in, so to speak, way over my head -- problems with the regulator, oxygen. I have a hard time breathing when I'm walking down the street, so being underwater -- I mean, there's so many things that could go wrong.

Could I ask Dr. Baden a question?

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. Go ahead.

GRIMM: Dr. Baden, this is Bernie, your good friend...

BADEN: Hi, Bernie.

GRIMM: ... But I never want to see you...


GRIMM: I never want to see you...


BADEN: ... Ask a question.

GRIMM: I never want to see you...

VAN SUSTEREN: Professionally, you mean.

GRIMM: ... While I'm laying on my back.


GRIMM: But at any rate, would nitrogen in the bloodstream be a factor at all?

BADEN: It could be, and that wouldn't be looked for. It's hard to find nitrogen -- 80 percent of what we breathe is nitrogen. So what would have to be looked for is lack of oxygen. And the problem with an autopsy, as soon as somebody dies, the white cells in the blood start eating up all the oxygen. By the time the autopsy is done or blood is removed, whatever oxygen was present has gone down below what it was at the time of death. So testing for oxygen, testing for nitrogen, doesn't help...

VAN SUSTEREN: Can I take -- can I go one step further? What -- I mean, explain the nitrogen. I'll admit that I don't understand it. Sorry.

GRIMM: Now I'm glad I pulled out of pre-med.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, go ahead. Explain that to me, Dr. Baden.

BADEN: Oh, he nitrogen is -- if -- we need 21 percent oxygen. If somehow the nitrogen increases and the oxygen goes down, the person keeps breathing, thinking that there's air coming her lungs. And gradually, she loses consciousness because there's not enough oxygen. The nitrogen isn't harmful except as it displaces...

VAN SUSTEREN: It displaces. It displaces...

BADEN: ... The oxygen.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... The oxygen.



All right, Jeanine. You're prosecuting. Are you suspicious? I mean, 11 days into a marriage doesn't -- I mean, you usually don't get motives that fast. You've got 30 seconds to tell us whether you're suspicious.

JEANINE PIRRO, FORMER WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY, DA: OK, I'll tell you why. Apparently, he's changed his version of what happened about 16 times. His wife -- his wife, his bride, is telling people that, If I don't do this course, he's going to kill me. I don't know what that's about. Number three, he ends up suing the travel insurance company, saying, I want to be reimbursed for the cost of my trip because my wife died.

Number four, his statements are not consistent. And number five, what you've got is someone who is saying, I'm not going to continue with the lawsuit because I'm going to incriminate myself. And number six is, I'm not going back to Australia to testify at the coroner's event because I don't want to incriminate myself. Hello?

VAN SUSTEREN: The lesson to be learned is don't scuba dive in New York harbor while Jeanine is the DA because, apparently, she's suspicious.


VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, we're going to have Ted and Michael (INAUDIBLE) with us, as well. We have a lot more, panel. Stand by.

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