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One-year jail sentencefor letting wife drown

AN American man will serve just one year in jail after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of his wife, who drowned during their honeymoon scuba diving trip in Australia. Her body was found on the ocean floor.

David Gabriel Watson was to stand trial in the Queensland Supreme Court for murder of his wife of 11 days, Christina Mae Watson, which carried a potential sentence of life in prison, until the prosecution accepted the guilty plea to the lesser charge - which outraged the victim's family.

Watson, of Alabama, will serve one year of the four-and-a-half-year sentence for the death of his wife, who died in 2003 while diving off the tropical coast of Queensland state. The suspended sentence is not unusual in such crimes in Queensland.

Prosecutor Brendan Campbell told the court 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.

Campbell 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.

"He virtually extinguished any chance of her survival," Campbell said.

Outside court, Christina's father, Tommy Thomas, said his family was in disbelief over the sentence.

"I'm sure that the entire Australian nation as well as our country back home shares in the shock at what we've just seen, because it's a total injustice ... it's ludicrous," Thomas said. "We believe that Watson murdered our daughter."

Watson married Christina in a ceremony described by her friends as her dream wedding on October 11, 2003.

Eleven days later, a dive instructor found her lying on the bottom of the ocean during a weeklong Great Barrier Reef scuba diving trip. Watson told police her death was an accident.

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. Watson told police his wife knocked his mask off and then sank too quickly for him to retrieve her.


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