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American husband jailed for death of bride on honeymoon

An American salesman was sentenced to more than four years in jail on Friday after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of his new bride while scuba-diving during their honeymoon on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

world Updated: Jun 05, 2009 13:13 IST

An American salesman was sentenced to more than four years in jail on Friday after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of his new bride while scuba-diving during their honeymoon on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Bubble-wrap salesman David Gabriel Watson, known as Gabe, had been charged with murdering his wife Christina, 26, in October 2003, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge in court in Brisbane on Friday, avoiding a murder trial.

Justice Peter Lyons sentenced Watson to four-and-a-half years in jail, suspended after 12 months.

Watson, 32, was on honeymoon with his new wife when she drowned during a diving trip at a shipwreck off the city of Townsville, 11 days after their wedding in the United States.

An instructor found novice diver Christina lying on the bottom of the ocean after the experienced Gabe, who was trained in rescuing panicked divers, had surfaced. She never regained consciousness.

An inquest into her death heard earlier that a fellow diver saw Gabe Watson bear-hugging his wife underwater before he re-surfaced while she sank to the ocean floor.

In mid-2008, coroner David Glasgow found it was likely Watson killed his wife by holding her underwater and turning off her air supply. He was charged with murder last June.

Prosecutor Brendan Campbell told the court on Friday he had accepted the manslaughter plea on the basis that Watson had failed in his duty as her dive partner by failing to give her emergency oxygen when she needed it.

Watson allowed Tina to sink to the ocean floor without making any serious attempt to rescue her and also failed to inflate her buoyancy vest or remove weights from her belt to allow her to surface, Campbell said.

"He virtually extinguished any chance of her survival," he told the court.

Watson told police his new wife had knocked his mask off and then sank too quickly for him to save her. Prosecutors rejected that argument, saying it would not have been possible for her to sink so rapidly.

Watson, who has since remarried, voluntarily returned to Australia last month to face the murder charge.

Tina's father Tommy Thomas, her sister Alanda and friend Amanda Phillips travelled from their native Alabama to attend the court hearing.