Tina Watson

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Christina Mae Thomas Watson (born February 13, 1977 in Germany, died October 22, 2003 near Townsville, Australia) was a former model who drowned while on her honeymoon in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Tina Thomas was the daughter of Tommy and Cindy Thomas of Helena. She met Gabe Watson while they were students at the University of Alabama. She was working as a department store manager when they were engaged. Before their October 2003 wedding she took beginning diving lessons from Craig Cleckler of Alabama Blue Water Adventures at the "Pelham Keys", a 26-acre former rock quarry in Pelham. Gabe Watson, a certified rescue diver, had planned a scuba trip in the Great Barrier Reef for their honeymoon. She earned her certification just before the wedding.

During an excursion to the site of the Yongala, a passenger ship that sank in 1911, Tina lost consciousness and sank to the bottom, 100 feet below the water's surface. Gabe Watson claimed that the currents were stronger than they expected. He said that he responded to her signal to return to the dive rope where they had submerged and to have noted a look of worry on her face before she inadvertently knocked his mask loose. When he recovered his sight, she was sinking and he surfaced to get help. She was brought up by a trip director, already unconscious, and could not be resuscitated by a doctor on board the boat.

During a 4 1/2-week inquest a coroner determined in 2008 that there was sufficient evidence of foul play to bring murder charges against Gabe Watson. Investigators for the Townsville police found inconsistencies in Watson's story and widened their investigation with the help of Sergeant Brad Flinn of the Helena Police Department. They learned that Gabe had asked Tina to increase her life insurance coverage and to make him a sole beneficiary. She had not done so, however. During the inquest, prosecutors evidence that Watson's story was implausible and contradicted the record of his actions stored in his dive computer. They suggested the possibility that Watson turned off Tina's air regulator and held her until she was unconscious, then turned the air back on and let her sink before surfacing himself. As evidence they described painstaking re-enactments of various scenarios which had been carried out by police divers to determine plausibility.

Watson is buried at Southern Heritage Cemetery in Pelham. Her remains were relocated in 2007 to a different lot purchased by Gabe Watson. After being informed by the Thomas family that flowers were repeatedly disappearing from the grave site, even when chained down, Sergeant Flinn videotaped Watson removing them with bolt cutters.

Gabe Watson, a cardboard salesman, moved into the house in Hoover that he inherited from Tina after her death. He has since remarried. On May 13, 2009, he voluntarily returned to Australia to face charges, skipping the extradition process. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, acknowledging that he failed in his responsibilities as "dive buddy" to his wife, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

References

  • Thomas-Ogle, Marienne (January 25, 2008) "Helena officer testifies he filmed husband taking flowers from wife's grave." Birmingham News
  • Thomas-Ogle, Marienne (June 16, 2008) "Coroner's trial recommendation expected this week in Alabama woman's drowning in Australia." Birmingham News
  • Murphy, Dennis (June 20, 2008) "Mystery in the Deep Blue Sea". Dateline NBC transcript
  • Celizic, Mike (June 23, 2008) "Drowned bride’s family hail homicide charge in case." TodayShow.com, accessed July 8, 2008
  • Thomas-Ogle, Marienne (October 23, 2008) "No warrant has been issued in Australian drowning death of Hoover man's wife." Birmingham News
  • "US man faces scuba murder charge" (May 13, 2009) BBC News -a ccessed May 13, 2009
  • Robinson, Carol (May 9, 2010) "Gabe Watson's family speaks 7 years after his wife, Tina Watson, drowned on Australian honeymoon." Birmingham News
  • Death of Tina Watson. (May 10, 2010). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, accessed May 10, 2010.

External links