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Scuba diver charged in wife's underwater death

  • Story Highlights
  • Gabe Watson has been charged with 2003 death of his wife during honeymoon
  • Tina Watson died while scuba diving in Australia's Great Barrier Reef
  • Coroner unable to conclude that Watson's death was accidental
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(CNN) -- An Alabama man whose wife died during a honeymoon scuba diving trip off the coast of Australia almost five years ago has been charged in her death.

An Australian coroner ruled Friday that there was enough evidence to put Gabe Watson on trial for the death of Tina Watson, who was 26 when she drowned in October 2003 while diving around a historic shipwreck in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Watson, 31, told police that his new bride appeared to panic 45 feet underwater and that he "looked into her eyes and saw her eyes were wide open, but there was no response," Townsville Coroner David Glascow said in his inquest findings.

Glascow, however, cited what he said were inconsistencies in Watson's statements to investigators. The coroner said he was "unable to conclude that Tina's death was an accidental drowning." Video Watch Tina Watson's family demand justice »

The couple married just 11 days earlier in Birmingham, Alabama. They left their home in Hoover, Alabama, for their Australian honeymoon two days later, the coroner said.

As possible evidence for the husband's motive, Glascow pointed to a statement by the woman's father that Watson asked her to maximize her life insurance and make him the beneficiary shortly before the wedding.

The insurance company confirmed that Gabe Watson inquired about her life insurance policy after her death, the coroner said.

The coroner noted that Watson, through his lawyers, contended that police had made a judgment that he killed his wife before they began their investigation and that they tailored their investigation to fit their theory.

Glascow said he saw no evidence of police rushing to judgment.

"It appears certain that at some point in time, investigators considered some of Gabe's explanations lacked credibility, and it further appears to me that investigators gave Gabe the opportunity to clarify matters which may have caused concern," the coroner said.

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The husband was an experienced diver, and his new wife was considered a novice, the coroner said.

They were diving on the Yongala shipwreck about 42 miles off the coast of Townsville in the state of Queensland, Australia.

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