‘Honeymoon Killer’ released from jail
Honeymoon killer Gabe Watson has been released from a jail west of Brisbane.
Watson on Thursday completed an 18-month prison term for the manslaughter of his wife Tina, who drowned during a honeymoon scuba dive in north Queensland in 2003.
The US national was released from the Borallon Correctional Facility at 6.30am (AEST) and handed over into the custody of six immigration officials.
The former bubble-wrap salesman was whisked away from a waiting media pack in a dark-coloured Tarago with tinted windows.
He laid down in the car to avoid pictures and covered his face with a towel.
The car was escorted by two police motorbikes.
He is expected to be taken to an interstate detention facility.
The Australian government is seeking an assurance from the US federal authorities that Watson will not face the death penalty if tried and convicted in Alabama before deporting him.
Alabama Attorney-General Troy King assured Queensland authorities earlier this year that Watson would not face the death penalty if convicted.
Head of the Alabama Attorney-General’s violent crime division, Don Valeska, says that guarantee remains.
“If the grand jury charged him (Watson) it cannot be for a capital execution offence,” he told ABC Radio on Thursday.
“No-one can change that position, not the judge, not the governor of Alabama, not the president.”
Mr Valeska says he is happy to speak to Australian authorities about the matter.
“But I don’t know how much more you can make something that is 100 per cent certain (more) certain.”
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said a report in The Australian newspaper saying Australian officials had asked Watson to sign his own “death warrant” – a statement acknowledging he may be executed on returning to the US – was “outrageous”.
The immigration department had advised Watson of the possible consequences if he returned to the US voluntarily, Mr McClelland said.
On the basis of that advice, he had decided not to voluntarily return to the US and would not be deported until Australia had an assurance he would not face the death penalty, he said.
“I think that story, how it’s been framed, and the imputations made against officers of the (immigration) department was really quite outrageous,” Mr McClelland told ABC Radio on Thursday.
“They acted entirely appropriately, always ensuring that the relevant person was properly informed of the law in circumstances where one would ordinarily think that the advice would have been provided by his private legal practitioner.”