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    Tina Watson Death - Part 5 - Police Investigations and Pool Re-enactment

    Click here for the previous part of this article.


    Comment: The one thing that has struck me in nearly each and every investigation of a scuba diving accident by Police is that the Police conducting the interviews with people involved in the incident are totally unsuited to the task or just plain incompetent. I believe that this incident is really not that different. In many cases, the Police officers asking the questions are not even qualified divers. If they are qualified divers, then invariably they are very inexperienced.

    In February 2011 I was personally involved in a dive where a friend died. The Police officer who investigated was the first officer on the scene. He was a relatively junior officer with no knowledge of diving. However, to his credit, he showed the statement made by the deceased diver's buddy to an officer who was an instructor and another who was an ex-Navy diver. He then asked the buddy to clarify the statement. It was then quite complete as far as I am concerned.

    Even if the investigations are done by Police divers, unless they are also very experienced recreational divers, they generally do not understand how dives are conducted by recreational divers. It must be remembered that Police divers work under very regulated conditions, with surface backups and very strict workplace rules. In NSW, Police divers are not even permitted to dive to depths that I regularly dive to and certainly do not use equipment used by some technical divers (mixed gases and rebreathers). I will show some evidence later that shows how poor the investigation was and how lacking in diving knowledge were all the Police, even the Police divers.

    When the boat arrived back at Townsville, Police boarded the boat. Senior Constable Glen Lawrence and Senior Constable Paul Campbell attended from the Townsville Water Police. Lawrence took charge of the inquiry. They impounded Tina and Gabe's equipment. I had thought that Gabe's equipment was also impounded and then returned to him within a day or two while his computer was retained. However, I do not think any of his gear apart from the computer was seized as I can find no receipts for the seizure (whereas there are ones for Tina's gear and the computers). It may be that they gave it back after the interview. Of importance, his transmitter was not impounded and it seems that the Police did not even know it existed. They also checked Spoilsport's papers were in order and all required equipment was being carried.

    A brief interview was conducted with Gabe by Senior Constable Lawrence. He recorded this in his notebook [amazingly, this was an old alphabetic address book and not a proper serial numbered Police notebook]. He noted that Gabe appeared to be in shock [as one would expect]. The passengers and crew were transported to Townsville Police station.

    An initial interview was conducted with Gabe Watson later in the evening of 22 October 2003, by Detective Senior Constable Kevin Gehringer. This interview was consistent with other stories he told, although there was a major difference which would lead to the second interview. Paula Snyder was present during this interview. After the interview, a statement was prepared based on the interview.

    Gabe phoned his father David Watson from the Police station and Paula Snyder was present during it. She reported that that he also spoke to his mother. When speaking to her he made a claim that he had hurt his ears, the first apparent mention of this. Gabe asked his father to contact Tommy Thomas and inform him of Tina's death. It seems to me that Gabe did this so he did not have to speak to Mr Thomas in person.

    It appears that as Gabe was leaving the Police station there was a heated discussion between him and Campbell. This was about at least some of the dive equipment, probably only Gabe's dive computer. Campbell issued a duplicate receipt and Gabe was apparently satisfied.

    Most of the passengers and crew of the Spoilsport were interviewed that evening by Police. These went on till quite late. The Police doing the interviews appear to have been pulled in from various roles and some were even Probationary Constables. It also seems that some did not seem intent on spending much time getting every possible detail that might later prove pertinent/useful. For example, the volunteer deckhand Louise Johnstone said that she gave her statement at about 2 or 3 am and "it was more the policemen really didn't give me much time" and her statement was not full and complete. However, Louise made her own notes later. In addition, the statements made by some couples are so similar that they are almost identical. It does not seem they were produced independently.

    I am also certain that a number of important witnesses were not even interviewed on this first night and it would be years before some were interviewed. This is contrary to claims made by the Police. It is said that all the passengers from Jazz II were interviewed, this is known to be incorrect as some were staying on Magnetic Island and probably did not come back to Townsville. For example, Barton Painter was not interviewed till 26 October 2003, Alana McMahon till 30 October 2003, Robert Webster, a key witness, was first interviewed in April 2005 [pg 604] and Tina Graves not interviewed till 2006 [pg 1010] and Kasper Brodersen was never interviewed and only provided emailed answers to some questions in April and May 2005 and may have given an email statement in November 2007, two days before the Coroner's Inquest began [38].

    The Adrenalin commercial divers do not appear to have been interviewed till late 2004. Paula Snyder, a key witness to all that happened after Gabe was back on Spoilsport, was not interviewed till 21 April 2007, 3.5 years after the incident. However, she did write in her diary a day or two later about what happened that day. This does not include anything about Ken and Doug's alleged confrontation with Gabe. Note that in 2012 Gabe told me he does not remember them saying "that's bullshit Gabe" to him at all.

    COMMENT: Later I will detail some research into memories of witnesses and people involved in traumatic events which shows that memories fall off greatly after even a few days.


    In what was a fairly callous decision, Mike Ball Expeditions at first refused to organise any accommodation for Gabe. This is despite him already paying over AUS$7,000 for two people for a dive trip which they were obviously not going to use. Gabe at one time asked if he could sleep the night on Spoilsport [which appears to have drawn some adverse comments from the Police but I consider this quite reasonable considering it was late in the night and he had nowhere else to sleep]. However, Mike Ball Expeditions changed their mind and organised and paid for a room in the Townsville Holiday Inn. The Holiday Inn was later to state that they understood Mike Ball Expeditions were going to pay for three nights accommodation but they only paid for one and refused to pay for the other two nights!!

    Here Gabe shared a room with Craig Stephen, the Mike Ball Operations Manager, who had flown down from Cairns. Around midnight Gabe told him what had happened and it was a similar story to what he had told others prior to this.


    Gabe had his ears examined by Dr John Downie (one of the Spoilsport passengers) on the evening of 22 October 2003, presumably at the Townsville Police station. He found no apparent damage but said Gabe should see a doctor. On 25 October 2003 Gabe consulted Dr Kerry Gillespie, a GP [pg 295], about his ears. She advised that he had mild barotrauma and his ear drums were red. She may have told him that he had "acute" barotrauma. He revisited on 30 October 2003 and she advised him that his ear drums were now a normal colour.

    COMMENT: Note that while most people think that "acute" when used as a medical term means severe, it actually means "rapid onset". This is relevant for later events.


    Tommy Thomas was by now aware of Tina's death and on his way back to Birmingham (he was away for work). He did not know where Gabe was and was unable to contact him. After he got home, on the evening of 22 October 2003 (Alabama time) he got through to Gabe in his hotel room. During this phone call, Tommy, Cindy and their other daughter, Alanda, were all on the phone using different handsets at the same time. Their memories of the call vary. However, most of what was recalled about Gabe's story of what had happened are similar, although not everyone recalled all the story.

    Mr Thomas in a statement dated 27 April 2007 recalled that Gabe said he was "ripping off his gear" as he ascended and this was also recorded by Alanda in her statement [it seems that Cindy did not make a statement which seems strange since her recollection would also confirm what was said]. Mr Thomas also said that Gabe told Cindy that he held Tina and called to her while they tried to revive her. Alanda says that Gabe stated "he was by her side the whole time".

    The one main difference between Alanda and Tommy's memories of the conversation is that Alanda said Gabe said Tina indicated to go back or up to the line while Tommy said that he said to go up.


    Mike Ball Expeditions arranged for a counsellor, Candia Bruce, to come and have a one hour session with Gabe at 1 pm on 23 October 2003. This was all they were willing to pay for. Mike Ball Expeditions sent an off duty employee over later to spend the rest of the afternoon and night with Gabe [that was all their impression] but he left before dinner.

    Candia Bruce came by later to check on Gabe and found him alone. She was not being paid, but her and her husband Greg took Gabe out for dinner. Greg ended up staying the night with Gabe. They watched some of the Rugby World Cup which was on in Australia at the time.

    The following day Candia took Gabe to see a lawyer to get some papers witnessed. It is possible that Greg stayed two nights with Gabe as his mother, Glenda, arrived on Friday 25 October 2003. I think that Candia was going to be a defence witness at the Alabama trial.


    At sometime, someone from the Dive Site (the dive shop where Tina and Gabe learnt to dive - an SSI facility), phoned Col McKenzie, the owner of SSI Australia, General Manager of Dive Queensland, and the Executive Officer of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators and told him that Tina should not have been allowed to dive without a guide. It would appear that on Monday 27 October 2003 McKenzie told this to Stan Kielbaska, General Manager of Mike Ball Expeditions .

    Some time after this (I presume), Doug Milsap spoke to Kielbaska and told him:

  • crew did a great job of rescue and resuscitation
  • best dive briefing he had ever heard
  • crew did not give any moral support to Gabe
  • he was left on the back deck in his wetsuit till Ginger and Paula assisted him
  • biggest insult was the dive master came in and made Gabe sign dive log [not sure this is true as the copy I have is not signed by Gabe]
  • An important thing about this is that it appears Milsap never mentioned anything at all about his confrontation with Gabe or his views about Gabe's story.


    A Post Mortem examination of Tina was carried out by Professor David Williams at the Townsville Hospital at noon on 23 October 2003. The results of the Post Mortem can be summarised as follows:

  • Tina was 174 cm tall and weighed 63 kg
  • there were some abrasions on the lower limbs consistent with the rescue
  • there was evidence of "attended resuscitation"
  • small amounts of blood stained fluid was visible at each nostril
  • her internal organs were normal
  • she had gas in her blood vessels in various parts of the body
  • no obvious abnormalities in the heart
  • the lungs showed moderate pulmony oedema (fluid)
  • radiology showed "florid evidence of air embolism"
  • a CT scan done later also showed "a large volume of air ... within all intracerebral [brain] arteries"
  • it also showed air within the arteries in the neck and most other parts of the body
  • the lungs were quite a bit heavier than would be normal at 630 grams (right) and 520 grams (left)
  • no alcohol in her blood
  • some slight traces of drugs such as ibuprofen, diphenhydramine and paracetamol - consistent with painkillers and sea sickness tablets
  • the evidence of air embolism appeared to be a complication of the rescue - that is when Wade Singleton quickly bought Tina to the surface
  • Tina drowned
  • he was unable to say why she drowned
  • he believed that it was possible she was deprived of oxygen prior to drowning
  • At the 2012 Alabama trial, Prof Williams continually stated that Tina drowned.


    On 24 October 2003, Gabe and his mother, Glenda Watson (who had flown over from the US after Tina died), went to the Townsville Morgue for a viewing of Tina's body. This was probably also to formally identify Tina, although I know that Gabe also identified Tina's body to the Police when on the boat. [I have attended such a viewing for our friend Carol when she died while scuba diving in Sydney in February 2011. It is a bit like you see in TV shows].

    Accompanying them were DSC Gehringer and SC Lawrence. They stayed in the waiting room while Gabe and his mother entered the viewing room. After a short while, Glenda came out and left Gabe alone with Tina. Lawrence was out of sight of Gabe but close to the door which was left open. He would later tell the inquest:

    I overheard Gabe say in a - in a low mumbled voice, "I am so sorry." There was a slight pause. "I never meant to hurt you." There was another slight pause. "I shouldn't have kept taking you down." There was another slight pause, "I'm sorry, I couldn't stop it." That was the end of the - end of what I heard.

    Somehow this seems to have been construed as being sinister when I certainly take it to be an apology for stuffing up his reaction to Tina's panicking. You are unlikely to admit to murdering someone when Police are outside an open door are you?


    A second interview was conducted with Gabe Watson on 27 October 2003 by Detective Senior Constable Kevin Gehringer (who did the 22 October interview) and Senior Constable Glen Lawrence (who did the initial questioning earlier on 22 October 2003). This was done at the request of Gabe (not the Police) as he wanted to clarify some things in the first interview done on 22 October 2003.

    The main one appears to be that he wanted to clear up that he meant 25 to 30 feet instead of 25 to 30 yards that was recorded on 22 October 2003 as how far he and Tina went from the DAP. At the inquest it was made to sound like the interview was really done so that Lawrence could clarify matters, but it was only held because Gabe asked for it.

    As mentioned above, the knowledge of scuba diving held by these two officers appears to me to be low and the record of interview is so poor as to be laughable if it were not for the fact it was such a serious matter. DSC Gehringer is not a diver. Senior Constable Lawrence was a diver, holding an Advanced Open Water certificate. During the interview he seemed to show knowledge of diving, but I believe that it certainly was not of the calibre that a chief investigating officer should have. This interview was five days after Tina died. Gabe's mother was with him. Some comments:

  • the interview was videoed and I have now watched two parts of it (I do not have access to the other two parts)
  • virtually no questions were asked by the Police in the first quarter of the interview
  • there were no real questions about Gabe's experience or Tina's experience, no questions about where they had dived before, the conditions there - this would have shown his real experience level and that also of Tina
  • Gabe's claim that there was a "pretty much severe current" compared to the dive boat crew's comment that it was "perfect conditions" went unquestioned
  • in the transcript Gabe's statements appear to be verbose ramblings which at times made no sense at all. However, watching the video they do not appear to be ramblings and appear quite well enunciated thoughts.
  • some of the things Gabe said were not clarified or questioned
  • no questioning about how the computer could beep if the battery was in back to front
  • no understanding that Gabe was referring to the transmitter (when it is extremely clear that this is what he meant)
  • no clarifying if it was the computer or the transmitter that had the battery in back to front - this is now very important as it is clear to me that this is what Gabe meant
  • many of the questions were by DSC Kevin Gehringer and appear to me to show a total lack of understanding of scuba diving
  • there are so many errors in the transcript and sections where UI (presumably standing for Unintelligible) has been placed by the person who has typed the transcript from the tape recording. The UI bits have not been corrected when a simple reading by an experienced diver can correct or fill in some things - I certainly picked up what was really said in a couple of places without even listening to the tape
  • one bad error is at 19:20:00 in the interview Gabe actually says "we were just going to descend to a certain depth" but the transcript says "we were just going to the centre of certain death" - a huge difference in meaning
  • there are other errors, for example, using the term Natrox instead of Nitrox [higher percentage of oxygen in tank]
  • the above three points are important as Police investigators would have only ever referred to the transcript
  • Comment: As mentioned above, there has been some research into memories of witnesses and people involved about traumatic events. Professor Geoffrey Alpert from the College of Arts and Sciences, Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of South Carolina, has carred out some of this research. In December 2010 he ran a pilot where they observed some simulated Police attendence at mass shootings. The Police officers who were involved were broken up into two groups.

    Group A was asked to provide a report about what happened immediately after the event. They scored an average of 7.5 (out of 14) on an evaluation of their recall of what happened. The scores ranged from 4 to 12. They were again asked about what had happened three days later. Their average improved to 7.8 with a range of 4 to 13.

    Group B was not asked about what happened till three days after the event. They averaged only 6.8, with a low of 2 and a high of 10. For both groups, the threat variables (the shooter, the type of gun) scorred much higher than the environmental variables (weather, layout of the location). This was 4.4 to 3.3.

    Therefore, it is probable that Gabe's second interview was more accurate than the first, but that people who were not interviewed immediately after the death were not as accurate in their recall as others.


    On 1 November 2003 Gabe and his mother Glenda flew home. Tina's body was on the plane with them. They were to travel Townsville, Brisbane, Auckland, LA, Atlanta and then Birmingham.

    When descending into Auckand, New Zealand, Gabe claimed that he had severe ear pain. He was taken from the plane by ambulance to Auckland City Hospital. Here, Dr David Scott examined him. Gabe told him that he had been diagnosed by Dr Gillespie in Townsville with "severe barotrauma". Remember, he had been told he had acute barotrauma, which every single person I have asked has thought meant "severe barotrauma". Dr Scott reported that while he had evidence of old damage, all tests showed that his ears were now okay.

    The implication from this event is that Gabe faked this episode so that he did not have to arrive back in Alabama with Tina and so meet Tina's father at the airport. This may or may not be the case, but it certainly did not help Gabe's case for innocence. It also was used to imply that Gabe was lying about the extent of his ear damage but Police do not seem to see that to most people, acute equals severe.


    The funeral was held on 5 November 2003 at the Southern Heritage Funeral Home, Oak Mountain. There were a lot of problems in organising is this as the Thomas and Watson families had opposing views about a lot of things. On 26 October 2003 Tommy Thomas met with David Watson to discuss the funeral. Tommy wanted to purchase four plots, one for Tina, one for Gabe and two for he and Cindy. David said it would be up to Gabe. Tommy said in a statement "Cindy and I didn't have a lot to say to him after that".

    The following day Cindy and Tommy attempted to make arrangements for the funeral but were told that the Watsons had already contacted them.

    Tina arrived back in Birmingham on Sunday 2 November 2003. A viewing was held for the family and very close friends (presumably this was only the Thomas family) that afternoon.

    At 11 am on Monday 3 November 2003 members of both families met at the funeral home. Present was Tommy, Cindy and Alanda Thomas, Cindy's niece Krissie and Cindy's brother Gene. Gabe, David and Glenda Watson were also there. For more details about what happened there, at least from the Thomas point of view, see Tommy's 2007 statement.

    The following day there was a lot of conflict between the families. Again, from the Thomas's point of view this is detailed in Tommy's statement. A viewing was held that afternoon for family and friends.

    The funeral was held on Wednesday 5 November 2003. Before the funeral started some of the closest friends viewed Tina's body. One was Amanda Phillips who went up with Gabe. At the trial in 2012, Amanda would claim that Gabe said something like "at least her breasts are perky". This claim was never included in her earlier statement or at the Coroner's Inquest.

    Gabe also put an envelope in the casket with Tina and took off her wedding and engagement rings. He put the wedding ring back on Tina's finger. He may also have taken off Tina's ear-rings and later given these to Tommy.

    The funeral went off without any further conflict, although some claim that Gabe was not present when Tina was buried. After the funeral, a "wake" was held at the Watsons. Gabe showed video of the honeymoon and photos. Some adverse comments were made by Tina's friends about the content of the video and some photos which showed signs in Australia warning of dangerous animals [all visitors do this from my experience].


    As can be expected, Tina's dive gear had to be examined to make sure that it was not the cause of the accident.

    Dive Equipment

    Tina's ComputerTina's Computer
    Tina's dive gear (apart from the tank)Tina's tank clearly showing it is a 10.3 litre

    Tina's equipment was passed from the Townsville Water Police to the Police Diving Squad at Lytton, Brisbane. Here it was given to Senior Constable Donna Netting (later Koch). She received it on 6 November 2003. According to her report dated 10 September 2004 the equipment was:

  • a Sea Hornet 63 cubic foot aluminium tank, serial number SF9682 - it had been last tested in February 2003 [it was not actually a 63 cubic foot tank, it was an 80 cubic foot - a big difference]
  • an Atomic Aquatics CE 0515 first stage regulator serial number FGB379
  • an Atomic Aquatics (?) second stage regulator serial number A28281
  • an Oceanic second stage regulator with integrated BCD inflator serial number 012A2914 [these are commonly called "Air 2" although that is a brand name]
  • a black "Oceanic Is a" BCD size x small [presumably x small means extra small - this is actually an Oceanic Isla model - note that Tina's receipt for the purchase of her dive equipment says it was a small and the manual used by Police as evidence shows small as the smallest size - I only found this out in May 2012]
  • two integrated weight pockets
  • a total of 20 lbs of weights as follows:
  • 2 x 3lbs in each pocket
  • 1 x 3lb in each back pocket of the BCD
  • 1 x 1lb in each back pocket of the BCD
  • an Oceanic contents gauge, analogue depth and compass with a space for a dive computer in the console
  • The following things were noted about the equipment. The tank:

  • it had 2,200 psi remaining [it may have been filled to 3,200 psi - this is what it was before the first dive. It would have been filled to at least 3,000 psi which is a bit less than full]
  • the tank had a small amount of pitting and corrosion inside
  • a test on 4 December 2003 showed oxygen was a little low at 20.7% rather than 20.9%
  • carbon dioxide was a bit high at 0.06% (600 ppm) - should be less than 0.048% (480 ppm) according to the Queensland code of conduct [also a breach of Queensland law]
  • the water content at 50 milligram per cubic metre which is highish
  • this probably led to the corrosion and the higher carbon dioxide reading and lower oxygen reading
  • despite this, the oxygen and water readings are basically irrelevant
  • The rest of the gear was reported to be in excellent condition

    Dive Computers

    There were three dive computers impounded. These were Tina's Oceanic Versa computer serial number 103817, Gabe's Oceanic DataTrans Plus computer serial number Y01390107 and Wade Singleton's Uwatec Aladin Ultra serial number unknown. Unfortunately, no-one seems to have realised that Gabe had a tank transmitter and the relevance of this fact.

    On 29 October 2003 these were given to Christopher Coxon, Principal Workplace and Safety Inspector, Queensland Department of Industrial Relations. At that time he did not appear to have had any qualifications relating to dive computers other than being a dive instructor and former manager of a dive shop. His knowledge of computers, in my opinion, appears to have been incomplete to be able to undertake the work entrusted to him. The following is the result of his investigations. The following information comes from Coxon's statement to the Police and his appearance at the inquest.

    Tina's Oceanic Versa

    This computer was a more basic computer than some that were around in the early 2000s. As such, the dive log data cannot be downloaded to a personal computer as it is incapable of this function. On 29 October 2003 Coxon manually retrieved information from the computer using the log book function.

  • manual checking of its dive log function showed that the last dive had started at 7:28 and went to a maximum of 89 feet (Coxon said this was 30.97 metres) for 10 minutes [note that 89 feet is actually 27.1 metres]
  • [this starting time can be explained by the fact that the internal time and date had not been set correctly - I presume that the date was correct]
  • [alternatively it is possible that the time was actually 7:28 pm with a date of 21 October - this would be approximately the time in Birmingham, Alabama, at the start of the dive]
  • the ascent rate for this dive showed that it ascended at the maximum recordable rate which is when the computer shows all 5 segments of the warning system
  • the "Too Fast" graphic was flashing
  • there was no other dive recorded the same day nor any dive that could be interpreted as being the first dive of the day
  • the maximum depth of any dive before the last dive was only 30 feet
  • on at least two other dives all 5 segments of the ascent warning system and the Too Fast graphic appeared [indicating to me panic and a rapid ascent]
  • Tina's ComputerTina's Computer
    A photo of Tina's computer for the fatal dive
    showing depth and time
    I think this is Adam White's record of the last two dives on Tina's computer
    Click to enlarge

    Gabe's Oceanic DataTrans Plus

    This was a more sophisticated computer, but of a lot older design. It seems to have originated in the early to mid 1990s. As such, it suffered from the lack of memory that most computers of that era had. For example, my Uwatec Aladin Air-X which came out in 1993 (I purchased it in early 1994) only kept a maximum of 200 minutes of detailed dive data in memory. However, it did record the information every 20 seconds.

    The DataTrans Plus worked totally differently in that it recorded details once the computer reached four feet and then every time it passed through 10 feet (and 20 and 30 etc). It also appears to only have recorded this as a minute, even though it may have been 20 or 40 or 50 seconds into that minute. For example, if you went through 30 feet at 2 minutes 40 seconds it would be recorded as 2 minutes as would 40 feet if you went through it at 2 minutes 55 seconds. It also seems that if you pass through a 10 foot level twice in the same minute it may only record this as one event.

    Like my Uwatec, the DataTrans Plus not only showed the actual dive data and remaining bottom time, it showed the tank information on its screen. This was transmitted from a remote transmitter (screwed into the regulator first stage) by radio signal. Despite the claims of the manufacturer [at the Alabama trial], this signal could sometimes be lost. In addition, the data from the computer could be downloaded via a special cable and software to a personal computer.

    When the battery is removed from the computer, all the data is retained, but the internal clock resets itself back to the default date of 1 January 1996 and the time 00:00. You then need to physically set the time and date. The manual says to remove the batteries if you are not using for more than one week.

    On 12 November 2003 Coxon downloaded the data from Gabe's computer using a cable and software provided by Oceanic Australia.

  • a total of 68 dives had been conducted by the computer
  • 54 dives were recorded in memory
  • the dives were dated between 1 January 1996 and 27 May 2002
  • no dives were dated 22 October 2003 or close
  • the last dive was dated 0:13 on 1 January 1996 to a depth of 54 feet for just under 8 minutes
  • the second last dive was dated 9 January 1996 to 8 feet for less than a minute
  • a number of records of ascent rates faster than recommended safe ascent levels were recorded on the last dive
  • it appears the software was very basic and did not download a lot of information that I would have thought was available (eg air consumption - although on 30 January 2012 I discovered a printout that showed the final air pressure left in Gabe's tank)
  • Gabe's Computer
    The graph from Gabe's computer for the first dive attempt
    Note the fact that he did not go deeper than 2.5 metres, but only shown as 1 metre in the graph

    Gabe's Computer
    The table from Gabe's computer
    Note the times for each depth is just in minutes, not minutes and seconds

    Gabe's Computer
    The graph from Gabe's computer
    Note the fact that the maximum depth is 16.5 metres but the graph does not show going deeper than 15 metres
    - this shows that the graph is not 100% accurate in representing the actual dive
    Also note the ending tank air pressure near bottom right - 156.5 bar

    As mentioned, the discrepancy between dates can be explained by the fact that when batteries are removed from the computer it resets to the factory default of 1 January 1996. As mentioned in part 1, it seems to me that Gabe must have removed the battery back in Alabama. I base this on the fact that the 9 January 1996 dive was really at about 10:05 am on 22 October 2003. If this is the case, then there are 2,842.4 days between these dates and as we know that the computer resets to 00:00 1 January 1996, if we add 2,842.4 days to 00:00 1 January 1996 we get 10:09 am on 13 October 2003 (Queensland time) which would be 7:09 pm on 12 October 2003 (Alabama time). Thus Gabe took the battery out of the computer the evening after he got married and the day before he left for Australia.

    Wade's Uwatec Aladin Ultra

    On 3 November 2003 Coxon took the Uwatec to Quicksilver Diving Services at Port Douglas. Here, Hiromi Iwasaki downloaded the computer using software and a cable similar to that used for the DataTrans Plus. However, unlike the DataTrans Plus, all Uwatec computers of this age did not have a normal sort of clock that needed to be set with the time and date. Uwatec computers have an internal clock that records the number of seconds back from present to the start of a dive. The software uses the date of the personal computer and works backwards to get the right time and date for a dive. Therefore, so long as the time and date on the personal computer is correct, the time and date of the dive will appear exactly correct in the downloaded log. In addition, this computer would have recorded into memory the dive depth etc at least every 20 seconds and probably more like 4 seconds (as mine does).

  • the last dive recorded started at 10:31 on 22 October 2003
  • it went to 27.6 metres for just 10 minutes [the time shown was 9 minutes but the graph shows 10 minutes - this is accurate - the recording of time stops at 1.5 metres]
  • the Ascent alarm was shown for the entire ascent from 8.5 minutes to the surface at 10 minutes
  • the computer shows a gradual descent from 0 minutes till 8 minutes
  • Wade's Computer
    The printout from Wade Singleton's computer - It can be considered very accurate
    Note the time on the graph is exactly 10 minutes not 9 minutes as per the top section and the start time at the top left
    Note the ascent warning record bottom right of the graph, the black bar with an up arrow at far left


    Some enquiries were later carried out by Police. Some further interviews were done with passengers on Jazz II and Spoilsport. I now have evidence of this and may sometime summarise these here but at the moment I do not have the time to do this.

    It seems that Police decided at this time that this was an accident and no further action would be taken.


    Mike Ball Expeditions was prosecuted under Section 28(3) Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 for breaching their own code of conduct. This breach related to the fact that the code said for dives that are difficult for a person's level of experience, Mike Ball Expeditions was supposed make sure that the diver was accompanied on 'orientation dives' by qualified [presumably divemasters or better] divers. No orientation dive was conducted for either Tina or Gabe and they were not supervised in the water by a qualified diver [at least of divemaster level].

    In the Cairns Industrial Magistrates Court, Mike Ball Expeditions pleaded guilty on 9 May 2007 before Magistrate Suzette Coates and was fined $6,500. It seems to me that this was a pretty good result for the company, as the fine was considerably less than the fares of $7,718 paid by Tina and Gabe. It was also considerably less than fines for workplace accidents where people were only injured.

    Click here to read more about the Workplace breaches.


    It seems that Tina's parents, Tommy and Cindy Thomas, lobbied the Queensland Police, the Queensland Government and the local Alabama police that this was not an accident, but a case of pre-meditated murder. Letters were written to the Queensland Police Commissioner, Bob Atkinson, in late 2005 and early 2006 by US Congressman Spencer Bachus, US Senator Jeff Sessions and Helena Police Chief Douglas W. Jones and Det Sgt Bradford Flynn urging the commissioner to have the matter investigated as murder.

    On 10 June 2004 Detective Sgt Gary Campbell of the Townsville Criminal Investigation Branch (not to be confused with Senior Constable Paul Campbell who was involved with the 22 October 2003 workan) was assigned to "review the investigation". In reality, he seems to have been appointed to head the investigation into the "murder" of Tina Watson. He stated at the Alabama trial that he was directed from above to make this a criminal investigation rather than an accident investigation. He read all the documentation gathered so far.

    In August 2004 he got additional statements from various people who had already given statements. On 1 November 2004 he went to Melbourne to see Oceanic and here he got Adam White to review and download Tina and Gabe's dive computers. In this month he also got more additional statements. In December 2004 he gave some evidence (mostly statements) to Dr Griffiths and Prof Williams to review.

    In January and February 2005 he gathered more additional statements. In February 2005 he got Constables Egerton and Enchong to test Gabe's computer. They took it to Dr Griffiths and it was tested in the hyperbaric chamber at Townsville. This was videoed [never produced as evidence as far as I can see].

    In March 2005 he received an email from Gabe asking what was happening with the investigation. In May and June 2005 he sent emails to various people and recieved back replies. He also had some phone calls with people.

    In October 2005 he discussed the bruising to Tina's neck with Prof Williams. He said no conclusions could be drawn from the bruising.

    In January 2006 he spoke to taxi driver Steven Lawlor who drove Gabe and Tina to the Spoilsport wharf [a lot was made of the fact that Gabe and Tina did not hold hands on the trip - ever sat in a taxi with your seat belt on and tried this - too far apart!].

    On 25, 26, 28 and 29 March 2006, he took a statement from Tommy Thomas. It was not completed before Tommy left Australia. There was more work done on April and May 2006.

    On 6 June 2006 he spoke to Colin Hodgson of Dive Bell at South Townsville. It is not stated what he spoke to him about [if he was seeking his advice about diving matters, then this was a big conflict of interest as a dive shop owner in Townsville can hardly be independent].

    In late June 2006 he visited Sydney and spoke to Tina and John Graves. He took additional statements from them. On 21 June 2006 he arranged with the dive squad for a re-enactment of the dive.

    On 17 April 2007 he flew with Acting Detective Inspector Scott Knowles to the USA. He flew to Rhode Island, where they interviewed Dr Stanley Stutz. From here they flew to Birmingham, Alabama. On 23 April 2007 at 6:15 am with Special Agent Greg Gauger of the FBI, they executed a search warrant on Gabe's home. Here they seized papers, computers and more. Prior to the search, Campbell activated a recording device and recorded everything without the knowledge of Gabe. David Watson, Gabe's father, and Bob Austin, Gabe's lawyer, arrived soon after the search started. Gabe and Austin agreed to speak to the Queensland Police.

    On 24 April 2007 at Bob Austin's offices, Campbell and Knowles did an interview with Gabe. Also present was David Watson. Before the interview started, Austin sought an assurance that the interview was not being taped. Campbell confirmed he was not taping it. However, he had lied about this and he was recording it [he agreed at the Alabama trial that this is what happened]. The quality of the recording is almost useless, with minutes upon minutes of the tape not even able to be transcribed.

    On 27 April 2007 Campbell finished taking the statement from Tommy Thomas. While in Alabama, he took many other statements but also decided to not take statements from other people. It is not known what these people said and whether they had no knowledge or if they supported Gabe.

    On 15 July 2007 he produced a review statement of the investigation.

    At some time, the Queensland Coroner got involved and it was decided that there should be an inquest. The Coroner, David Robert Glasgow, ended up sending his file on the matter to the State Coroner, Michael Barnes, who closed the case. It is not known why he did this, but it could be presumed that he thought it was a simple accident and that there was no need for futher investigation. I do not know how or when it was reopened, as I have not seen any writings on this in any of the publications.


    During the investigation, the Police sought advice from some experts. The following summarises this. Most was also presented by the relevant person at the Coroner's Inquest.

    Oceanic Dive Computer Expert - Adam White
    Adam White was the Australian customer service manager for Oceanic for 15 years. On 1 November 2004 he was given Gabe's computer by Detective Sergeant Gary Campbell. White downloaded Gabe's computer to a PC and advised that Tina's could not be downloaded as it was not capable of this. He told the Inquest:

  • if the battery was in the computer backwards, then it would not operate
  • removing the battery resets the computer's internal date back to the factory preset - in this case 1 January 1996 [note I have also seen that the default was 1 January 1999 but this is incorrect]
  • the battery had been removed prior to the last 4 dives being conducted
  • if the computer did not receive a signal from the transmitter attached to the tank, it would sound an alarm [he was not provided with the transmitter to test it]
  • if the battery was in backwards in the transmitter, the computer would beep an alarm
  • Comment: I have seen other statements that imply that Tina's computer had been downloaded. This was even presented as evidence in the inquest by a Police officer. However, this is not correct and the evidence was later withdrawn.

    Queensland Workplace Health and Safety inspector - Christopher Coxon
    He made a statement and appeared at the Coroner's Inquest and said in part:

  • Gabe never went to more than 15.2 metres and was underwater for seven minutes and could have been up to eight minutes he claimed [while the download should have shown the exact time, the computer only records data in full minutes - it was probably about 7.5 minutes and the depth was actually 16.0 or 16.5 metres depending on what part of the download you believe]
  • the last dive was started at 0:13 am on 1 January 1996 and not 22 October 2003 - DIVE Z
  • the dive before this was started at 11:56 pm on 9 January 1996 and was to 1.5 metres - DIVE Y [it was actually 2.5 metres]
  • the two dives before this were dated 1 January 1996 - DIVES W and X
  • Mr Coxon could not explain how the anomaly with the 9 January date occurred
  • the dive computer showed 54 dives [before the last two dives], the form Gabe filled in for Mike Ball said 55 dives
  • the computer only showed three dives between May 2002 and October 2003, not the 12 Gabe had claimed he had done in the 12 months before October 2003
  • Comment: In my view the third last comment is so incredible that I cannot really put it into words. It is simple to figure out what happened. Prior to dive W someone either put in a new battery or removed the battery and put it back in. Then, two "dives" were done on the same day. Considering Gabe/Tina had put it in to be serviced at the Birmingham dive store, The Dive Site, as it was not working, it is almost certain that when the dive shop removed the battery and reinserted it, they did not reset the date to the correct date. I assume that this date was either 7 or 8 October 2003.

    When Tina collected it, they said Gabe had the battery in back to front. Tina collected it on Wednesday 8 October 2003. They were married on Saturday 11 October 2003 and the dive in Australia was on 22 October 2003. Therefore, the date of dive Y (the aborted dive) should have been 16 January or perhaps 17 January (taking into account the international date line) if the date had not been reset to the correct date. As mentioned above, Gabe must have removed the battery again, probably on 12 October 2003 on the evening after his wedding, again resetting the clock back to 1 January 1996.

    Thus, the first dive on 22 October 2003 was dive Y dated 9 January 1996 when Gabe only went to 1.5 metres. After he took the battery out when back on the boat, the date reset again to 1 January 1996. Thus the fatal dive was dated 1 January 1996 at 00:13 according to the computer, 13 minutes after Gabe put the battery back in.

    Note that you have to manually set the correct date and time when you remove the battery and insert a new one (or the same one). My wife's old computer is similar to this whereas my (now old) computer has no internal date or time, it just records the minutes from a dive to the present time and when you download it, the software on the PC works out the date and time.


    The Police investigation and re-enactments were carried out on the premise that the current on 22 October 2003 was from due north, that is, running parallel to the wreck from the bow to the stern. Det Sgt Campbell stated at the Inquest that only Gabe said the current was not from this direction.

    However, Gavin Docking, skipper of Spoilsport, said that it was normally from the north-west. Brian Fotheringham, the lookout during the dive, said it was 10° to the west of north. Karl Diggins from Jazz II says Wade and Tina came from his left when ascending [as this means he was facing into the current, this also means he had to be facing west as this is the only way they could have been to his left]. Dr Stutz said the same. At the Inquest, Constable Joshua Kinghorn admitted for there to be no current below the top of the wreck [as most people stated], then the current had to have been from the west or north-west.

    John Tate, counsel assisting the Coroner, claimed when questioning Constable Kevin Gehringer, that as Gabe said Tina's bubbles were hitting them in the face when descending there was no current. Gehringer agreed.

    Comment: I believe that this is incorrect. If there was a current, the DAP line would have been angled over away from the current and Tina and Gabe would be facing into the current. Thus, as Tina was lower than Gabe (probably less than a metre), any bubbles would have to hit Gabe in the face, unless the current was so strong to push them back onto his body. The evidence does not indicate that the current was that strong [from experience I would expect bubbles in a slight to moderate current to hit the face of the diver above]. Dr Stutz also commented on bubbles hitting him when descending.

    In addition, studies have shown that the memory of environmental factors applying at the time of a traumatic event tend to be recalled less accurately than what actually happened.

    Paul Crocrombe [pg 488], Manager of Adrenaline Dive, said that when he dived at 6:30 am to change mooring 901, the current was slightly across the wreck.

    Gary Stempler said that once on the wreck, it was comfortable, again implying protection from the current. Claudia Petersen said there was no current below 10 metres. Singleton said the current was very light.

    The strength was variously claimed as being slight to severe, depending on who was spoken to. To me, it appears that it was slight or moderate, perhaps 0.5 knot at the most.


    In 1967 Dr Carl Edmonds introduced to the professional diving community the concept of re-enactment of diving fatalities. It was designed for use in the Royal Australian Navy, as this was the main organization that investigated such accidents, at that time.

    The concept, which is now world-wide, is designed to address the occasional (uncommon) situation where a death has occurred but there is inadequate information to make any reasonable assessment ("diagnosis") of the cause. The concept should only be applied if an expert and complete diving and medical assessment has been performed. The Re-enactment of the Incident encompasses;

    1. A detailed and accurate knowledge of the dive plan, profile, environmental conditions and equipment that existed and led to an unexplained death.
    2. An accurate replication of the above.
    3. An "experimental diver/s" of the same stature as the victim, or very close to it. This diver must be a very experienced and perceptive one.
    4. An observer diver (possibly with video) is present, as is a rescue diver in the event of unforseen problems. Full documentation of the experiences and observations are made independently by each participant.
    5. The fatal dive is accurately repeated, but terminated prior to a catastrophic event. The purpose is to observe and then record adverse situations that had previously not been evident, and which may help to clarify the fatal incident.
    6. If more than one potential scenario was present for the fatal dive, then more than one re-enactment may be required. In this event, any findings may not represent the actual situation existing at that time of the fatality, and should only be considered as possibilities.


    The first part of the Police re-enactment of the dive was carried out by Senior Constable Joshua Kinghorn, a Police diver, in a swimming pool. He had level 2 commercial diving licence under the Australian Diver Accreditation Scheme and was also a recreational diver. Despite this, he had only completed "probably 150, 200" Police dives and a total of "probably 240, 250" dives all up. Therefore, I would not consider him to be an overly experienced diver, certainly not enough to be considered an expert.

    For some strange reason, this does not appear to have been videoed or even recorded in detail at the time it was conducted.

    Kinghorn says that he read the transcripts of Gabe's statements and interviews and determined that Gabe had said "his mask actually came from his head" [pg 515] and that he had refound his main regulator. However, Gabe DID NOT say this. He said Tina "...knocked my mask sideways" and "I grabbed hold of my safe second [octopus]".

    When Kinghorn re-enacted this in the pool, he did it by:

  • swimming along [Gabe actually said he was stopped]
  • pulling his mask off and dropping it on the pool floor [Gabe did not say it came off his head]
  • taking his regulator out
  • finding his mask on the floor
  • putting the mask back on
  • clearing the water out of the mask
  • finding his main regulator
  • putting the regulator back in his mouth
  • Kinghorn found that he could not complete all this without requiring air from another source [at least I presume this is what he was implying]. In his statement dated 13 January 2007 he says "it is physically impossible to replicate".

    Apparently much later he tried again, this time doing it when stopped in the one location. This time he did not drop the mask [I think], just taking it off, and taking out his regulator and knowing exactly where it was. He found that he could do this, but that you would have to be "highly qualified and extremely comfortable and confident in the water".

    Of course, the only problem with this re-enactment is that it was a re-enactment of some fantasy of what Gabe actually did. It was not what Gabe had said had happened. Gabe never said he was swimming along and never said he had to refind his mask and put it on, in fact he had clearly said it had not come off his head. He also clearly stated that he did not try to refind his main regulator but instead, again clearly stated he had grabbed his octopus.

    Therefore, this re-enactment, which must have given some weight to the Coroner and other Police officers' views, was not correctly done in my opinion. Its relevance should be totally discounted.

    I should add that on 26 January 2012, both I and my wife, Kelly, easily achieved on our first go the re-enactment as first attempted by Kinghorn without drowning or even getting close to running out of air. What does this say about the quality of Queensland Police divers?


    See next part.

    Click here for the next part of this article.

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