Honeymoons are supposed to be a fun, relaxing, time for the stressed-out bride and groom after the wedding. But it is not always the case. Sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes the supposed “accident” is no accident. And sometimes brides and grooms are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. A dozen ill-fated first class honeymooning couples were aboard the Titanic when it sank in 1912. On that fateful night, quick thinking crew members saved the life of several of the honeymooning couples, by allowing them to go out on the first lifeboat launched from the ship. For the most part, the other nine newlywed wives survived. Their husbands did not.
In 2012, Harvey Keitel starred in the movie Fatal Honeymoon. Based on the “true” story of the 2003 murder of Tina Watson by her new husband Gabe while they honeymooned in Australia, the case was a sensation, both in Australia and in the U.S. Honeymoons that turn murderous are the stuff of tabloid headlines. Sometimes the surviving spouse is fingered. Sometimes outsiders are to blame.
Here are five honeymoons that turned deadly, leaving heartbreak and grief and sometimes uncertainty in their wake.
5. Disappearance of George Smith: Unsolved
Somebody murdered George Smith. But the who and the why of it remain a mystery. What is not in doubt is that at 4:30 a.m. on July 5, 2005, George Smith disappeared, probably overboard, from the Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Brilliance of the Seas. Blood was found on the sheets in the stateroom he and his new wife Jennifer shared. And a partial bloody hand print was found at the edge of the ship, indicating that Smith had held on, probably for dear life, before plunging to almost certain death. Jennifer was found passed out in a hallway. She was later taken off the ship and questioned by Turkish officials, but the FBI (which has jurisdiction over cruise ship deaths) did not come onto the ship until two days after the murder. Officially labelled a “disappearance” the investigation has been sporadic and unsatisfactory. Smith’s family insists that he was murdered.
The family has kept the case alive, succeeding in having the investigation transferred to the FBI’s New York Bureau. In 2013, the FBI agreed to review the case. Video footage of Russian-American tourists who had partied with Smith until the wee small hours joking about his death have emerged and the men have been questioned. No arrests have been made and Smith’s death remains a mystery. There is not even a body to be buried. Jennifer has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to arrests and has openly criticized the sloppiness of the investigation. In 2006, she sued Royal Caribbean for her husband’s wrongful death.
4. Tina Watson: Husband convicted of manslaughter
Tina and Gabe met when they were both students at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. They married in 2003 and set off for a honeymoon in Australia. Tina, who had taken some diving lessons, was still a relatively inexperienced diver. Eleven days after they married, Tina drowned, the apparent victim of an accident as she was snorkeling with Gabe. Gabe’s story was that strong currents had dislodged his mask and as he struggled to right it, Tina slipped away. She was found dead on the seabed by another diver. Gabe was questioned. Tina’s friends and family were suspicious. So were the Australian police. Gabe’s stories were inconsistent and confused. He changed his story some 16 times. Australian authorities charged him with murder, reducing it to manslaughter in a plea bargaining deal, and in 2009 he was sentenced to just 4 ½ years. He was out in 18 months.
Back Stateside, the Attorney General of Alabama demanded that Gabe be extradited to Alabama and that the Australian case files be turned over. He intended to try Gabe for capital murder. The Australians refused and demanded that Alabama agree not to seek the death penalty in Watson’s case. Finally, in 2012 Gabe Watson was put on trial in Alabama for the murder of his wife. But in a shocking move, the murder case was thrown out of court for lack of evidence by an Alabama judge and Watson walked free. He has maintained his innocence, most recently on an ABC TV 20/20 interview.
3. Cody Johnson: Wife sentenced to 30 years for second degree murder
Cody Johnson’s friends didn’t like Jordan Linn Graham. Not one little bit. But in 2013, the Montana man married her anyway. Eight days after they married, Graham and Johnson were on a walk in Montana’s National Glacier Park and they got into a fight, a seemingly common occurrence in their short married life. Words were exchanged and Graham pushed Cody, sending him over a cliff to his death. Instead of reporting the death, she drove away and claimed to know nothing. It was Graham who found Cody’s body, making police suspicious from almost the very beginning of the investigation. Plus, Graham had texted friends shortly after the accident and admitted that only a week into marriage that she was unhappy. She finally confessed, but maintained that it had been an accident, and that she had pushed him in anger. Police persisted. Striking a plea bargaining deal in December of 2013, she pleaded guilty to second degree murder, as Cody’s family watched from the gallery. She was sentenced to 30 years.
2. Murder of Anni Dewani: Husband on trial in South Africa
It starts out like a Cinderella fairytale story. Shrien and Anni Dewani met through mutual friends when Anni visited the English city of Bristol. Shrien was a millionaire and the beautiful Anni had entered modeling competitions. Shrien seemed smitten. After getting his family’s permission, he proposed to her in Paris, giving her a $40,000 engagement ring. They were married in India in a traditional Hindu ceremony and then went on honeymoon in South Africa. Shrien claimed that Anni wanted to see “the real Africa”. But the fairytale became a nightmare when one night after a dinner out with her husband, Anni Dwani was shot and killed in a taxi cab. The story told by the taxi driver and Shrien was that the cab had been highjacked by gun wielding thugs who threw Shrien and the driver out and continued on with Anni. Their story fell apart and the taxi driver admitted to the murder, but later claimed that Shrien had paid him 15,000 Rand (about $1,500) to kill his wife. Back in the U.K., Shrien fought attempts by the South African authorities to extradite him and try him for Anni’s murder, claiming that he was distressed and mentally ill. He lost that battle and in April of 2014 was extradited to South Africa to stand trial.
1. Murder of Michaela Mcareavey: No convictions
Twelve days after 27 year old Michaela married her husband John in a church in Northern Ireland, she lay in a casket at the front of the church, dressed in her wedding gown. Following the December 2011 wedding, the couple had gone on a honeymoon to the balmy Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius. Everything seemed perfect at the 5 star Legends Hotel where they were staying. But on January 10, Michaela left John lounging by the pool to go back to their room. Going to look for her, he found her strangled and dead in a bath tub full of water.
The Mauritian police, unaccustomed to having to deal with a grisly murder, initially suspected John. He was questioned. When it became apparent that he was innocent, they turned their attention to two hotel employees. The story was that they had entered the room with a master key, probably looking for valuables and, when they were surprised by Michaela, strangled her from behind and stuffed her body into the bath tub. The investigation was a shambles and the men were acquitted of the murder. In 2013, calls were made for the exhumation of Michaela’s body when an English TV investigator claimed that the Mauritian authorities had erased vital hotel security tapes and that a hotel security guard’s DNA had been found on the safe in the couple’s room. The body was never exhumed. On a happier note, three years after his devastating loss, with the blessings of Michaela’s family, John found love again. And, in an effort to limit the damage, Legends Hotel has changed its name, even changed the room number where the ill fated couple stayed.