The 4 gestures that proved killer dad Chris Watts was lying

·News Editor
·4-min read

A body language expert has claimed there were four gestures that showed killer dad Chris Watts was hiding the truth as he pleaded for his family's safe return

In August 2018, Watts, 35, killed his pregnant wife, Shanann, at their home in Frederick, in the US state of Colorado, and put her body in his truck.

He took their two daughters, four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste, with him out to a remote worksite owned by Anadarko Petroleum — the oil company that he worked for — and dumped Shanann’s body in a shallow grave.

Chris Watts pictured with his wife, Shanann, and their two daughters.
Chris Watts with his wife, Shanann, and their two daughters. Source: CBS News

He then smothered his daughters one at a time and put their bodies inside oil storage tanks.

The disturbing case made worldwide headlines and has become the subject of a new Discovery+ documentary – Chris Watts: A Faking It Special.

The documentary honed in on some footage taken right after the family disappeared when Watts called for his family's safe return while harbouring the secret he had their blood on his hands. 

'Expression of pleasure' from Chris Watts

According to Dr Lansley, as Watts pleads for the return of his family he appears to display an "expression of pleasure".

"If you look at Watts' face in more detail with a close-up, on the left-hand side you'll see a baseline," he said.

"This is Watts' normal face during the non-emotional parts of the interview.

"But on the right, when he says, 'I just want them back', and he's talking about his children here, you see the lip corners raised; you see the eyes tighten.

"His cheeks are raised. This combination of these two muscles is an indicator of genuine pleasure."

A close up of Chris Watts on the left and on the right are the facial expressions highlighted in red that gave him away, according to a body language expert.
A body language expert has revealed the expression that proved Chris Watts was guilty. Source: Discovery+

Four gestures that gave killer away

Dr Lansley said another giveaway Watts knew more than he was letting on was his instinct to look down during his appeal for his wife and daughters to come home.

"While he's saying that, he slings out a left hand — a hand shrug — which rotates anticlockwise," he told the documentary. 

"A single hand shrug is not enough for a behavioural analyst to rely on, but when he closes his eyes for a full second, and you see a slight head shake 'no' when he's making the claim he wants them back.

"We've got a cluster of four behaviours which say there's nothing in this statement that you have confidence in, because it's not true." 

Killer's anxiety watching CCTV footage

Video captured on police bodycam also revealed the tense moment Watts was confronted with critical CCTV footage

Watts, neighbour Nate Trinastich and a police officer look over CCTV to try and determine what happened on the night Shannan and her daughters disappeared.

Watts appears fidgety and nervous as the three men watch the footage together.

The CCTV is shot from Mr Tinastich’s driveway and shows Watts parking in a different spot to where he usually parks.

The footage shows Watts backing into the driveway at 5.17am and he then appears to load items into his car.

Watts explains he normally parks outside on the street because it makes it easier “to lug everything with all the tools [he] had to bring in”.

Chris Watts is pictured here in police body camera footage with an officer in the background.
Watts (left) looked 'anxious' in police bodycam footage. Source: Netflix

Dr Langsley told the documentary it was clear Watts was feeling anxious while they watched the footage.

"We've got the swaying, we have the double-handed hand shrug, and we have a volume drop," he said.

"The swaying shows anxiety, so there's anxiety going on.

"He's making an affirmative claim that she was still here when I was here at 5.15am, but his hands are doing a partial gesture.

"That small movement of the hands, the rotation, is what we call a double-handed shrug, which is part of the full gesture 'I have no confidence in what I've just said'."

Watts later admitted he murdered his wife after he met and had an affair with another woman.

This was also the basis for the prosecution’s case against him.

He is currently serving life in prison.

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