Accused husband killer Hazel Spenceley acquitted of manslaughter

Elle FarcicThe West Australian
VideoA 79-year-old Perth mother has been found not guilty over the drowning death of her husband in their pool.

A 79-year-old woman accused of pushing her husband of 57 years into the deep end of their swimming pool after he attached weights to himself has been cleared of manslaughter.

Peter Spenceley, 80, had a bag containing two 3.1kg dumbbells tied to his waist when he died in his swimming pool in Warwick in December 2016.

Prosecutors argued Mr Spenceley’s wife, Hazel Margaret Spenceley, pushed him into the pool knowing he was suicidal, weighed down and unable to swim.

Mrs Spenceley pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, arguing she did not push her husband and was not responsible for his death.

She spent seven days on trial in the Supreme Court before a jury today cleared her of the charge.

Mrs Spenceley shut her eyes, gasped and started to cry when the verdict was handed down.

Prosecutors argued Mr Spenceley drowned in water that was about 2m deep after he was pushed, but defence lawyer Justine Fisher denied Mrs Spenceley pushed her husband.

She said Mr Spenceley could swim and Mrs Spenceley did not know he had attached weights to himself.

Ms Fisher said even if the jury found Mrs Spenceley had pushed her husband, the push was not the substantial or significant cause of his death.

She told the jury Mr Spenceley could have had an ischaemic heart attack or made the deliberate decision to stay under water.

“There were options, if the deceased man was so minded, to save himself,” Ms Fisher said.

The court was told Mr Spenceley had been talking about ending his own life for some time.

His sons gave evidence his health caused him stress and he had a lot on his mind.

Prosecutor Simon Freitag did not allege Mrs Spenceley intended for her husband to die and did not argue it was a case of assisted suicide.

He told the jury Mr Spenceley may have been suicidal but said he did not take the final step himself and the push was the substantial or significant cause of his death.

“The difference between the dry land and the water was Mrs Spenceley pushing him,” he said.

“We suggest that was the difference between life and death. Without her push he was not in the water.”

During his closing address, Mr Freitag said everyone could sympathise with Mrs Spenceley, who lost her husband in “what can only be described as a horrific and public way”.

He said the jurors might have thought it was an obvious verdict of not guilty and might have wondered why they were even having a trial.

But Mr Freitag said the law applied to all people equally, including “a nice old lady like Mrs Spenceley”.

In her police interview, Mrs Spenceley said she loved her husband dearly and did not know that he had weighed himself down.

“Pete was our world and I don’t know what I’m going to do because he looked after me so well,” she said.

Mrs Spenceley told officers that if she thought her husband was genuinely trying to “do something stupid” she never would have helped him out.

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