A Perth jury deliberating the fate of an elderly woman accused of killing her despairing husband by pushing him into their pool when he had weights tied around his waist has been urged to “coldly and clinically” reach their decision.
Hazel Margaret Spenceley, 79, had been wed to 80-year-old Peter Spenceley for 57 years when he died in the backyard of their Warwick home on December 20, 2016.
She has been on trial in the WA Supreme Court since last week, charged with manslaughter.
Prosecutor Simon Freitag said there was no dispute Mr Spenceley had previously threatened to suicide and was “mentally perhaps not in the best way”.
He had “simply had enough” of stresses surrounding one of their sons, who had drug and debt issues.
“But he had not taken that final step,” Mr Freitag said.
“If he had not been pushed, he might be alive today”.
Mr Spenceley was sitting at the edge of the pool’s deep end and had a bag containing two 3.1kg dumbbells tied around his midriff.
His wife told a paramedic, police and at least one neighbour who arrived to help that he had asked her to push him in, Mr Freitag said.
It was not for a swim but “so he could die”, the lawyer said.
“She also knew he couldn’t swim.”
Defence counsel Justine Fisher said Mr Spenceley was not a strong swimmer but “knew how to propel himself” around the pool.
He weighed 69kg, apparently had no mobility problems and could carry a golf bag, so would have been able to move the dumbbells if he wished to get out, Ms Fisher said.
Her client, however, who uses a cane to walk, has osteoarthritis.
“She did not push her husband,” Ms Fisher said.
“However, if you find she did … that wasn’t a substantial or significant cause of death.”
Ms Fisher suggested Mr Spenceley, who had early-stage prostate cancer, may have elected to stay under the water or suffered a sudden heart attack, given he had ischaemic heart disease.
The lawyer also said her client was confused and distressed in the moments after her husband’s death and was speaking figuratively, not literally, when she said, “I pushed him”.
The prosecutor said Spenceley regretted pushing her spouse into the pool and tried to use a pole to get him out.
“The state accepts that she probably tried to save her husband’s life,” Mr Freitag said.
He said she seemed like a good mother and a “nice old lady”, but the law had to be applied equally to “someone we have a great deal of sympathy for”.
Mr Spenceley died on the eve of a cruise to the islands of Indonesia, which the couple had half-packed for.