Woman (79) acquitted over husband’s pool death in Warwick

Hazel Spenceley (79) has been acquitted of manslaughter over the drowning death of her husband of 57 years, who had been talking about ending his life. Picture: The West Australian
Hazel Spenceley (79) has been acquitted of manslaughter over the drowning death of her husband of 57 years, who had been talking about ending his life. Picture: The West Australian

An elderly woman has been found not guilty of killing her despairing husband, who drowned in their Warwick pool with weights tied around his waist.

Hazel Margaret Spenceley (79) had been wed to 80-year-old Peter Spenceley for 57 years when he died in the backyard of their Perth home on December 20, 2016.

She has been on trial in the WA Supreme Court since last week, charged with manslaughter and accused of pushing him in.

Before he went into the water, Mr Spenceley was sitting at the edge of the deep end and had a bag containing two 3.1kg dumbbells tied around his midriff.

There was no suggestion his wife attached them or helped him to attach them.

Prosecutor Simon Freitag said Ms Spenceley told a paramedic and a neighbour who arrived to help that she pushed him in after he asked her to.

But defence counsel Justine Fisher argued she did not and was speaking figuratively, not literally, when she said “I pushed him”.

The jury heard there was no dispute Mr Spenceley had previously threatened suicide and had “simply had enough” of stresses surrounding one of their sons, who had drug and debt issues.

Ms Fisher said her client was distressed, confused and also not speaking literally when she said by the poolside “my f***ing son has caused this”.

Ms Fisher told the jury that if they found Ms Spenceley had pushed her husband in, that wasn’t “a substantial or significant cause of death” because the father-of-two, who had early-stage prostate cancer, may have elected to stay under the water and was able to get out, even though he wasn’t a strong swimmer.

The lawyer said Ms Spenceley did not know about the weights, which spilled out when police examined the bag.

While experts concluded the deceased had succumbed to immersion, Ms Fisher said he may also have suffered a sudden heart attack, given he had signs of heart disease.

The court was told Ms Spenceley tried to use a pole to get her husband out and ran next door to get help.

Ms Spenceley was on Tuesday acquitted after about four hours of jury deliberations and there were gasps and tears when the verdict was handed down.

Mr Spenceley died on the eve of a cruise to the islands of Indonesia, which the couple had half-packed for.

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