Former lawyer Michael Spensley convicted, discharged after failed suicide pact with wife

Spensley was sentenced on Friday.
Spensley was sentenced on Friday. Photo credit: Getty.

A former lawyer has been convicted and discharged after he admitted entering into a suicide pact with his wife. 

Michael Spensley, 85, didn't die, but his wife of 23 years, Elaine Spensley, did pass away.  

It was on April 5, 2018, that the Palmerston North couple wrote a number of handwritten notes to police, the Coroner and their family outlining their intentions to end their lives.

Spensley also left a letter outside their neighbour's home, with the intention of police finding them before their families. 

Under the Crimes Act, if two people are party to a suicide pact, and one survives, they are liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years.

Judge Geoff Rea of the Napier District Court said: "the fact Mr Spensely survived, does not change the fact that he was supposed to die as well".

However, Elaine Smith's daughter, Sue Smith, told the court she never thought her mother would take her own life. 

"We all love and cherish our mother. We had no idea our mother was contemplating suicice, and her death is beyond belief."

She says it was not a "bungled suicide" but something that was carefully planned. 

"This was not a romantic notion of two elderly lovers who died together. Only one person died that day."

Following the sentencing, Cam Robertson, Michael's lawyer, released a statement saying the ordeal had been "profoundly distressing to both families".

"Police investigated this matter very thoroughly in consultation with their legal team. The charge laid is the correct one, the inherent irony is that had the defendant died, the law would not have been broken.

"As mentioned, the police investigation was thorough and no evidence of foul play detected. This was an elderly couple who made a decision to die together and one was not successful.

"There is nothing sinister here, it is just very sad for all concerned."

The police also released a statement recognising the work of the investigative team involved.

"This was a challenging case for the investigation team and I would like to recognise the work of everyone involved in achieving the outcome today," detective senior sergeant Craig Sheridan said.

"I would also like to acknowledge the family of Elaine Spensely.

"Their strength as a family and commitment to honouring their mother, grandmother and great grandmother has been resolute."

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