A doctor who sliced his wife’s neck open with a kitchen knife and pen under the belief she was choking waited three hours before calling paramedics for help, a coroner has found.
Registered sleep physician Dr Peter Spencer has been referred to prosecutors for suspected negligent manslaughter over the death of his wife Mayumi in January 2015, with Victorian Coroner Judge John Cain stating an indictable offence “may” have been committed.
Ms Spencer was found dead at her apartment in Caravel Lane, Docklands on January 17, 2015 with high levels of cocaine in her system.
Mr Spencer, her husband, told a coronial inquest into the 29-year-old’s death he attempted to resuscitate her about 4am that morning when she had a fit and began vomiting.
The court was told he believed there was a blockage in her throat and unsuccessfully attempted to perform a cricothyroidotomy – an emergency procedure to open up the airway – with a knife and a pen.
Dr Spencer then phoned emergency services at 7.38am that morning – some three hours after she allegedly started choking.
“Her temperature was taken and noted to be 33.2 degrees, which suggested that she had been deceased for a considerable amount of time,” Judge Cain stated.
“The available evidence indicates there was a significant delay between when Dr Spencer reportedly noticed that Ms Spencer required medical attention … and when he contacted emergency services.”
In his published findings, he found there was a history of family violence between the pair, including suggestions of psychological abuse and coercive, controlling behaviour.
The court was told Ms Spencer had disclosed to friends her husband had kicked her out of the house on occasions, punched, slapped and pushed her, and sent her abusive messages calling her a “piece of s**t” and a “whore”.
Judge Cain said one alleged incident involved her being injected with cocaine “against her wishes”.
“On at least one occasion, Ms Spencer advised a friend that she was scared of Dr Spencer,” he said.
Judge Cain found in 2012, Ms Spencer moved out and told her husband she wanted a divorce.
She told friends and family she could not return home as she had no money and Dr Spencer had her passport.
The pair eventually reconciled and family violence proceedings in court were withdrawn.
“On November 28, 2022, Dr Spencer provided a number of statements … (which) purport to indicate observations of the couple being happy in the 18 months leading up to the fatal incident and that Mrs Spencer reported a desire to have children,” Judge Cain said.
Judge Cain ultimately found Ms Spencer died from cocaine toxicity.
No-one has been charged over Ms Spencer’s death and Judge Cain said he could not determine if she could have been saved had emergency services been called sooner.
However, he stated an indictable offence may still have been committed.
“The indictable offence I have formed the belief to the requisite standard is negligent manslaughter due to the delays in seeking urgent medical assistance and Dr Spencer’s duty of care to Mrs Spencer upon discovering her in a state requiring urgent medical assistance,” he said.
“Accordingly … I direct that the principal registrar notify the Director of Public Prosecutions that I believe an indictable offence may have been committed in connection with Mrs Spencer’s death.”