Phoebe Handsjuk was a young, active, and bright 24-year-old Australian woman who was drawn to the great outdoors since her childhood. However, her life was tragically cut short in a bizarre incident that remains one of the most puzzling mysteries in Australian history. On December 2, 2010, Handsjuk died after falling down the trash chute of her boyfriend’s apartment building. While police suspected suicide, the coroner ruled her death a “freak accident”. Nevertheless, independent experts found it “virtually impossible” for Handsjuk to have entered the chute alone, and her family continues to suspect foul play.
Who was Phoebe Handsjuk?
Phoebe Handsjuk was born on May 9, 1986, in Melbourne, Australia. She was an outdoor enthusiast and an avid climber and a martial artist. Her father Len was a psychiatrist, and she was an older sister to two brothers, Tom and Nikolai. They were a happy family living in the Richmond suburbs of Melbourne. However, Handsjuk’s teenage years were troubled, and she began experimenting with drugs and alcohol at the age of 15. She even ran away and lived with an ex-convict and his child for eight weeks. Returning home, she has been prescribed antidepressants before starting a relationship with a local teacher twice her age.
Handsjuke’s life took a new turn when she started working reception at the Linley Godfrey hair salon in South Yarra. It was here that she met Antony Hampel, a 39-year-old events promoter and one of her clients. Hampel was a handsome man, and his father was Supreme Court Judge George Hampel, while his stepmother was County Court Judge Felicity Hampel. Despite her boss Linley Godfrey’s concerns that “Phoebe was just going to shag him and flick him,” Handsjuk wound up dating Hampel for five months and moved into his apartment on St. Kilda Road in October 2009.
Over the next 14 months, Handsjuk began drinking heavily and told her psychiatrist, Joanna Young, that Hampel was verbally abusive. She left him four times in the six weeks before her death. According to Godfrey, Hampel always managed to lure her back. However, her fourth return would be her last.
The Day of Her Death
On December 2, 2010, Handsjuk and her father Len made plans to meet Hampel for dinner. In the meantime, Handsjuk was hanging around the apartment she shared with Hampel. She was captured on CCTV footage leaving the apartment at 11:44 a.m. following a fire alarm to walk her dog outside before returning to the 12th-floor residence.
From here, only Hampel has been able to explain what happened. He claimed to have arrived home shortly after 6 p.m. and was met by shards of broken glass and blood spattered across the keyboard and computer. Handsjuk was nowhere to be found, but her purse, wallet, and keys sat on the kitchen counter. There were also two used wine glasses on the table that would never be dusted for prints.
However, investigators later found Handsjuk in a pool of her own blood next to a trolley bin in the ground-floor refuse room. She had long been dead with a blood-alcohol level of 0.16 in her system, more than three times the legal limit, and one or two sleeping pills of Stillnox, a prescription sedative formally known as zolpidem, in her stomach.
The police suspected suicide, but the coroner’s report ruled her death a “freak accident.” The report stated that Handsjuk was likely in a sleepwalking state, there are several factors that don’t add up. For example, she would have had to climb into the chute feet first, which is difficult to do while in a sleepwalking state. Additionally, the chute had a trapdoor that would have required someone to hold it open while Handsjuk climbed in.
Some experts have theorized that someone may have drugged Handsjuk, causing her to become disoriented and fall into the chute. Others have pointed the finger at Hampel, suggesting that he may have played a role in her death.
Investigating Antony Hampel
Despite Hampel being the last person to see Handsjuk alive, he was never officially charged or even considered a suspect in her death. However, his behavior following her death was certainly suspicious.
For example, Hampel hired a private investigator to look into Handsjuk’s death but later fired him without explanation. Additionally, he sold his apartment just weeks after her death, which struck many as odd given that the apartment was the site of the tragic incident.
The investigation into Handsjuk’s death was further complicated by the fact that someone had deleted all of her emails and stolen one of her cell phones. It’s unclear who did this or why, but it certainly raises questions about foul play.
Years after Handsjuk’s death, new evidence came to light that further fueled suspicions of foul play. In 2017, an inquest into her death revealed that there were scratches on Hampel’s body on the night of her death. While Hampel claimed that the scratches were from a martial arts class he had attended earlier that day, the timing and location of the scratches raised eyebrows.
Furthermore, a blood-stained shirt was found in the garbage compactor along with Handsjuk’s body. DNA testing on the shirt revealed a mixture of Hampel’s and Handsjuk’s DNA, suggesting that he may have been involved in her death.
Despite this evidence, Hampel has never been charged in connection with Handsjuk’s death. The case remains unsolved to this day, and her family continues to search for answers.
Hampel went on to date 25-year-old model Baillee Schneider in 2018 — only for her to die with a gold cord wrapped around her neck mere hours after the two broke up. She was discovered at her family home in Moonee Ponds. Her death was ruled a suicide by asphyxiation, but her parents insist this is impossible.
Hampel, meanwhile, has since moved out of his apartment — and is happily married. But for the Handsjuks, moving on from their loss remains a lifelong struggle.
As Phoebe Handsjuk’s mother said, “Nothing will ever be the same for us.”
The case of Phoebe Handsjuk’s death is one of the most baffling and tragic in Australian history. While the official ruling is that her death was a freak accident, many people believe that foul play was involved.
The circumstances surrounding her death are certainly suspicious, and the behavior of her boyfriend Antony Hampel in the aftermath of her death only adds to the intrigue. While Hampel has never been officially charged, the evidence that has come to light in recent years suggests that he may have played a role in her death.
Ultimately, the case of Phoebe Handsjuk serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of domestic violence and the importance of seeking help if you’re in an abusive relationship. It also highlights the need for a thorough investigation in cases of suspicious deaths, as justice for the victim and their family can be elusive without it.
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