Killer's appeal to cast doubt on drug delivery

18:20, Jul 07 2014
Helen Milner
HELEN MILNER: her offending was described as one of the most pernicious crimes by the judge.

The convicted killer dubbed the "Black Widow" will this week argue the Crown failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt how a large dose of Phenergan tablets got into her husband's system.

Helen Milner, 50, was last year found guilty of poisoning Philip James Nisbet, 47. He was found dead in bed at the couple's home in Halswell in May 2009.

Milner was also found guilty of attempting to murder Nisbet about a month earlier.

In February, she was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years - one of New Zealand's toughest jail terms for a female killer. An appeal against her conviction will be heard at the Court of Appeal in Wellington on Thursday.

The Press understands Milner's lawyer, Rupert Glover, will attack the science behind the Crown case and argue it failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt how up to 50 Phenergan tablets got into Nisbet's system. The Crown will say its case was circumstantial and it did not have to prove every element beyond reasonable doubt, only the case as a whole.

Nisbet's Australian-based siblings, Lee-Anne Cartier and Andrew Nisbet, will attend the hearing.


Cartier, 44, said Milner was "evil and manipulative" and the appeal was a waste of taxpayers' money.

"There's no way any intelligent person could quash the jury's verdict.

"She grew up in a life without consequences and now we're all paying for it.

"She [Milner] needs to be honest and admit what she's done. It [the murder] was just so calculated."

Earlier this year, Cartier rejected an offer from police that would have her reimbursed for some of the costs she incurred trying to expose what Milner did.

Her lawyer later filed a claim with police for tens of thousands of dollars, but it was yet to be resolved, she said.

Adam Kearns said he had no doubt his mother was a "sadistic" killer and it was a "joke" that she was allowed to appeal. He would attend the hearing.

"She's [Milner] dead to me," Kearns said.

Milner's boyfriend, Barry Hayton, is adamant she did not kill Nisbet. He declined to comment yesterday.

An internal police report said Milner may have got away with murder had it not been for the sleuthing of Cartier and the keen eye of a coroner.

It said detectives made basic errors during an initial investigation that concluded Nisbet committed suicide.

After a coroner found no evidence that the delivery driver intended to kill himself, police launched a homicide investigation. Milner was arrested in October 2011.

The Crown said she likely mixed the drug Phenergan with her husband's dinner and then may have suffocated him once he was sedated. She then manipulated the scene and fabricated a suicide cellphone text and suicide notes.

The jury at last year's murder trial also heard that Milner tried to kill him in a similar fashion about a month earlier. In both instances she was motivated by his $257,000 life insurance policy.

Milner's defence said Nisbet's death was suicide.

The Press