Mother's tears 'weren't genuine'

Last updated 17:36 10/12/2013
Helen Milner
Helen Milner in court as the jury find her guilty of her husband's murder.
Kasey Woodstock
Dean Kozanic
Kasey Woodstock gives evidence in the Christchurch High Court.

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Helen Milner told her husband's brother that Philip Nisbet was found dead slumped over the wheel of his truck and that it may have been suicide, a court has heard.

But Nisbet died in bed at the couple's Christchurch home in Checketts Ave, Halswell.

Milner, 50, is charged with the attempted murder of her husband, Philip James Nisbet, in April 2009, and his murder a month later when the Crown alleges she gave him the anti-allergy and sedative Phenergan in his evening meal, and then may have suffocated him while he lay sedated in bed.

Giving evidence this afternoon on the seventh day of the trial, Andrew Nisbet told the jury he was "very clear" about the details Milner gave him about the circumstances surrounding his brother's death when she when called him on May 4, 2009.

"They'd found Phil deceased, slumped over the wheel of his truck."

There was a possibility it was suicide, Milner allegedly told him.

Andrew Nisbet said he met with family later that day and pulled his father to one side and told him "very quietly" about suspicions his brother's death was suicide.

A suicide note given to police by Milner said her husband had discovered his son Ben Porter was not his biological son.

Philip Nisbet's family had DNA testing done, which confirmed he was the father, Andrew Nisbet said.


Helen Milner's son Gregory Kearns has testified that his mother asked him if the drug BZP could cause her husband to have an accident while driving.

Kearns, 24, this afternoon told the jury that he believed she was looking for a way to kill Nisbet.

Kearns said he told Milner that BZP probably would not cause Nisbet to have an accident.

"My knowledge of the drug was that it made you alert," he said.

He said he became aware of Nisbet's life insurance policy one or two years before his death.

"[It] was mentioned that if I was to get rid of Phil for my mother, I would get $20,000 from the life insurance policy", Kearns said.

"I just shrugged it off. I didn't take it seriously."

At the time his mother was "worked up" and "stressed as always".

Kearns said the conversations prompted him to warn Nisbet that his mother was trying to kill him, but Nisbet didn't take him seriously.

On the day Nisbet's body was found Kearns said he went to his mother's home in Halswell.

"She [Milner] was crying, but I didn't think it was genuine."

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 He tried to get a reaction out of his mother by suggesting it was selfish Nisbet had taken his own life when he had two boys.

"I had my suspicions from the start. She was giving me reasons why he might want to take his own life."

Among them was the fact he had been diagnosed with narcolepsy and feared he would lose his job.

Under cross examination Kearns admitted that his mother would often make wild exaggerations and would sometimes speak before thinking.


A group of Helen Milner's family members including her parents Anne and Murray, went to the police with concerns that she was responsible for Philip Nisbet's death.

Detective Constable Belinda Campbell told the jury that Anne and Murray Milner came to Papanui Police Station on May 13, 2009.

Helen Milner's son Adam Kearns and his partner-at-the-time Kasey Woodstock were also there.

The group reported its concern that Milner had killed Nisbet and attempted to kill him in the middle of April.

Campbell was shown text messages sent to Kearns by his mother.

She was also told by Woodstock about an incident in April and that the situation "had been stressing them out".

Woodstock said Milner told her "she would use 50 (pills) next time because 25 was not enough", Campbell said.

Nisbet's life insurance policy was also mentioned, she said.


Helen Milner offered her son and his girlfriend a share of her husband's life insurance if they found a hitman to kill him, a court has heard.

She placed a $5000 bounty on his head and said "I want him gone," Kasey Woodstock told the jury this morning.

Woodstock, who was the partner of Milner's son Adam Kearns, said the pair never took Milner's comments seriously.

"We pretty much laughed it off. We never thought it was going to happen," she said.

Milner would "hate on" her husband, Philip James Nisbet, behind his back and then be all "lovey-dovey" when around him.

The accused killer talked about her husband's $250,000 life insurance and that "she wanted it," Woodstock said.

The evidence emerged this morning during the seventh day of a trial at the High Court in Christchurch.

Milner, 50, is charged with the murder and attempted murder of her husband, Nisbet, 47.

Nisbet was found dead in bed at the couple's Checketts Ave home in Halswell on May 4, 2009.

The Crown alleges Milner drugged her husband by mixing Phenergan with his food and then may have suffocated him while he was sedated.

It says she was motivated by his $250,000 life insurance policy.

On April 15, 2009, the day Milner allegedly attempted to murder her husband, Woodstock said she visited the home. Nisbet was in bed and in "no talking state".

Kearns told her he had seen his mother taking apart some pills in the kitchen.

Two days before Nisbet's death, Woodstock said Milner asked her where the nearest chemist was that sold Phenergan.

She said she would have to use double the dose because the first time it "didn't work".

There were other people who heard the conversation, Woodstock said.

"She had no fear."

The day Nisbet's body was found, Woodstock said she and Kearns were shown an entirely hand-written suicide note. It was not the same note Milner later provided to police, she said.

Woodstock said she and Kearns knew that Milner killed Nisbet, and before his funeral they tried to pressure her into confessing what she had done.

On the morning Nisbet's body was found, Milner switched on her phone to find a suicide text sent from his phone the previous evening.

Woodstock said she found that unusual, because: "She [Milner] never ever once turned her phone off."

Earlier, Nisbet's son Zak Bell spoke of his shock at seeing a suicide note with a signature he did not recognise as his father's.

Milner showed him it shortly after her husband's funeral in May 2009.

"It didn't look like dad's writing at all," Bell told the jury.

The note said he had discovered his son Ben Porter was not his biological son and "I can't go on".

"I was very shocked. It didn't seem like something my dad would say. He was always such a happy fellah."

Bell said Milner also told him that Nisbet had recently found out he had narcolepsy, which meant he was worried he would not be able to continue in his role as a truck driver.

"He'd taken it pretty hard because it was something that he loved," she told him.

The trial continues.

- The Press

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