Neighbour: Lights on before 111 call made

Last updated 12:08 11/12/2013
Helen Milner
Helen Milner in court as the jury find her guilty of her husband's murder.

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Helen Milner's house was lit up "like a Christmas tree" more than an hour before she phoned 111 and told the operator her husband was dead, a court has heard.

Milner, 50, is charged with the murder and attempted murder of her husband, Philip James Nisbet, 47, who was found dead in bed at the couple's home in Checketts Ave, Halswell on May 4, 2009.

Milner's neighbour Karen Carey gave evidence today, the eight day of Milner's trial at the High Court in Christchurch.

Carey said she thought "something was wrong" when she saw all the lights on next door while checking the bird aviary at her home in Checketts Ave, Halswell, about 4.20am on the day of Nisbet's death.

She said she always got up early because her husband went to work about 3am.

The court has previously heard that Milner made a 111 call to say her husband, Philip James Nisbet, was dead about 5.45am that day.

The Crown alleges Milner drugged her husband by mixing Phenergan, an anti-allergy and sedative, into his evening meal and then suffocated him while he was sedated in bed.

Milner was partly motivated by his $250,000 life insurance policy, the prosecution alleges.

Karen Carey said Milner told her on the day of her husband's death that she switched on the lights at her home about 5.50am to find him dead in bed.

At that time, Carey said she confronted her about seeing the lights on in the house - including the bedroom - about 4.20am.

"She [Milner] sort of ignored me," she told the court.

Carey also said that Milner had previously told her she and her son Adam Kearns were trying to think of something they could put in Nisbet's drink that would make him drive his delivery truck off a cliff without hurting anyone else. She did not take the conversation seriously.

"I said, 'don't be so stupid, no one's worth going to jail for'."

Under cross-examination, defence counsel Rupert Glover put to Carey that the curtains at Milner's home had a lining and she would not have been able to see if the lights were on.

Carey remained adamant the lights were on at 4.20am.

"The whole house was lit up like a Christmas tree," she told the court.

Earlier, Karen Carey's husband Raymond Carey, who worked with Nisbet, told the court that Nisbet's behaviour was out of character in the weeks after he was admitted to hospital on April 15, 2009. The Crown alleges Milner attempted to murder him that day by giving him Phenergan.

Nisbet emerged from hospital saying he was on medication for a virus and complained of being drowsy, Carey said.

He failed to fill out the log book in his delivery truck correctly, particularly in the days immediately before his death - an uncharacteristic mistake that could have had him disqualified from driving, Carey said.

Counsellor: Milner said husband died in his truck 

Counsellor Andrea McGregor, said Milner told her she was woken by police who said Nisbet had committed suicide.

"I was given the impression he'd died away from home in his truck."

The evidence came after Andrew Nisbet told the jury yesterday that Milner initially told him his brother was found slumped over the wheel of his truck.

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McGregor also told the jury that Milner said there was no suicide note, despite police later receiving one.

Milner also told her she could not access her husband's life insurance because a suicide clause had not expired, McGregor said. She later learned that was not true, but could not remember who told her that.

Under cross-examination, Glover said: "I don't believe you because you can't remember where you got this information from."

Many family members had confided in her with concerns about Nisbet's death. It had not affected her evidence, she told the court.

The trial continues.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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