Husband 'left four suicide notes'

ACCUSED: Helen Milner listens to evidence while on trial for the murder of her husband.
ACCUSED: Helen Milner listens to evidence while on trial for the murder of her husband.

Evidence of a fourth note said to be from Philip James Nisbet at the time of his alleged suicide has emerged at the trial of his wife, who is accused of murdering him.

Noeline Miller, now of Rakaia, has known the accused, Helen Elizabeth Milner, for up to 14 years.

Milner, 50, denies charges of attempting to murder Nisbet, 47, in April 2009 and murdering him the following month by putting the anti-allergy and sedative Phenergan into his food and smothering him as he lay sedated in his bed.

The defence says his death was a suicide.

Today was the eighth day of the trial before Justice David Gendall and a jury.

She told the jury in the High Court in Christchurch today that Milner phoned her upset after Nisbet's death because she had found a card in a dresser drawer.

Miller went to see her and was shown a white card with handwriting inside.

It was addressed to "Dear Helen" or "My Dearest Helen" and finished, "I will love you forever, Phil".

The card said that "he could not keep going on like this".

The trial has heard of Milner finding a suicide note sent to her as a text message and one note that Milner gave to the police that was typed on a computer.

Family witnesses have described a third note shown to them about the time of Nisbet's funeral that was also typed on a computer but had a handwritten signature.

Miller told of Milner wearing an engagement ring when she attended her husband's 70th birthday party at the end of July 2009.

Milner said it was a friendship ring, but Miller said in evidence: "I told her I knew what an engagement ring was."

Milner told Miller that police said her husband had taken 150 Phenergan tablets before his death in May 2009.

Miller said she had visited and helped to get the house ready for relatives to stay at the time of Nisbet's funeral.

Milner told her after the funeral that she had found empty blister packs of pills "everywhere", and she had found pharmacy receipts that showed he had bought them as he travelled around as a truck driver.

Milner did not show her the receipts.

Milner told her the police said he had taken 150 pills.

In the months before Nisbet's death, she had a conversation with him and Milner about headaches and dizzy spells that Nisbet was having.

She urged him to see his doctor about them because Milner said he was worried about losing his job as a truck driver.

In another conversation, months before Nisbet's death and with him present, Milner said they were going to get DNA tests to see whether Nisbet's son Ben was his biological son.

After the death, Milner told her that finding out that Ben was not his son was the trigger for his suicide.

Miller told the court: "I really didn't think that was a big issue for him after we had talked."

A forensic accountant gave evidence that Milner was living beyond her means and had increased her indebtedness, with an increase in the mortgage on her home, in the 13 months to the end of April 2009.

She spent $97,530, when her income was about $49,000.

The accountant, Sandra James, said she found $28,000 of unexplained income, which proved to be money taken from her employer, Ground Services Ltd, for which she later admitted theft charges.

James said Nisbet was living within his means over that period, including regular payments to Inland Revenue.

Earlier the court was told 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.

Neighbour Karen Carey gave evidence today 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 Checketts Ave, Halswell, home 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 heard that Milner made a 111 call about 5.45am that day to say Nisbet was dead.

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

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

"She sort of ignored me," Carey told the court.

She said Milner had previously told her that she and 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.

Carey did not take the conversation seriously.

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

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 whether the lights were on.

Carey was adamant the lights were on at 4.20am.

"The whole house was lit up like a Christmas tree," she said.

Earlier, 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 said Nisbet 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.

The trial continues.

The Press