'Suicide' note doesn't sit well, Crown says

Last updated 17:20 17/12/2013
Helen Milner
Helen Milner in court as the jury find her guilty of her husband's murder.
Helen Milner
Dean Kozanic
MURDER TRIAL: Murder-accused Helen Milner listens to evidence at the High Court in Christchurch.

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The recorded 111 call after Philip James Nisbet's death showed "the real Helen Milner," defence counsel Rupert Glover has argued in his closing address to the jury on day 12 of Milner's murder trial.

The Crown had called witnesses to say Milner showed no emotion at her husband's death, and that she had the profile of "the black widow," but the phone call was a powerful piece of evidence.

"Only an actress of the calibre of Meryl Streep could put on a performance like that," Glover told the jury in the High Court at Christchurch where Milner is on trial on charges of murder and attempted murder.

"The grief in that recorded phone call to the police is genuine."

He said defence evidence showed that the couple's marriage was not under the stress that the Crown claimed.

After her husband's death, Milner had been "sad but stoic," which was in line with her upbringing.

He dismissed the evidence given by Milner's son, Adam Kearns, about events on the day when the Crown alleged she attempted to murder her husband.

The medical evidence showed that when Kearns claimed to have seen Milner crushing up pills in the evening, the couple had already been at the hospital for some time.

"Adam's evidence here, as elsewhere, is a pack of lies," he said.

It did not add up that after making two attempts to poison her husband with Phenergan on April 15, 2009 - as the Crown alleged - Milner had then taken him to the hospital herself.

When an ambulance took him to the hospital that morning after a collapse for what Nisbet believed was an insect or spider bite, they had administered 12.5mg of liquid Phenergan, and the records showed that his vital signs then returned to normal.


The Crown has claimed the collapse was a result of the first poisoning attempt by Milner.

In making its closing address to the jury today, the Crown said an alleged suicide text message did not 'sit well' with another message he had sent the night before his death.  

Nisbet, 47, sent a text message to his son about returning a hoodie to him next day. The defence argues that hours later he took pills that ended his life and sent another text as a suicide note.

"That text and the suicide text don't sit together well," Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway said.

"They are a matter of hours apart. One is full of life and love for his son, and what's going to happen next morning, and the other is despondent, 'Can't go on'."

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 The Crown has alleged that Milner sent the "suicide" text message to herself on Nisbet's cellphone.

Stanaway said Nisbet's panic disorder appeared to be under control. His hospital visits on April 15, 2009, the month before he died, indicated he was worried about being unwell and wanted to live.

The Crown alleges Milner twice tried to kill Nisbet with Phenergan pill doses that day, and that she poisoned him with Phenergan tablets in his food on the night of his death.

It suggested that she suffocated him while he was sedated in bed. The defence says the death was a suicide.

Stanaway asked the jury to consider how and when Nisbet would have been able to write the various suicide notes. Nisbet did not have access to a computer and was not comfortable about using computers, Stanaway said.

The defence was that he committed suicide by taking pills, when there was evidence that he did not like taking pills and had difficulty swallowing.

Stanaway said there was no doubt that it was a Phenergan-related death.

"I don't suggest that you get hung up with the issue of suffocation. The Crown says that poisoning was the substantial and contributing cause of death.

It is expected that Justice David Gendall will sum up the case tomorrow morning before the jury retires to consider its verdicts.

- The Press

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