Helen Milner guilty of murdering husband

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 11:54 19/12/2013
Daniel Tobin

The brother of Philip Nisbet makes a statement on behalf of his family after Helen Milner guilty verdict.

Helen Milner
DEAN KOZANIC Zoom
Helen Milner in court as the jury find her guilty of her husband's murder.

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A jury has convicted Helen Milner of murder and attempted murder, four and a half years after the death of her husband.

It rejected the defence claim that the May 2009 death of Philip James Nisbet, 47, was an act of suicide.

Milner, 50, reacted calmly when the jury announced its verdicts after deliberating for six and a half hours since yesterday morning. It found Milner not guilty on one charge of attempted murder.

Family in the High Court in Christchruch reacted with hugs, tears and cries of "Yes" as the guilty verdicts were announced.

Outside court Milner's son's ex partner Kasey Woodstock, who was a witness in the trial said: "She deserves everything she got. Let her rot."

Nisbet's younger brother Andrew, speaking on behalf of the family, thanked the jury for the verdicts, and thanked Detective Inspector Greg Murton for the work he had put in on the inquiry.

He thanked friends and family for their support.

"Finally, some justice for our brother after four and a half years," he said. "We want to move on."

One of Milner's defence team said she had spoken to the convicted killer after the verdict.

"She's understandably very upset," April Kelland said.

THE TRIAL

The Crown had mounted a two-week case, involving evidence from more than 70 witnesses, that Milner tried to kill Nisbet twice on April 15, 2009, with doses of the anti-allergy and sedative drug Phenergan.

It also alleged that she had killed him with a further drug dose and possibly suffocation as he lay sedated in bed on the night of May 3 to 4, 2009.

It pointed to a financial motive – claiming Nisbet's $250,000 life insurance payout.

The defence said the death was a suicide, but the Crown attacked the validity of suicide texts and notes, saying they had been concocted by Milner.

She was nicknamed the "black widow" by colleagues because of her questions about poison.

Justice David Gendall remanded Milner in custody for sentence on February 20.

He ordered a pre-sentence report and, at the request of the defence, he ordered that a psychiatric report be prepared on Milner.

The death and subsequent investigation led to bitter divisions in the family that surfaced during the trial.

The Crown brought together a circumstantial case that it said was strong, but defence counsel Rupert Glover told the jury that it would be dangerous to convict Milner on the basis of such an "orchestrated body of tendentious evidence".

The defence had strongly contested the first attempted-murder charge, where Milner was found not guilty.

It said the Crown had claimed Nisbet had been given a Phenergan overdose before he collapsed at work.

It said Nisbet had suspected he had been bitten by a spider or insect, so ambulance officers gave him more Phenergan, and after that dose his vital signs returned to normal.

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