Helen Milner's appeal dismissed

Last updated 11:00 05/08/2014
Helen Milner

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Helen Milner's appeal against her murder conviction has been rejected by the Court of Appeal.

Milner, 50, was last year found guilty of poisoning her husband Philip James Nisbet, 47. He was found dead in bed at the couple's home in Halswell in May 2009.

She was also found guilty of attempting to murder Nisbet about three weeks earlier.


Nisbet's Australian-based sister Lee-Anne Cartier fought back tears as she expressed her relief at the decision.

''Thank God it's all over", she said.

''I knew that was going to be the result but you just need to see it in writing. There's always that minute chance.''

The decision ''finally brought closure for Phil'', Cartier said.

''His only failure was that he was too trusting. He never saw the bad in Helen to realise what she was doing.''


In February, Milner - dubbed the ''Black Widow" - was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

An appeal against her conviction was heard by three judges at the Court of Appeal last month.

At the time, Milner's lawyer Rupert Glover said there was no way she could have crushed up between 14 and 233 Phenergan tablets and added them Nisbet's dinner without him being able to taste it. Instead, he committed suicide.

Crown lawyer Mark Lillico argued the circumstantial evidence presented to the jury was overwhelming.

The Court of Appeal's judgement, released this morning, said it rejected Glover's argument. The jury was within its rights to rule out the possibility of suicide based on the evidence it heard, the judgement says. It was not necessary for the prosecution to prove exactly how Milner delivered the drug to her husband.

''The mechanics of administering the drug was simply one factor for the jury to weigh up in the context of a strong circumstantial case,'' the judgement says.

Evidence about the quantity of Phenergan required to poison Nisbet was inconclusive. It was possible a small quantity of crushed pills could have been added to his food, which would have gone undetected.

The judgement pointed to other circumstantial evidence in the case, including forged suicide notes, purchases of Phenergan with fake names, and testimony from Milner's son, Adam Kearns, who saw her crushing pills and putting them into capsules shortly before Nisbet was taken to hospital three weeks before his death.

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An internal police report said Milner may have got away with murder had it not been for the sleuthing of Cartier and the keen eye of a coroner.

It said detectives made basic errors during an initial investigation that concluded Nisbet committed suicide.

After a coroner found no evidence that the delivery driver intended to kill himself, police launched a homicide investigation.

Milner was arrested and charged with murder in October 2011.

The jury later heard she was motivated by Nisbet's $250,000 life insurance policy.

- The Press

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