Nisbets find some solace in verdict

Last updated 08:06 21/12/2013
Philip Nisbet , left, and Helen Milner
MURDER TRIAL: Philip Nisbet, left, and Helen Milner, cut from a family photo taken in late March 2009.

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James and Yvonne Nisbet couldn't bring themselves to look their son's killer in the eye knowing what she had done.

Every time Helen Milner turned towards them they would look away.

The frail, elderly couple travelled from Australia with family determined to find out what happened to their son, Philip James Nisbet.

They hardly missed a minute of the three-week trial at the High Court in Christchurch and what they heard left them shocked.

"All I can say now is that he's in a better place and he's not suffering any more. That's the only consolation I have," Yvonne Nisbet said.

Milner, 50, was this week found guilty of the murder and attempted murder of her husband, Nisbet, 47, a truck driver.

Nisbet was found dead in bed at the couple's home in Checketts Ave, Halswell, on May 4, 2009.

Milner, a mother of two, likely mixed the drug Phenergan with her husband's dinner and then may have suffocated him once he was sedated, the Crown said.

She then manipulated the scene and fabricated a suicide cellphone text and suicide notes to cover her tracks.

The Crown case was that she was motivated by her husband's $250,000 life insurance policy.

James and Yvonne Nisbet had never been inside a courtroom before the case and struggled to come to terms with the determined, planned killing of their son.

The experience was made worse by Milner's, calm, and often emotionless demeanour, they said.

"We all had to come over and find out what really happened," Yvonne Nisbet said.

Philip Nisbet grew up in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch and was a quiet, laid back sort of guy with a tight group of friends, his family said.

He went to Burwood Primary School and later Shirley Boys' High School and enjoyed playing golf, pool, squash, riding motorbikes and collecting model cars.

Nisbet's family were there the day he married Milner in the backyard of their Checketts Ave home in November 2005.

"We got on well with Helen," Yvonne Nisbet said.

Conversations with Nisbet after that were sporadic but they did hear of some frustrations he had about his marriage, particularly about his ex-partner Karen Porter contacting Milner while he was out of town.

They now know Milner had been lying, trying to create a rift between the pair.

Andrew Nisbet was the first to hear about his brother's death and the possibility it was suicide. When the family flew to New Zealand for his funeral they still could not believe he would kill himself but at the time they had no reason to think any different.

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"She [Milner] had Phil's wedding ring and she was determined not to let it go to anybody because she wanted to wear it close to her heart," Andrew Nisbet said.

"All that sort of stuff was coming out and now you look back and it was laid on pretty thick.

"She's cold, absolutely cold."

The trio believed police botched the initial investigation and without their family's persistence, Milner might have got away with murder.

"Maybe they were just lazy but maybe some of our [police officers] are not as smart as a mid-40s housewife," Andrew Nisbet said.

However, the family are full of praise for Detective Inspector Greg Murton and the team who worked on the homicide inquiry.

"This group of officers left no stone unturned," Andrew Nisbet said.

Philip Nisbet had talked about moving to Australia. Now a piece of the family is missing, never to be replaced. "I like family to be together," Yvonne Nisbet said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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