Boyfriend stands by 'Black Widow'

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 07:40 21/02/2014
Helen Milner and Barry Hayton
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LOVERS: Helen Milner and her boyfriend Barry Hayton, pictured with their cat Samson. The photograph was taken in 2010 - after Milner killed her husband and before she was charged with murder.

Memorial for Philip Nisbet
John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ
REST IN PEACE: Philip Nisbet's son Zak Bell helps bury his father's ashes during a memorial service at Linwood Cemetery and Crematory yesterday. Nisbet's grieving parents, Yvonne and James, are supported in the background by their daughter, Lee-Anne Cartier.
Helen Milner
HELEN MILNER: her offending was described as one of the most pernicious crimes by the judge.

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The boyfriend of convicted murderer Helen Milner is adamant she did not kill her husband and says he still has feelings for her.

Milner, 50, has been jailed for a minimum of 17 years for the murder of Philip James Nisbet..

Speaking publicly for the first time since the woman dubbed the "Black Widow" was convicted, Barry Hayton said he believed the criminal pasts of some witnesses at last year's high-profile murder trial needed closer scrutiny.

"She's a pretty one-sided thing and I'm p..... off," he said.

"She had nothing to do with his death. She did not do it."

Milner and Hayton were a couple for about five years until they split in about 2002 or 2003. They rekindled their relationship in the days after Nisbet, 47, was found dead on May 4, 2009.

Within weeks, Hayton had moved into Milner's home at Checketts Ave in Halswell, Christchurch.

On July 12, he bought her a gold diamond ring worth more than $2299, which she wore on her ring finger.

It was not an engagement ring - there had been no proposal - but the pair discussed getting married.

Hayton, a fitter and turner who lives in North Canterbury, told The Press Milner's lengthy sentence handed down yesterday meant their romantic relationship was all but over.

"There's no future [in the relationship]. I'll be dead before she gets out."

However, Hayton said he would "stand by her" as long as she wanted his support.

"She's a very caring person who normally puts people before herself. The way they've depicted her as a money grabbing person, that's absolute b........

"I still have feelings for her."

Hayton said he visited Milner in Christchurch Women's Prison last weekend and it was up to her whether she allowed him to keep seeing her.

He did not attend her court appearances because he was concerned he may have become involved in an altercation.

Yesterday, it also emerged that Nisbet's sister, Lee-Anne Cartier, had rejected an offer from police, which would have seen her reimbursed for some of the costs she incurred trying to expose what Milner had done.

Cartier told The Press "it goes beyond a few receipts". She plans to sue police for tens of thousands of dollars.

"Hopefully it can be settled out of court without putting me through any more stress."

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 many

basic errors during an initial investigation which concluded Nisbet had committed suicide.

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

The Crown said she probably mixed the drug Phenergan with her husband's dinner and then may have suffocated him once he was sedated. She then manipulated the scene and fabricated a suicide cellphone text and suicide notes to cover her tracks.

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The jury at last year's trial also heard that Milner tried to kill him in a similar fashion about a month earlier. In both instances she was motivated by his $257,000 life insurance policy.

During yesterday's sentencing at the High Court in Christchurch, Justice David Gendall said: "Death by poisoning has always been among the most despicable of crimes, often involving motive, premeditation and planning, subterfuge and an unsuspecting innocent victim. All are present in this case."

Nisbet's family and friends gathered for a private memorial service after the sentencing as his ashes were laid to rest at Linwood Cemetery and Crematory.

Cartier said she was happy with the prison term Milner had received.

Milner's lawyer Rupert Glover said his client maintained her innocence. It was too early to say whether she would appeal her sentence and conviction, he said.

MILNER 'SCARED FIRST HUSBAND'

Mark Kearns feels like he's dodged a bullet.

During his seven-year marriage to convicted killer Helen Milner she lied, verbally abused him and talked about how easy it would be to kill someone with rat poison, he told The Press.

When the couple split in 1993, Milner destroyed Kearns' relationship with their children, Adam and Greg - calling police with wild accusations of violence and abuse on the days he was allowed to see them.

Eventually, she was awarded sole custody of the pair by the Family Court, something he is still upset about.

This week, as Milner was sentenced, Kearns said that "justice has finally come".

"She's a danger. She deserves what she gets."

He was reluctant to talk about his marriage to Milner, but said she was a manipulative woman who "would always be scheming a way of getting money".

She would often make statements Kearns believed were indirect threats designed to intimidate him.

He recalled Milner telling him: "The easiest way to get rid of somebody is a bit of rat poison."

When asked whether he felt lucky she hadn't killed him, Kearns said: "I do, I definitely do. She was certainly capable of it."

Documents obtained by The Press show Kearns told police investigating Philip Nisbet's death that: "Helen scares me. You don't know what is going to be twisted and turned against you.

"While I was married to Helen I found she was a liar. A lot of things she exaggerated beyond belief. She was never physically violent towards me, just verbally violent.

"She was very belittling and played mind games. She was very difficult to live with. I feel sad looking back at what happened because I haven't really bonded with the boys. I missed out and would have loved to have been part of their lives."

Kearns told The Press this week he felt sorry for Nisbet's family. Officials could have done something about Milner's behaviour many years ago but they chose to listen to her side of the story rather than his.

Kearns said his relationship with his two sons was improving.

- The Press

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