11 Dec 2013

Accused thought to be engaged soon after death, court told

10:00 pm on 11 December 2013

A woman accused of murdering her husband was believed to be engaged to her ex-partner only a few months after her husband's death, a court has been told.

Helen Milner is on trial at the High Court in Christchurch on one charge of murder and two of attempted murder following the death of Philip Nisbet in 2009 and making it look like a suicide.

The Crown says he died from an overdose of Phenergan, an antihistamine that the 47-year-old was allergic to. Mrs Milner denies the charges.

Noeline Miller, a friend of the accused, told the court on Wednesday that in late July 2009, Mrs Milner came to a birthday party accompanied by her former partner Barry Hayton.

Mrs Miller said Helen Milner told her that a new ring she was wearing was a friendship ring, but Mrs Miller told her that it was clearly an engagement ring.

"She came to my husband's 70th birthday party and I was going round taking photos of everybody. I came across Helen and Barry and she had the engagement ring on a finger. She told me it was a friendship ring and I told her not to teach me to suck eggs - I knew what an engagement ring was."

Mrs Miller said she was aware that Mrs Milner was quite concerned about her finances.

Sandra James, an accountant working for police, told the court that Helen Milner was better off by about $355,000 following Mr Nisbet's death.

"The summary of Helen Milner's financial position clearly shows that she is far better off with the death of Philip Nisbet, selling the property and receiving her potential entitlement to the insurance proceeds than no death of Philip Nisbet."

Ms James said it was also discovered that Mrs Milner had illegally taken about $28,000 from her employer.

Lights on hours before police called - neighbour

Neighbour Karen Carey told court that at 4.20am on the day Philip Nisbet's body was found, the couple's house was was lit up like a Christmas tree.

Later that day, Helen Milner told Mrs Carey she had turned on the lights at just before 6am and found her husband dead.

Mrs Carey said she told her she had seen the lights on much earlier, but was ignored.

In other evidence, the jury was told that the accused gave two different accounts of where Mr Nisbet died.

His brother, Andrew Nisbet, was living in Australia in May 2009 when he called Helen Milner after learning of the death. He told the court that the accused said her husband had died at the wheel of his delivery truck.

The trial last week heard a 111 emergency call made by Mrs Milner in which she said she found her husband dead in bed at their home in Christchurch.