12 Dec 2013

Murder trial jury notes spelling link

10:04 pm on 12 December 2013

The jury at the High Court murder trial in Christchurch of a woman accused of poisoning her husband has raised a question about how her current partner spells the word 'always'.

Barry Hayton is the partner of Helen Milner, who is accused of murdering Philip Nisbet in 2009 with a lethal dose of an antihistamine to which he was allergic.

The Crown says Mrs Milner put the crushed-up drug in her 47-year-old husband's food and then attempted to make it look like a suicide.

It says the accused was struggling financially and wanted to cash in on Mr Nisbet's $250,000 life insurance policy. The 50-year-old denies the charges.

Helen Milner dated Mr Hayton in 2005 before meeting Mr Nisbet. Giving evidence at the ninth day of the trial on Thursday, Mr Hayton confirmed that he moved into the house Mr Nisbet died in about two weeks after the funeral.

The court was told of a series of text messages between Mrs Milner and her new partner, and the jury noted that Mr Hayton spelt the word 'always' with two 'L's. It also noted that an apparent suicide letter supposedly left by Mr Nisbet used the same spelling.

Mr Hayton agreed with Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway that he sometimes spelt the word that way.

In earlier evidence, members of Philip Nisbet's family have said that there were two differing suicide notes presented by Helen Milner; the first letter had a hand-written signature they say was not Mr Nisbet's.

That letter has not been seen again and a different copy was presented by police at the inquest in 2010.

High level of drug in blood, court told

Also giving evidence on Thursday was a toxicologist, who told the jury that Philip Nisbet had far more antihistamine in his blood than a normal user would have.

Martin Sage said the post-mortem showed the level of the drug Promethazine was 31 times higher than what most users of antihistamine drugs would show, but was 10 times lower than other cases where the dosage has been lethal.

Dr Sage said it would be scientifically dangerous to take a punt on how many capsules those levels might have equated to. He said should a person wish to commit suicide by overdose, there are other more reliable, readily available drugs on the market.

An Australian toxicologist told court there was no way a person couldn't taste the amount of drugs the Crown says was put in Mr Nisbet's food the night he died.

Professor Ian White was called by the defence to give evidence via a video link. He said he conducted an experiment by crushing 25 tablets and mixing them with food. He said the food tasted extremely bitter and left a numb sensation in his mouth.

In other evidence, Dr Neil Beumelburg told the court that in June 2007 he assessed Philip Nisbet for panic and anxiety issues. He said Mr Nisbet had recently gone through a marriage break-up and was worried about child custody.

Dr Beumelburg said anxiety is a normal human emotion but, at the time, he felt the symptoms were severe enough to warrant trailing an anti-depressant medication. He said he saw Mr Nisbet again in 2008 and he was well and happy.