17 Dec 2013

'A character assassination' of accused

5:12 pm on 17 December 2013

The jury in the trial of a Christchurch woman accused of murder has been told that the past two weeks has been about an assassination of her character, rather than the assassination of her late husband.

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 from what the Crown says was an overdose of Phenergan, an antihistamine that he was allergic to.

The Crown says she crushed a lethal dose of the drug Mr Nisbet's evening mean and then tried to make it look like a suicide.

Throughout the trial, the Crown has said Mrs Milner was motivated by money - specifically her husband's $250,000 life insurance policy.

The 50-year-old denies this.

In summing up on Tuesday, Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway said that Mrs Milner's son witnessed her crushing Phenergan tablets that she had purchased under false names the same day Mr Nisbet was admitted to hospital. He died about two weeks later.

The jury has heard evidence that differing copies of alleged suicide notes were presented to family members and to police.

Mr Stanaway said after killing her husband, Mrs Milner later produced several suicide notes, texts and cards that she said were written by him.

He told the jury that those notes were a fraud and a nonsense. "It is a Mills and Boon suicide note. It is a fanciful creation, it is not the creation of a man so depressed, so unhappy with his life that he is about to take it."

Defence lawyer Rupert Glover told jurors that the trial has been a character assassination of his client and urged them to ignore the Crown's claims that she is a cold-blooded killer.

Mr Glover said that only a Hollywood actress could have acted in the way the Crown says the accused did.

"When it comes to Helen, the Crown have gone to huge lengths to depict a cold woman, a woman who showed no emotion at her husband's death, a person who would fit the profile of the black widow who would commit the crime they want to pin on her.

"But you only have to take a step back and think of the 111 call. You heard that played to you and it's very dramatic, I would say. Only an actress of the calibre of Meryl Streep could put on a performance like that and not be sincere about it."

Mr Glover said some witnesses wanted to pin Mr Nisbet's death on his wife at all costs.

"The defence says it's not the assassination of Phil Nisbet by Helen Milner with Phenergan, it's the assassination of Helen Milner's character by poisonous testimony that was put together by a number of people with very definite axes to grind. Witnesses who contrived coordinated bias and invention in order to pin Mr Nisbet's death on his wife at all costs."

The jury is expected to retire on Wednesday after Justice Gendall sums up.