Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Poisoning trial: Milner named 'Black Widow'

Helen Milner in court. Photo / Martin Hunter
Helen Milner in court. Photo / Martin Hunter

The woman accused of fatally poisoning her second husband was nicknamed the 'Black Widow' by workmates, a court heard today.

Helen Milner was given the moniker by colleagues at Christchurch grounds maintenance firm GSL because of her open disdain for Phil Nisbet and talk of killing him.

The revelation came on the third day of her trial in the High Court at Christchurch when witness and former workmate Brent Hazeldine said: "We gave her the nickname of the Black Widow, which was related to the movie of the wife going around popping off all the husbands."

Milner, 50, denies murdering Mr Nisbet, 47, on May 4, 2009 and two counts of attempted murder the month before.

The Crown alleges she killed him, most probably by slipping up to 50 crushed tablets of anti-histamine drug and sedative Phenergan into his food, then smothering him with a pillow before faking his suicide.

She is accused of sending herself a text message purporting to be from Mr Nisbet that read: "I'm sorry honey, I can't keep going on like this."

The trial has already heard that Milner asked co-workers a few months before her husband's death whether rat poison could kill a person.

They laughed off her "whacky" conversations, even joking that she may have laced muffins she brought in to work with poison.

Yesterday the first police officer on the scene of Mr Nisbet's sudden death raised concerns over the "convenience" of Milner receiving a texted suicide note in front of him.

Sergeant Christopher Barker called in his superiors, citing "some concerns about how things had been unfolding" at the scene.

They thought Milner's prolonged display of hysteria amounted to an "unnatural reaction".

Despite the initial fears of the attending officers, police originally ruled Mr Nisbet had taken his own life.

However, after a coroner raised doubts over the death, a homicide probe was launched and more than two years later Milner was charged with murder.

The Crown alleges Milner was determined to kill her husband and cash in a $250,000 life insurance policy.

It's alleged she plotted the best way to do it, asking friends and workmates for views on poisoning methods, and offering to pay a hitman $20,000.

The trial, before Justice David Gendall, continues.

- APNZ

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