Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Poisoning trial: Court hears of 'sordid' claim

Widow alleged her husband had affairs and worked as a prostitute, his sister says

Lee-Anne Cartier tells the High Court she was 'very shocked' to hear Helen Milner's allegations. Her brother wasn't the sort to have affairs.
Lee-Anne Cartier tells the High Court she was 'very shocked' to hear Helen Milner's allegations. Her brother wasn't the sort to have affairs.

Helen Milner told grieving family members she had uncovered a sordid secret life of her husband in the weeks after his death, the High Court was told in Christchurch yesterday.

Phil Nisbet, described as an easygoing Christchurch truck driver who lived for his two sons, died on May 4, 2009, in what was first treated as suicide.

His widow, arrested more than two years later for his murder, told Mr Nisbet's distraught family of finding a tucked-away briefcase that seemed to unveil a mysterious double life.

Milner, 50, allegedly told Mr Nisbet's sister Lee-Ann Cartier that she had found evidence suggesting Mr Nisbet, 47, had worked as a male prostitute, fathered a string of illegitimate children and had been having affairs behind her back.

"I was very shocked," Ms Cartier said on day four of the murder trial yesterday. "He wasn't the sort of person to have an affair, because he wouldn't be able to lie and get away with it."

Ms Cartier told how Milner claimed to have found a suicide note locked in a safe just days after the funeral.

In it, Mr Nisbet allegedly stated that his beloved son Ben "wasn't his" and that he couldn't face him again.

Milner told police she found the note in his briefcase, not a safe, and she rubbished Ms Cartier's claims.

Later when Ms Cartier was shown the note, she questioned the authenticity of the "Phil" signature.

In the days after the funeral, Milner allegedly claimed to have stumbled upon evidence of Mr Nisbet living a secret life. Ms Cartier was told by Milner that she had found a "little black book" that showed he had been having affairs.

There were photos of him with other women, mention of "a woman called Sharon from Chertsey", and bank statements that showed he had been sending flowers to someone every week, and "it wasn't her", Milner allegedly told Ms Cartier.

The witness claimed Milner said she had found an "instruction-type book" that advised the best ways to offer illicit services to women.


Latest developments

• Phil Nisbet was "terrified" when he was hospitalised with what he thought was a nasty reaction to a spider bite on April 15, 2009 - the day his wife is accused of first trying to kill him.

• National Poisons Centre director Dr Wayne Temple said Mr Nisbet's symptoms that day were consistent with an overdose of the antihistamine and sedative drug Phenergan.

• A funeral director who met Milner the day her husband died told of his surprise that she was acting "quite blasé".

• A police officer traced a tax receipt that showed Milner bought a $2,299 engagement ring just two months after her husband died.

- APNZ

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