Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Poisoning trial: Accused 'very much loved' victim

Helen Milner.  Photo / Kirk Hargreaves
Helen Milner. Photo / Kirk Hargreaves

The woman dubbed the Black Widow "very much loved" the husband she's accused of murdering, her trial heard today.

On the 11th and final day of evidence in the High Court at Christchurch the defence opened, and closed after calling four witnesses to rebut Crown allegations that Helen Milner, 50, killed Phil Nisbet, 47, by drugging him and, most probably, suffocating him.

Defence counsel Margaret Sewell reminded the jury it was up to the Crown to prove the charges and confirmed Milner would not take the stand herself.

"She has already made two statements to the police and she's spoken under oath at a coroner's inquest," Ms Sewell said.

She asked the jury to use the defence witnesses' evidence as a "measuring stick for all that other evidence that you have heard ... we are hoping that you will use their evidence to think from a different angle".

Milner has denied murdering Mr Nisbet on May 4, 2009, and two unsuccessful attempts to kill him on April 15, 2009.

The Crown alleges she sedated him by slipping Phenergan into his evening meal then killed him, later making his death look like suicide motivated by a $250,000 life insurance payout.

The defence argued Mr Nisbet took his own life.

A former workmate at Christchurch distribution firm Bidvest told the court Mr Nisbet seemed different after April 15, 2009 when he'd been hospitalised twice in one day with a suspected spider bite.

"He seemed withdrawn, quieter, his sense of humour wasn't there. I wouldn't say moody ... but certainly sullen," said distribution manager Leslie Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy said he raised Mr Nisbet's health with his colleague, neighbour and friend Ray Carey, who said Mr Nisbet was "having problems at home".

Defence counsel April Kelland took Mr Kennedy through Mr Nisbet's logbook and timesheets in the weeks before his death.

Many entries were incomplete and some were missing altogether, Ms Kelland said.

Mr Kennedy said that was "very strange" for the normally fastidious worker.

A close friend of Milner, Wilma Walsh, said that while she "personally didn't like" Mr Nisbet, the accused "very much loved him".

She also defended Milner's behaviour on the morning Mr Nisbet's body was found.

The first police on the scene thought her hysterical reaction amounted to "acting", while other family members and friends thought she was showing little emotion given the circumstances.

Mrs Walsh told the court her friend was "very upset" when she went round to see her that morning.

"She was quite stressed, but she does have a tendency not to show her emotions, but that was the way she was brought up."

The court has heard that 50 crushed Phenergan pills could be dissolved into food until they were "barely visible".

But an expert defence witness said it would have taken something like a hot vindaloo curry to disguise its barely edible, strong bitter taste.

The trial, before Justice David Gendall, continues tomorrow when the Crown will give its closing address.

- APNZ

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