A television drama about convicted murderer Helen Milner - "The Black Widow" - has received more than $2 million in taxpayer funding from New Zealand on Air.

Catching the Black Widow is being made as a Sunday Theatre project for Television New Zealand and will be backed by NZOA's platinum fund, it was announced today.

The two-hour drama will focus on the story of Milner's sister-in-law, Lee-Anne Cartier, as she fought to expose the poisoning of her brother Philip Nisbet by his wife Milner, who is now serving a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years for the murder of her husband.

Police initially believed the death was a suicide and referred it to the Coroner's Court.


But after Cartier's detective work and a coroner finding no evidence that the Christchurch truck driver intended to kill himself, police launched a murder investigation and Milner was arrested in October 2011.

Lee-Anne Cartier gives evidence during the Helen Milner murder trial.
Lee-Anne Cartier gives evidence during the Helen Milner murder trial.

It was revealed in the Christchurch courts, that Milner slipped Phenergan into her husband's evening meal and once heavily sedated she suffocated him.

Milner then made his death, on May 4, 2009 look like suicide in the hope of cashing in his $250,000 life insurance police.

A full homicide investigation started after a coroner raised doubts it was indeed a suicide.

Ms Cartier was said to be instrumental in this investigation, doing her own detective work from Queensland.

She at one stage even rang Milner's colleagues who told her that Milner had often spoken of getting rid of her husband.

Catching The Black Widow will be made by Wellington production company KHF Media who also recently made true-life story Belief - The Possession Of Janet Moses.

"Catching The Black Widow will be another high quality New Zealand production that delves into a very challenging criminal case of recent relevance to us all," says TVNZ's GM Commissioning, Production & Acquisitions, Andrew Shaw.


NZOA backed the telefeature with $2,039,843 in funding.

It follows a run of local real-life murder and crime stories in the timeslot this year, including How To Murder Your Wife, Venus And Mars, and The Monster Of Mangatiti.