The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 4

(Associated Press)  Banker allegedly killed by Michigan wife was loyal, loving, sister says.  June 9, 2005.

An American banker who prosecutors say was drugged and beaten to death by his Michigan-native wife was a loving, loyal husband, the man's sister testified Thursday in the wife's murder trial.  The testimony came during the third day of Hong Kong High Court hearings for Nancy Ann Kissel, accused of killing husband Robert Kissel in the couple's luxury apartment on Nov. 2, 2003. He was an investment banker for Merrill Lynch.

The prosecution has argued that the wife gave her husband a strawberry milkshake laced with hypnotics -- including the potent date-rape drug Rohypnol -- before she killed him with repeated blows to the head with a metal ornament.  Nancy Kissel, 41, who has pleaded innocent, has accused her husband of assaulting her on the day of the killing. A defense lawyer did not specify where in Michigan Nancy Kissel previously lived.

Robert Kissel's sister, Jane Clayton, testified Thursday that he was a good husband.  "Robert was very, very loyal to his wife and he loved his wife," Clayton said, adding that her brother had sided with his wife in a family dispute with his father over a property deal.  Clayton also described Nancy Kissel as an argumentative person and said she was "very distant" during a family ski vacation to Whistler, Canada, in December 2002, declining to join some of the family gatherings and leaving early to return to Hong Kong.  "Nancy argued a lot with other people. I was very careful when I was with her," Clayton said.

The prosecution says Nancy Kissel had an affair with a TV repairer in the United States and that her husband knew about the relationship and intended to divorce her.

Clayton told the jury Wednesday that she had passed on contacts of marriage counselors to her brother, hoping that the couple could resolve their problems. But she said her brother told her weeks before he died that he and his wife soon would divorce.

Defense attorney Gary Plowman noted that Clayton lived in Seattle, Washington, and he questioned whether the sister had intimate knowledge of the marriage. Robert Kissel and his family moved to Hong Kong in 1997.

Andrew Kissel, the victim's elder brother, said in testimony that was read in court that he recalled his brother talking about divorce in mid-October 2003 because of his wife's affair.

Robert Kissel's body was found in a storage area the couple rented near their apartment. Prosecutors say his wife had wrapped the body in a carpet, which she had maintenance workers haul away to the storage space.

A day after the death, Nancy Kissel wrote an e-mail to inform a casual friend, Scott Ligertwood, that she could not meet him as planned on the following day.  "My husband is not well. I need to take care of something with him. I'll get in touch with you again," the woman wrote to Ligertwood, another witness who testified Thursday.

Ligertwood, whose company specializes in child entertainment, said he met Nancy Kissel through parties that he organized for children and got to know her better after she invited him to perform at her children's school.  He described her as "a very caring parent" and said it was "unusual" for her to have canceled their meeting.

If the woman is convicted, she could be sentenced to life in prison.

(The Standard)  Banker lied' on wife's state.  By Albert Wong.  June 10, 2005.

Accused murderer Nancy Kissel and her late husband Robert Kissel were having marital problems as early as 1998, but it was he who walked out of a family holiday in Bali, leaving her to look after the children, a defense attorney said on day three of the lurid murder trial in the High Court Thursday.

Nancy Kissel, 40, who has pleaded not guilty and is out on bail, is accused of drugging and beating Robert Kissel to death on November 2, 2003, before wrapping his body in a carpet and stashing the corpse in a store room at the luxury Parkview building in Tai Tam.

The prosecution alleges that Nancy Kissel served her husband a cocktail of drugs in a pink milkshake, leaving him unconscious and defenseless as she bludgeoned him to death with a metal figurine.  

The two were married in the United States in 1989 and arrived in Hong Kong in 1997 with their three children.  Family, friends and neighbors are expected to testify to the deterioration of their marriage beginning in late 2002, but in cross-examination Thursday, Gary Plowman, senior counsel for Nancy Kissel, suggested to Robert Kissel's sister Jane Clayton that she may not have been as clear about the state of his marriage as she believed.  He told Clayton, a prosecution witness, that her brother had lied to her when he said his wife was prone to disrupting family holidays by returning home without explanation.

According to Clayton, Nancy Kissel left a skiing holiday in 2002 without saying goodbye to the family and returned to Hong Kong with her young son.  Clayton said her brother had told her he had no idea why his wife had left. Plowman suggested that Robert Kissel had done the same thing once before in Bali, Indonesia.  He said that according to their travel documents, it was Robert Kissel who returned early from Bali on October 5, 1998, and that Nancy Kissel and her children came back two days later.  Plowman also told Clayton that in November 2001 Nancy Kissel took her youngest son to the United States to be treated for a stomach and bowel illness.  

That December, Robert Kissel and the two older daughters went skiing, leaving the wife and young son, who was suffering from "a pretty nasty illness,'' to spend Christmas alone. The son was two at the time.  

Plowman asked Clayton if she thought it unusual for her brother not to want to spend Christmas with his wife.  She replied, "Yes, but we're Jewish. [Christmas] is not a big deal.''  Plowman also asked if Robert had ever mentioned that his wife had been depressed or offered any explanation as to why she was acting ``distant,'' as Clayton had described it.  "Robbie didn't talk about people behind their backs,'' the sister replied.  Plowman suggested that Clayton's relationship with Nancy Kissel is only "superficial.''

Justice Michael Lunn reminded the seven jurors that Clayton's perspective on Kissel marriage is only a reflection of her brother's views and his state of mind.  "It is not evidence that those assertions were true,'' the judge said.

Popular children's entertainer, Scott Ligertwood, from the duo Scotty and Lulu, testified Thursday, that he had received an e-mail from Nancy Kissel saying ``my husband's not well, I need to take care of things,'' at a time when the prosecution said he was already dead.  Under cross-examination, he said that he respected Nancy Kissel for her efficiency and care.  "She got things done,'' he said, and the "end result was of a high standard.''  She made a school fair a very professional occasion and "she was a very caring parent, very easy to deal with,'' said Ligertwood.

Robert Kissel was a prominent American banker who held top positions at both Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch in his six years in Hong Kong.  Nancy Kissel worked as a volunteer at the children's school, Hong Kong International School.

The prosecution earlier this week told the jury that Nancy Kissel had an affair with a television repairman in the United States while her husband was working in Hong Kong during the 2003 SARS outbreak.  Clayton testified Wednesday that Nancy Kissel was named as the primary beneficiary in her brother's will.  She estimated the value of Kissel's estate to be around US$18 million (HK$140.4 million), including stocks, cash, life insurance and real estate.

The trial continues today.

(SCMP)  Accused behaved strangely in lead-up to husband's death, friend tells court.  By Polly Hui.  June 10, 2005.

One of Hong Kong's most popular children's entertainers told a murder jury yesterday that his friend's behaviour was "unusual" in the days leading up to her alleged killing of her husband, a top American banker at Merrill Lynch.

Scott Ligertwood, who is known around the city with his clown partner Nick Harvey as the duo "Scotty and Lulu", said Nancy Ann Kissel did not show up at the outdoor cafe of Repulse Bay Arcade in October 30, 2003, to discuss the promotion of his show as they had agreed.  "I thought it was a bit unusual for Nancy to miss her appointment and not to call us," the prosecution witness said at the Court of First Instance yesterday.

He said he could not get through to Kissel on her mobile.  But later, he got a message from her saying she thought the appointment was for the following Thursday and arranged to meet her on November 4, 2003.

The clown performed at the Harbour Fest in 2003 and has just returned to Hong Kong from Britain to stage a show starting today at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. He said he met Kissel when she invited him to perform at the annual fair of the Hong Kong International School in the capacity of vice-president of the school's parent-teacher board about four years ago.

Mr Ligertwood described her as "extremely friendly" and "efficient" yesterday. "She was different from many of the parents ... whether it was entertainment or refreshment, the job was done well to a high standard," he said.  But the accused e-mailed the witness again in November 3 to cancel the meeting the next day, the court was told. She wrote: "My husband is not well. I need to take care of some things ... Sorry, I will be in touch soon."

Kissel, 40, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her husband, Robert Peter Kissel, at their Parkview flat on or about November 2, 2003.  The deceased, whose body was found rolled up in a carpet in a storeroom rented by the defendant, was the Asia-Pacific managing director of global principal products at Merrill Lynch.

Yuen Tse-on, a property officer at Parkview's Property Co-ordination Department, also testified yesterday. He said a woman identifying herself as Mrs Nancy Kissel called him and said she wanted to rent an additional storeroom at about noon on November 3, 2003. Mr Yuen said he told the caller there were no more storerooms available at the estate.

Jane Clayton, the younger sister of the deceased and a prosecution witness, said the defendant argued a lot with other people but described the deceased as a loyal husband.  She said the defendant had a fight with her father-in-law over the purchase of a property in New York once, resulting in no communication between the deceased and his father for months. "Being a loyal husband, he would take her side," she said.

However, Gary Plowman SC, for the defence, pointed out yesterday that the deceased named his father-in-law, Ira Keeshin, as the executor of his will and that Ms Clayton was only the alternate executor. When asked whether she felt her brother preferred his father-in-law over her, Ms Clayton said: "It didn't surprise me ... Rob was very loyal to his wife."

The hearing continues today before Mr Justice Michael Lunn.