The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 7

(The Standard)  Milkshake turned murder case witness into 'a baby'.  By Albert Wong.  June 15, 2005.

A former neighbor of banker Robert Kissel, who was given the same pink milkshake as Kissel had before his death, drifted in and out of consciousness afterward, talked incoherently and then "turned into a temperamental baby'' as he devoured three tubs of ice cream, and dirtied the furniture of his flat, the High Court heard Tuesday during the milkshake murder trial.

The witness, Andrew Tanzer, was asked by his wife what he had eaten to cause such strange symptoms. ``Nothing,'' he replied, ``I just had a milkshake.''

Nancy Kissel, 40, who has pleaded not guilty and is out on bail, is accused of serving her husband a cocktail of drugs in a pink milkshake, leaving him unconscious as she bludgeoned him to death with a heavy metal figurine on the night of November 2, 2003.  That same day, their Parkview neighbor Tanzer testified, he was served the same milkshake by Nancy Kissel, causing him to wake up the next morning with ``something like amnesia.''

A post-mortem on the Merrill Lynch banker revealed five different drugs in his stomach, including Rohypnol, the infamous ``date rape'' drug.  Tanzer told the jury that he was having a chat with the banker at his home as their two daughters played together on November 2, the day Kissel is alleged to have been murdered.

Tanzer was eager to leave after about 45 minutes, but as he was walking out, his daughter urged him to stay and the two girls brought out a tray with two tall glasses of the same drink. At the time, he said, he was hardly aware that Nancy Kissel was at home.

``What was the drink?'' asked senior assistant director of public prosecutions Peter Chapman.

Tanzer said ``it was a kind of strange milkshake, fairly heavy, sweet, thickened, tasting of bananas and crushed cookies.''  The milkshake was reddish in color, probably from strawberry flavoring, he said. Since he wanted to leave immediately, he and Kissel ``drained'' their glasses, but he thought the shake a bit strange, tasting unlike anything he'd had before.  

Then, as he was stepping out of the apartment into the lift lobby, the accused ``popped her head out of the kitchen.''  He commented on the milkshake, and she replied that ``it was a secret recipe, or a secret, something like that.''

Tanzer's wife, Kazuko Ouchi, also told the court that ``as soon as he walked in [returning from the Kissel home], I felt something was wrong with him. His face was very red.''  She said Tanzer rarely sleeps on the couch, but on that day, he ``just couldn't lift himself up'' from there.  ``I thought if he'd fall asleep, he'd never wake up,'' said Ouchi, adding that she kept shouting at him and slapping his cheek. Eventually, he fell asleep but was awoken by a phone call from his former boss.  She considered calling an ambulance, but since he seemed fine as he spoke to his ex-boss, she thought perhaps he had just been tired.

By dinner time, Tanzer felt fit enough to join his family at the table. He was quiet during the main course, said Ouchi, until he started on the ice cream. He devoured all three tubs in the fridge. ``I tried to stop him, but I couldn't, I was scared he'd get angry at me. I was just speechless.''  Like a baby, he left a mess over the furniture, she said.

Tanzer said he could only remember returning home and having a telephone conversation, but nothing else after the milkshake.  Both Tanzer and his wife said they found the accused extremely friendly when they spoke to her. They had not been acquainted with the Kissels before November 2, but their children had played together and attended the same Sunday school at the United Jewish Congregation on Robinson Road.

Kissel's decomposing body was found around midnight on November 6, wrapped in plastic film and rolled up in an old carpet in a storeroom of Parkview apartments.

The accused had told police that on November 2, her drunken husband had beaten her up after she refused him sex.

Also Tuesday, Sharon Ser, a senior partner at Hampton, Winter and Glynn and a vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Family Law Association said Robert Kissel had mentioned his wife had ``issues'' and low self-esteem.  Ser said she was contacted by him in July 2003 when he was exploring options about separation, divorce and custody of the children.  She said Kissel told her his wife had become distant, depressed and unhappy since the birth of their third child.

Former Hampton, Winter and Glynn partner Robin Egerton also said he had notes saying the accused suffered from depression. Under cross-examination he said, ``it seemed to me [Robert Kissel] was being very pragmatic and analytical, equally considering what his wife might want to do.''  Egerton had advised him to keep an eye on the children's passports in case the accused left the region, but Kissel said ``she enjoyed the expatriate life.''

The trial continues today before Justice Michael Lunn.

(SCMP)  Bizarre binge after drink, court told. By Polly Hui.  June 15, 2005.

A neighbour of Nancy Ann Kissel passed out and later bizarrely treated himself to three tubs of ice cream after she served him and her husband a "strange" milkshake in her Parkview flat, the Court of First Instance was told yesterday.  

Andrew Tanzer yesterday described his first encounter with Robert Peter Kissel and his family on the fateful Sunday of November 2, 2003 - hours before the top American banker at Merrill Lynch was allegedly murdered by his wife.  It was also the day when the deceased intended to discuss a divorce with his wife, the court heard.

The encounter began, Mr Tanzer said, when he and his seven-year-old daughter were stopped by the accused in her Mercedes while they were about to take a taxi at Parkview to travel to the United Jewish Congregation (UJC) in Mid-Levels. He said Kissel, also on her way to the UJC, offered them a ride after noticing his daughter carrying a schoolbag bearing the logo of the congregation's Sunday school.

At the UJC, Mr Tanzer was introduced to the deceased and his children. His "sociable" daughter, recognising that the Kissels' eldest daughter, June, was also from Parkview, urged him to arrange for them to play together later.  He recalled having a friendly conversation with Mr Kissel for almost an hour while their daughters were playing in the Kissels' flat that afternoon. He said he asked the deceased for a glass of water.  June and his daughter later came out of the kitchen with two identical glasses of milkshake for him and Mr Kissel.

"It was a strange milkshake - fairly heavy, sweet, thickened ... with banana taste, crushed cookies, reddish, which I guess was from some strawberries or flavouring," he told government prosecutor Peter Chapman. "I have never drunk something like this before."

Mr Tanzer said he found it odd that the defendant never came out to talk to him. Only once had she popped her head out of the kitchen, when they were drinking the milkshake. "I asked what was in it. She mentioned something like: It was a secret recipe," he said.

Shortly after returning to his flat at about 4pm, the witness said he blacked out and fell asleep. "I have not had such an experience ever before then or since then," he said. He had felt quite disoriented the next morning because he could not recall what had happened since 4pm the day before, even though he had not drunk alcohol that day.

His wife, Kazuko Ouchi, said yesterday she felt something was wrong when her husband returned home with a "very red face". "His eyes were not focused and he was not talking as usual ... Alcohol couldn't be a reason because he doesn't turn red with alcohol," she said, adding that she had thought about calling an ambulance.

Ms Ouchi said her husband told her he had taken nothing but "a milkshake made by June's mother" when she asked if he was ill.

She hit his cheeks and shouted when she realised he was falling asleep. "He couldn't lift himself up. I tried to [get] him up. But his body didn't move," she said.

When he woke at about 7pm, Ms Ouchi said he ate three tubs of ice cream in a "bizarre way ... like a baby ... with ice-cream dripping all over the place. "I couldn't imagine how much ice-cream he ate. I have never seen him behaving like this."

Robin Egerton, a family lawyer, told the court the deceased had told him his wife was "committing adultery" when he first consulted him about possible separation arrangements in late August 2003.  Mr Kissel had said his wife was "unfazed" when he showed her bills with details of her phone calls to her alleged lover in the US.  Mr Egerton said the deceased told him at a second meeting two days before his death that he was going to discuss arrangements about separation with his wife on the afternoon of November 2, 2003.

A written witness statement from Fung Yuet-seung, an assistant in a clinic on Icehouse Street, indicated that the defendant was prescribed tablets of Stilnox, Lorivan and Amitriptyline on her visit in October 30, 2003. The drugs were also found in the deceased's stomach, according to government laboratory tests.

The defendant has pleaded not guilty to murdering her husband, whose body was found rolled up in a carpet in a Parkview storeroom in November 2003.

The case continues today.

Andrew Tanzer (photo: Oriental Daily)