The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 12

(The Standard)  Maid defends slain banker.  By Albert Wong.  June 22, 2005.

Slain Merrill Lynch banker Robert Kissel was a strict disciplinarian whose rough handling of his children resulted in an injury to the elbow of his younger daughter, the High Court heard in the murder trial of his wife Nancy Kissel.

Nancy Kissel, who is out on bail, is accused of murdering the American banker with a heavy metal ornament on the night of November 2, 2003. She denies the charge.

At the time, she told one of her domestic helpers that a cocaine-fuelled Robert Kissel had assaulted her and kicked her in the ribs.  She had told the police at the time that he was drunk and had beaten her after she refused to have sex with him.

The prosecution alleges that the accused served a pink milkshake laced with sedatives that left the banker unconscious that night, facilitating the murder.   It read out a written statement Tuesday from a doctor who said that Nancy Kissel bought 10 Rohypnol tablets, known as the "date-rape'' drug, for HK$4,705 on October 23, 2003.

Also Tuesday, the family's domestic helper, Conchita Pee Macaraeg, who came here for the trial from caring for the children in the United States, faced her second day of questioning as a witness.  Pee Macaraeg said she only once saw the accused use a Velcro strap to support what seemed to be injured ribs.

Nancy Kissel's senior counsel, Gary Plowman, suggested to Pee Macaraeg during cross-examination that, during a Christmas holiday in Phuket in 1999, Robert Kissel's rough handling of the children caused an injury to the elbow of the younger of the daughters.

According to Plowman, Robert Kissel and the daughters had been playing and jumping on the bed, when he received a phone call.  "Because Mr Kissel was having difficulty with the mobile phone call, he left the bedroom, pulled the child off the bed and told her to behave herself,'' said Plowman.  The young girl then went crying to her mother, "and I suggest Robert again pulled her by the arm,'' he said.  An ambulance was called to tend to the girl's elbow and an argument ensued between Nancy and Robert Kissel about his rough handling of the children.

Pee Macaraeg said this was not true.  According to her, the daughters had been playing on the floor of the living room in the holiday villa when the elder sister jumped over the younger, landing on her elbow and breaking it.  

Pee Macaraeg did, however, agree that the disciplining of the children was an issue between the couple.  "Is it right that Mr Kissel was a strong personality?'' Plowman asked.  "Yes,'' replied Pee Macaraeg.  "And he was a man who liked to be in control of his family?'' he continued.  The domestic helper said she did not notice.

Plowman reminded Pee Macaraeg that she had told Nancy Kissel's lawyers in an interview December 14, 2003, that twice a week she would find a whisky glass in the kitchen sink when she awoke in the morning.   "I don't remember saying that,'' said Pee Macaraeg.  She said she only remembered noticing a cracked whisky glass in the sink once. She never saw him drinking whisky.

Plowman showed Pee Macaraeg an e-mail from Nancy Kissel to her husband at his office in late October 2003. The subject of the e-mail was "$$'' and it read: "As I owe Connie [Pee Macaraeg] HK$5,000, can you please bring that back home tonight? I can't take any out.''

"Did it appear to you that Mr Kissel was withholding money from Mrs Kissel?'' Plowman asked.  "I don't think so,'' she replied.  She said she was given access to Nancy Kissel's ATM cash card, which had a daily limit of $7,000, and now and then she would be unable to withdraw any money because the limit had been exceeded.

Monday, Pee Macaraeg said she noticed that Michael del Priore, the alleged secret lover of the accused, had visited the couple's Vermont home after work hours as "a huge favor'' to repair the telephone.  "Did you tell [Robert Kissel] about Mike's visits?'' Plowman asked Tuesday.  She said that when Robert Kissel called from Hong Kong, "he told me he learned from the younger daughter that Michael had visited'' and wanted to know what time he came.

"Did you tell Mr Kissel about that visit or did he already know about that visit?'' Plowman asked.  Pee Macaraeg replied: "He asked me, therefore he knew about it.''

"So does it come to this. Mr Kissel was asking questions about Michael's visits based on what his children had told him?'' Plowman asked.  "Yes,'' she replied.

Speaking in Tagalog through a translator, Pee Macaraeg said she regarded the accused as a friend, but Nancy Kissel's "attitude'' started to change gradually after her third child.  By late 2002, Pee Macaraeg said she had turned from a "bubbly'' personality to a person prone to mood swings with a "hot temper.''  "Before, whenever she got angry, we would talk afterwards and reconcile and say sorry to each other.  But after the change, whenever she became angry, there was no reconciliation, she would continue to be angry, we wouldn't talk to each other anymore,'' she said.

But Nancy Kissel's generosity towards her never changed, said Pee Macaraeg.  Nancy Kissel had trusted her with her cash card, given her a laptop and an Aberdeen Marina Club card independent of her employers, as well as HK$30,000 to renovate her house in the Philippines.  The former domestic helper, Maximina Macaraeg, was not shown such trust or generosity and did not accompany the family on holidays.

The alleged murder weapon, a heavy metal ornament consisting of two figurines on a base, was shown to the judge and jury again Tuesday.  They were also 
allowed to test the weight of the ornament for the first time.

The trial continues today before Justice Michael Lunn.

(SCMP)  Kissel maid quizzed on daughter's broken arm.  By Polly Hui.  June 22, 2005.

The defence in the Robert Kissel murder case sought to paint a picture of the top banker as a fierce disciplinarian - questioning a family maid yesterday about how the Kissels' daughter came to suffer a broken arm while on holiday.

Gary Plowman SC, counsel for Nancy Ann Kissel - who denies murdering her husband - asked Conchita Macaraeg whether it was true that the deceased had pulled his toddler daughter June's arm twice to quiet her down, shortly before she was sent to hospital with a broken elbow during a family holiday in Phuket at Christmas 1999.

Nancy Kissel, 40, is accused of poisoning, then bludgeoning to death her wealthy husband, who was Asia-Pacific managing director of global principal products for Merrill Lynch, in their flat in Parkview, Tai Tam, on or around November 2, 2003. The deceased's body was found rolled up in an old carpet in a storeroom.

Mr Plowman contended that the child and the Kissels' elder daughter, Elaine, were jumping around in the bedroom of a villa at the Sheraton Laguna Hotel after the family returned from dinner.  "I suggest that ... Mr Kissel received a mobile phone call and he asked his wife Nancy to tell the children to keep quiet so he could take the call. Because Mr Kissel was having difficulty with his mobile phone, he went into the bedroom and pulled June off the bed to tell her to behave herself and stop making noises," said the counsel.

Mr Plowman asked whether it was true that June burst into tears and went looking for her mother and that as the defendant was asking her daughter what had happened, Kissel had pulled June by the arm again.  "I suggest that there was an argument between Mr and Mrs Kissel about his rough handling of the children. Mrs Kissel accused her husband of being responsible [for what happened to their daughter]," counsel said.

Ms Macaraeg said Mr Plowman's version of events that day was wrong. The Filipino maid said June's elbow had been broken by Elaine, who is now nine, repeatedly jumping on her sister, now aged six, while they were playing and watching television in the living room of the villa.  Ms Macaraeg said that the incident happened in the morning rather than after dinner. She also insisted the couple had not been there when June got hurt and that she had not heard them arguing about the injury.

"What I know is that all of us panicked when June was crying ... and Mr Kissel told Elaine: 'It's okay. It is an accident'," the prosecution witness said.  The maid agreed that the couple sometimes argued because the deceased took a firmer line than his wife in disciplining their children, and that the victim was a disciplinarian whereas the accused was "not so much" a disciplinarian.

"Did Nancy believe that Robert Kissel was rough in the way he handled the children?" Mr Plowman asked. Ms Macaraeg said she did not know.  Asked about her knowledge of the deceased's drinking habits, the maid said she had not seen him drinking whisky. She said she could only recall once finding a crystal whisky tumbler in the kitchen sink on any morning in September or October 2003, and that the glass was cracked. She said Kissel had explained to her later that he had miscalculated when he put the glass in the sink without switching on the light the previous evening.  Counsel asked her why she had told the defendant's solicitor in an interview in December 2003 that she would find a whisky glass in the sink of the Parkview flat two mornings a week during the period in question. "I don't remember saying this," she replied.

The Court of First Instance also heard yesterday that the accused bought 10 tablets of Rohypnol - known as the date-rape drug - on November 4, 2003.

The case continues today before Mr Justice Michael Lunn.