The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 13

(Reuters via Boston Globe)  Merrill banker was incoherent hours before death.  June 22, 2005.

Robert Kissel, the Hong Kong-based American banker who was allegedly poisoned and later clubbed to death by his wife, sounded incoherent hours before he died, one of his best friends told a high court on Wednesday.

Prosecutors told the court earlier in June that Nancy Kissel had fed her husband a glass of strawberry milkshake laced with hypnotic and anti-depressant drugs in the early afternoon of Nov. 2, 2003, before she clubbed him to death that night.

Testifying on the 12th day of the trial, David Noh, a confidante and colleague of Robert Kissel, said he spoke with Kissel on the telephone around 5 p.m. (0900 gmt) on Nov. 2.  Both men, employees of U.S. banking giant Merrill Lynch, needed to talk to prepare for a business telephone conference that was to take place at 7.30 p.m. (1130 gmt) that evening.

"He was off the tangent ... he sounded very sleepy and tired. He started talking about export growth instead of real estate prices. It was bizarre," Noh told the court.  "I found him strange. He was not responding to my questions. He sounded slurred in his speech and very mellow."

That was the last time that Noh spoke to Kissel. Kissel, a managing director at Merrill Lynch, never called into that business telephone conference, Noh said.

Kissel had planned that night to tell his wife that he was divorcing her after discovering she was having an affair with a TV repairman in the United States and fearing that she was plotting to harm him, prosecutors said earlier.

Police have accused Nancy of clubbing her husband to death with a heavy metallic figurine in their bedroom after poisoning him -- charges which she has denied.  Police found Kissel's body on Nov.6, 2003, in a storeroom that the couple rented in the luxury residential estate where they lived with their three children.

Prosecutors said she disposed of the body by wrapping it in a carpet bought the day after the murder and then asking workmen on the estate to take it to the storeroom.

Kissel's murder and his wife's arrest shocked Hong Kong's expatriate community and the case has riveted the city since the trial opened earlier this month.

In his testimony, Noh said Kissel had consulted divorce lawyers on how he might gain custody of his children or be assured of access to them in the weeks before he died. 
Noh said Kissel confided in him about his marital problems almost on a daily basis and had told him he was prepared to give Nancy as much money as she needed.

"He was prepared to let Nancy bring her boyfriend to Hong Kong if that meant he could see his kids," Noh said.

Kissel had become suspicious of his wife in August 2003 after installing spy software on their home laptop. Using the software, Kissel traced his wife's email correspondence with her lover.  Kissel also found that she had searched the Internet using key words such as "drug overdose." Prosecutors said he told a private detective and a friend in the United States that he was concerned his wife might be trying to harm him.  Prosecutors said she apparently met the repairman when she returned to the United States with their three children to escape the SARS epidemic earlier in 2003.

The trial is expected to last until mid-August.

(The Standard)  Trial told of 'turning point'.  By Albert Wong.  June 23, 2005.

When murdered banker Robert Kissel shoved aside his wife during an argument in their luxury flat, she responded by saying, "you'll never live that down,'' a friend of the dead man testified in the High Court.  Nancy Kissel, wife of the former Merrill Lynch banker is accused of serving her husband a pink milkshake laced with sedatives that left him unconscious at the foot of their bed as she bludgeoned him to death with a heavy metal ornament on November 2, 2003. She denies the charge.

At the time, Kissel told her domestic helper that her drunk, cocaine-fuelled husband had assaulted her. His decomposing body was found four days later, wrapped in a rug in a storeroom at the couple's Parkview, Tai Tam, home.  The post-mortem revealed five different hypnotics and sedatives in his body.

David Noh, a confidant of Robert Kissel, testified Wednesday the victim believed there was a specific "turning point'' in his marriage.  Noh testified that Kissel told him that during an argument he had shoved his wife because she kept yelling at him.  "He told me she then said, 'you will never live that down' or 'you will pay for that', words to that effect,'' said Noh, although he was unable to remember the exact date of the incident. Nonetheless, he said, the victim believed that to be turning point in the marriage.

Senior counsel for the accused, Gary Plowman, pointed out this was the first time Noh had mentioned that despite four previous written statements.

The prosecution alleges that when Noh spoke to Robert Kissel on the telephone at around 5pm on Sunday, November 2, a couple of hours after drinking the milkshake, the victim seemed sleepy, tired and depressed.  Noh testified Wednesday that during the conversation, he wanted to discuss work issues. "But Rob was on a different tangent,'' he said. "His response was bizarre.''

Noh said the victim had talked about export growth, real estate prices and networks between Hong Kong and the mainland without making much sense.  "Being good friends, I actually made fun of him,'' said Noh.

Plowman, pointed out that Noh's first written statement - a missing person's report - filed November 6, made no mention of tiredness or depression in relation to that telephone conversation.  Noh said he thought he mentioned it during a verbal interview with the police that day.

Plowman noted that Noh had kept up a correspondence with a police inspector regarding the investigation into the banker's death.  Noh filed another written statement, on November 20, in which he mentioned for the first time the tiredness and depression in relation to that conversation.

Plowman suggested: "When you made that second statement, it was made with the knowledge of the post-mortem report.''  Noh replied, "It could be.''

Plowman asked if "in the course of the first interview with the police [on November 6], did you discuss with the inspector what the deceased had told you about his plan to discuss divorce with his wife on November 2?''  Noh answered, "Yes I did.''

To which, Plowman asked: "Did you also tell the person interviewing you that he was concerned about retaining custody of his children?''  Noh replied, "Yes I did.''

Noh met the victim when they worked together in the corporate distressed-debt division at investment bank Goldman Sachs.  In August 2000, they both left for Merrill Lynch where they established a team working on similar business. Kissel became a managing director and Noh vice president.  

The victim's annual income in 2003 was US$175,000 (HK$1.37 million), not including the US$5.9 million he had amassed in bonuses in his three years with Merrill Lynch. The Parkview monthly rent of HK$152,000 was paid by the bank.  Noh said he and Kissel worked closely together, often from 9am until well past midnight. Noh said the victim was "extremely professional and thoughtful. He basically got along with everyone.''  "He constantly spoke of the kids. That was by far the most important thing in his life,'' said Noh.

Senior assistant director of public prosecutions Peter Chapman asked Noh what the victim did after work when in Hong Kong?  Noh said Kissel would go home and on the weekends he would spend time with the kids.

The prosecutor then asked about social gatherings.  "We have our fair share of company functions,'' said Noh, but the times he and the victim would attend together were "pretty few and far between.''  He added: "I don't think he had a drinking habit other than a social beer or two.''

He said Kissel had received advice to tie up as many divorce lawyers as possible so the accused could not gain access to one. He said the victim had also told him that he had found out via "E-blaster'' computer spyware that the accused had been looking at "dark Web sites involving drugs and death.''

When Kissel failed to attend a conference call on November 2 and did not show up at work the following days, Noh made several calls in an attempt to locate him.  He had known Kissel had planned on discussing divorce with the accused on November 2.  Eventually he got through to Nancy Kissel at home, who told him first the couple were resolving "family issues'' and then that the victim had "health issues.''  The body was discovered in the early hours of November 7.

The family's domestic helper testified Monday that the accused had told her money, power and stress at work had led Robert Kissel to take cocaine and assault his wife.

Plowman suggested to Noh that the victim's move to Merrill Lynch had caused him more stress since he was given more responsibility. Noh said he thought the opposite.  While at Goldman Sachs, Kissel and his colleagues had been competing for a promotion and were "trying to figure out who was the last man standing,'' said Noh.  But at Merrill Lynch, he was secure as managing director, said Noh.  Since Noh worked directly under Kissel, "your career path was very much in his hands,'' said Plowman.

In the days following the alleged murder on November 2, the prosecution alleges that Nancy Kissel bought furniture items to replace the blood-stained items in the master bedroom as part of her attempted cover-up.

Earlier Wednesday, Suzara Serquina from the Tequila Kola furniture outlet in Horizon Plaza, Ap Lei Chai, testified that a woman came into her store on November 3 to purchase some goods. Serquina assisted her in purchasing carpets, bed covers, cushions and a chaise longue.  The lady was wearing dark sunglasses indoors, dressed casually and was noticeably loud.  She spent over HK$15,000 the first time, and returned the next day to spend HK$27,120 on two carpets.

"Whose signature is that at the foot of the slip'' for the credit card bill, asked the prosecutor.  Serquina replied "it's Nancy Kissel's.''

The trial has been adjourned briefly for administrative issues and should resume tomorrow.

(SCMP)  Wife said 'you'll pay for this', court told.  June 23, 2005.

Robert Peter Kissel told a friend that his wife Nancy had warned him "you will pay for that" after the wealthy banker pushed her aside in the middle of a heated argument, the Court of First Instance heard yesterday.  David Noh, a close friend and colleague of Robert Kissel at Merrill Lynch, said the incident had marked the "turning point" in the couple's relationship in the mind of the banker, whose wife is on trial for murdering her husband.  

Recalling what Robert Kissel had told him, Mr Noh said: "They had a disagreement. Nancy kept yelling at Rob ... He shoved her aside. She then said to him: `You will never live that down'."  Asked by the prosecutor to elaborate, Mr Noh said the deceased told him Nancy had said: "You will pay for that." He could not recall when the incident took place, but said it "pinpointed when things started to go wrong".

Mr Noh worked under Robert Kissel in early 2000 at Goldman Sachs in a team that purchased assets of companies facing bankruptcy. The two moved to Merrill Lynch in August 2000, where Robert Kissel became Asia-Pacific managing director of global principal products and Mr Noh was second-in-command.

Nancy Ann Kissel, 40, is accused of bludgeoning her husband to death after serving him a sedatives-laced milkshake in their luxury Parkview flat on or around Sunday, November 2, 2003. The body was found in a rolled up carpet in a storeroom at Parkview.  The accused has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Mr Noh said Robert Kissel had sounded "bizarre" during their last contact - a 10-minute telephone conversation about 5pm on November 2, 2003.  Mr Noh said he was talking about real estate prices while the banker kept talking about export growth.

"Rob was on a different tangent. He said he was sleepy and tired ... He sounded sometimes slurred in his speech and very mellow. I had to stop him," he said.  "Being his good friend, I made fun of him," he added.  

During the call, the deceased also told the witness about his intention to discuss divorce with his wife that evening, the court was told.  As a result, when the deceased did not show up for a conference call as planned at 7.30pm the same day, Mr Noh said he thought his boss was still in the middle of the discussion with his wife.  After Robert Kissel failed to attend an important meeting the following day, Mr Noh said he phoned him a few times until he eventually reached Nancy Kissel.

"She told me they had some family issues and Rob would call me back soon," he said. She gave him a similar reply on November 5, the court heard. Mr Noh said he made a missing person report at the Western police station on November 6, 2003.

He said yesterday the victim's primary concern in any divorce had been access to his three children. "He said he would give Nancy as much money as she needs to keep her lifestyle - even if it meant bringing her boyfriend to Hong Kong - so that he could see his children on weekends."  Mr Noh said he first learnt from the deceased about the couple's marriage problems in May 2003.  The banker had lost hope in the marriage after he found phone bills - allegedly showing frequent contacts between the accused and her lover in Vermont, US - in her handbag in late September, Mr Noh said.

The hearing before Mr Justice Michael Lunn continues.

(David Noh; photo: Apple Daily)

(Apple Daily)  [translation]  David Noh testified that the earliest that he learned about Robert Kissel's marital problems was in May 2003.  At the time, Robert Kissel did not describe the exact details, but pointed out that there were family problems.  Later on, Robert Kissel was heartbroken to learn that his wife is having an extramarital affair and he also told David Noh that his wife might take the children back to the United Staes.

Robert Kissel would talk to David Noh daily about his martial problems, and had told him about having hired a private investigator and installing spyware on his wife's computer that caused him to think that things were not normal.  Robert Kissel also showed Noh a telephone bill and said that his wife has another mobile telephone where all the calls go to Vermont.

The witness said that when Robert Kissel returned from the United States in August after seeking treatment for his backpain, the couple went to see a marriage advisor and the relationship turned better at first.  Then the two quarreled, and Robert Kissel told Noh that Nancy Kissel had requested a divorce.