The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 30

(The Standard)  Potent mix of drugs found in Kissel's body, but little alcohol.  By Albert Wong.  July 26, 2005.

There was a uniquely potent pharmaceutical stew inside the body of deceased Merrill Lynch banker Robert Kissel - but almost no alcohol - a senior toxicologist told the High Court in the milkshake murder trial.

Cheng Kok-choi, for the prosecution, testified that in 10 years as a toxicologist he had never encountered the mix of anti-depressants, hypnotics and sedatives found in the banker's body.  "Not even in suicide cases involving multiple drugs,'' he said.

Cheng received samples from the stomach and the liver of the deceased November 8, 2003, a day after Lau Ming-fai carried out the post-mortem.  The drugs found in the body included "date rape'' drug Rohypnol and sedative Lorivan, both allegedly prescribed for Nancy Kissel in the weeks leading up to the murder.

Nancy Kissel, 41, is accused of serving her husband a spiked pink milkshake and beating him to death with a heavy metal ornament as he lay unconscious at the foot of the bed November 2, 2003.  She told a doctor and the police her husband was drunk and assaulted her after she refused him sex, and that he then disappeared. The banker's decomposing body was discovered in a storeroom in the Parkview residential complex in the early hours of November 7. Kissel denies the charge and is out on bail.

Cheng said Monday he also tested Robert Kissel's alcohol level and found it to be "insignificantly low.''  He said the level was 100th the strength of beer.

Earlier in the trial, Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Peter Chapman read out the testimonies of a doctor and nurse in private practice who said they prescribed 10 Rohypnol tablets to Nancy Kissel on October 23.

Police seized several bottles of tablets or syrups from the Kissel residence. In a bottle labelled "Advil,'' Cheng found six tablets containing Paracetamol and 11tablets of an anti-inflammatory drug, Ibuprofen.  Cheng said two bottles of tablets, which seemed to have been prescribed by the same doctor, contained the same type of Paracetamol tablets.  One bottle contained 20 tablets and seemed to have been dispensed November 4, 2003.

Other bottles contained either cough syrups, allergy tablets, slimming pills or plain water, Cheng said. Earlier Monday, Alexander King, senior counsel for the accused, placed data before the government computer expert to show that between August and October 2003, when the Kissel children were back in Hong Kong, the family's Dell home computer was used to view the Hong Kong International School Web site and search for Halloween costumes and Barbie dolls.

Last week, the court heard the same computer was used to search for gay sex sites when the family was out of town and Robert Kissel was home alone.

In re-examination, government computer forensic expert Cheung Chun-kit said the bulk of the Web pages produced by the defense were Google results pages and agreed with Chapman who suggested "there's nothing to suggest in that bundle that the user has gone beyond'' those pages.  Chapman noted the recreated porn Web sites appeared to be only the "home page'' or the "front page.''

Cheng agreed there was also nothing to suggest the user had bookmarked gay porn sites or paid for entry to porn sites. He noted that words such as ``gay ultra'' were searched for by the user of the Encase software to examine the computer's hard drive, and not by the computer user surfing the Internet.

The case continues before Justice Michael Lunn.

(SCMP, no link)  'Unusual' drug cocktail in Kissel's stomach.  By Polly Hui.  July 26, 2005.

A government toxicologist told the Court of First Instance yesterday he had never before encountered the combination of drugs found in the stomach and liver of Robert Peter Kissel, the American banker allegedly poisoned and then bludgeoned to death by his wife.

Cheng Kok-choi, who testified as a prosecution witness, said he had identified four hypnotics in Kissel's stomach - flunitazepam (Rohypnol), lorazepam (Lorivan), zolpidem (Ambien) and butalbital (Axotal).  He also found an anti-depressant, amitriptyline, and salicylic acid, which he said could be a product of the chemical breakdown of aspirin.  In the liver, Dr Cheng identified amitriptyline and Axotal.

Dr Cheng said amitriptyline, Rohypnol (known as a date-rape drug), Lorivan and Ambien were all controlled substances and available only with a prescription.  Axotal was not registered in Hong Kong.

Dr Cheng, who has worked for the government laboratory for more than 30 years, was asked by prosecutor Peter Chapman if he had come across these drugs in other cases.  "Individually, yes, but not as a combination ... not even in suicide cases involving use of multiple drugs," he said.

The prosecution alleges that Nancy Kissel, 41, beat her husband to death with a metal ornament after serving him a strawberry milkshake laced with "a cocktail of sedatives" in their flat in Parkview, Tai Tam, on or around November 2, 2003. She has pleaded not guilty.  Robert Kissel's body was found five days later, wrapped in an old carpet in a storeroom on the estate.

The prosecutor said medical records showed that Nancy Kissel was prescribed Rohypnol by a clinic in Central on October 23, 2003. Earlier evidence indicated that another clinic prescribed her Ambien, amitriptyline and Lorivan in August 2003 and October 2003.

The prosecutor also sought yesterday to cast doubts on evidence the defence team alleges showed that Robert Kissel had accessed pornography websites using his own IBM notebook and his daughter's desktop computer. He pointed out that a large number of the websites were paid sites, and the webpages rebuilt on the screen last week appeared to be only homepages, which do not require a paid subscription.

Mr Chapman asked a police forensic computer expert, Cheung Chun-kit: "There is nothing to suggest ... paid entry or membership to those sites?"  The witness replied: "That's correct".

The prosecutor also argued that webpages showing words such as "huge cocks big dicks nude boys" could be thrown up on a Google search on subjects "without any gay content at all". But Alexander King SC, for the defence, said it was ridiculous to think the porn sites would be thrown up after typing in words such as "Hong Kong International School or Barbie Dolls".