The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 32

(The Standard)  Expert quizzed on effect of drugs.  By Albert Wong.  July 28, 2005.

It is likely that murdered banker Robert Kissel experienced the same symptoms of drowsiness, slurred speech and memory loss suffered by his neighbor Andrew Tanzer, who was served a pink milkshake at the Kissel residence hours before the former Merrill Lynch banker died, the High Court heard.  Tanzer has already testified that he and Kissel were each given a milkshake prepared by Nancy Kissel on the afternoon before she allegedly killed her husband.  The effects Tanzer experienced were "consistent with the drugs found in the stomach contents of the deceased,''expert pharmacologist Professor Yeung Hok-keung of Chinese University said in testimony for the prosecution Wednesday.

Yeung was called to shed light on whether the sedatives and hypnotics found in Kissel's stomach could have come from the now-notorious pink milkshake which allegedly left Robert Kissel unconscious as he was bludgeoned to death.

Yeung said the five different sedatives - Lorivan, Rohypnol, Stilnox, Anatryptaline and Axotal - were usually available through prescription in tablet form and could be crushed into a powdery substance.

"If they were placed in a drink for example, would they dissolve?'' asked lead prosecutor Peter Chapman.

"It depends on the solvent,'' replied Yeung. "Let's try a milkshake,'' Chapman suggested.

Yeung noted that a milkshake was thick and opaque. "Most drugs are quite soluble so you can crush the tablets and dissolve them in a drink.''

How about taste? "I've not tasted the tablets myself,'' Yeung said, "but I would have thought they had some strange, bitter taste. They are chemicals.''

Yeung was in court last month when Tanzer and his wife testified to the effects he felt after drinking the milkshake at the Kissel apartment.

Yeung noted that, within 10 minutes of drinking the strange tasting, reddish milkshake, Tanzer had arrived back home, red in the face, disoriented, drowsy and, later, with a "failure to form new memories.''

"This would be in line with the sedative hypnotics of the drugs,'' he said.

Nancy Kissel, 41, is accused of beating her husband to death with a metal ornament November 2, 2003, after serving him a milkshake laced with sedatives. She told a doctor and the police at the time that her drunken husband assaulted her after she refused him sex and that he then disappeared. She denies the murder charge and is out on bail.

The banker's decomposing body was found November 7, wrapped in a blanket in a storeroom at the couple's Parkview residential complex.

During cross-examination, Yeung said he was not aware of the "timeline'' of Robert Kissel's activities after drinking the pink milkshake.

Alexander King, SC, for Nancy Kissel, informed the professor that her husband was seen playing with their son around 4.40pm that day, 40 minutes after drinking the milkshake.  Images captured on CCTV showed him making a phone call around 5.15pm, an hour after Tanzer had already been seriously affected, King noted.

Given that Tanzer is a big man and was affected by the drugs within 15 minutes, "if Robert Kissel had consumed the same dosage of whatever it was Mr Tanzer had consumed, you would expect, would you not, for it to have the same pharmacological effect?'' King asked.

Yeung said each individual reacts differently to drugs and it is difficult to make direct comparisons.  "But these drugs do what they intend to do,'' said King, which is to act quickly. "Yes,'' Yeung replied.

Taking the opportunity to ask Yeung's expert opinion, King read out a statement regarding the use of cocaine. "New cocaine users often use cocaine to increase productivity in their work, and other activities in their lives, so they can work longer and harder. Dangerous lifestyle choices often follow repeated cocaine use,'' King said.  Yeung said cocaine may cause psychological addiction, paranoia and mood disturbances.

In re-examination, Chapman pointed out that the maximum time before the sedative drugs take effect could be several hours.  He also informed Yeung that Robert Kissel's former Merrill Lynch colleague and friend, David Noh, said he had a phone conversation with Kissel around 5pm that day and found him to be "generally non-responsive.''

Justice Michael Lunn noted that Yeung had agreed hair samples could be used to test for drugs because some drugs "bind to hair.''

"What is the position as far as cocaine is concerned? Does that `bind to hair'?'' asked the judge.  "I don't know,'' Yeung replied.

The trial continues today.

(SCMP, no link)  Defence suggests drug tolerance of victim.  By Polly Hui.  July 28, 2005.

A high tolerance for drugs could explain why Robert Peter Kissel appeared to behave normally an hour after being served milkshake allegedly laced with sedatives by his wife, by which time a neighbour who also drank it had passed out, the Court of First Instance heard.

Alexander King SC, representing Nancy Kissel, suggested during cross-examination of pharmacologist John Yeung Hok-keung that the deceased could have developed resistance to certain drugs after taking them regularly, so that "a higher dosage was necessary to achieve the [same] effect". But the witness said he was not in a position to comment on repeated drug use.

Government chemist Cheng Kok-choi said on Monday that he found a cocktail of drugs - the hypnotics Rohypnol, Lorivan, Ambien and Axotal, and amitriptyline, an antidepressant - in samples taken from the deceased's stomach and liver.

Mr King asked the witness if he agreed that using cocaine would increase productivity at work and in other areas of life. The lawyer said the long-term effects of taking the drug included addiction, paranoia and dangerous lifestyle choices.

"Do many cocaine addicts develop a tolerance to the drug?" he asked.  "I can't comment," said Professor Yeung.

The court also heard from a neighbour who was served the milkshake, Andrew Tanzer. Mr Tanzer said he took his daughter to the Kissels' flat in Parkview, Tai Tam, on November 2, 2003.  He said he and the deceased were served a milkshake prepared by the accused using what she described as her "secret recipe".

Kissel, 41, denies the murder of her husband, a senior Merrill Lynch banker, that day. Prosecutors say she bludgeoned him to death with a metal ornament. His body was found five days later.

Recalling evidence given by Kazuko Ouchi, Mr Tanzer's wife, Mr King put it to Professor Yeung that Mr Tanzer had returned home complaining of tiredness and fell asleep on the couch within half an hour of drinking the shake. His wife slapped him in an attempt to wake him up, the counsel said. Yet closed-circuit TV cameras had captured the deceased awake and walking between his flat and the playground in Parkview around 5.15pm, said Mr King.

Professor Yeung said that most of the drugs identified in the deceased's body were fast-acting and their effects were in line with the strange behaviour of Mr Tanzer.

The prosecution replayed a tape-recording of the evidence given last month by David Noh, a friend of the deceased. Mr Noh, who talked to the deceased on the phone for about 10 minutes around 5pm on November 2, 2003, said he had complained of fatigue and was talking "on a different tangent".

Prosecutor Peter Chapman asked Professor Yeung if the nature of the phone conversation surprised him. "Assuming that he was under the effect of the drugs, that wouldn't surprise me," he said. 

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