The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 36

(Reuters)  Wife of murdered HK banker attempted suicide.  August 2, 2005.

An American woman accused of poisoning and bludgeoning her wealthy banker husband to death told a Hong Kong court on Tuesday that she attempted suicide after years of suffering his physical and sexual abuse.

On the second day of her testimony, Nancy Kissel told the High Court how her husband, Robert, became increasingly domineering and forceful as he supported his stressful job at Merrill Lynch with cocaine and whisky.

After she and the couple's children fled to their holiday home in Vermont in the United States in March 2003 to escape the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong, Nancy said she started up the car engine in the garage one night in a bid to kill herself.

"I don't know how long I was in the car, then I got scared of leaving them (the children), then I turned off the engine and went back into the house," she told the court.

Nancy, 41, is accused of feeding her husband a glass of strawberry milkshake laced with anti-depressants and hypnotic drugs on Nov. 2, 2003, before clubbing him to death that night, charges she has denied.

Wealthy, successful and popular, they were seen for years as a model couple: Kissel's murder and his wife's arrest shocked Hong Kong's expatriate community.

The prosecution said earlier that Robert had planned to tell his wife on the night of Nov. 2, 2003, that he was divorcing her after finding out her affair with a TV repairman in the United States and fearing that she was plotting to harm him.

Kissel became suspicious of her after installing spy software on their home laptop. Using the software, Kissel had traced his wife's emails with her lover and found she had searched the Internet using words such as "drug overdose" and "heart attack".

Addressing those Internet searches for the first time, Nancy said she had in fact been researching for herself. She said she wanted to die, but wanted to give the appearance that she had died of a medical condition as she did not want her children to deal with the trauma that their mother had committed suicide.

"I wouldn't want my children to be affected going through the knowledge of their mother committing suicide ... I wouldn't want them to ever know about it," she said, weeping.

Nancy said Robert became rough and forceful, and constantly coerced her into sex after the birth of their third child in 1999, a time when his stressful career took off.

It not only became habitual for him to hit and sexually abuse her, he turned rough on their children as well, she said.

When Robert visited them for a month in Vermont in May 2003, an ordeal quickly followed for her and the children.

"Everything bothered him, the way they were sitting at the table, Elaine (the eldest child) not eating her vegetables," she said. "He grabbed her (Elaine) and started shaking her and she said, 'Daddy you are hurting me', and he wouldn't let go."

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 children. Prosecutors said Nancy wrapped Kissel's body in a carpet and then asked four workmen on the estate to take it to the storeroom.

Her lawyer earlier told the court that on the night of Nov. 2 her husband demanded sex, and when she refused, he beat her and then left -- the last time she saw him alive. The defence has offered no explanation for why his body was found in a carpet.

The trial is expected to last until late August. If found guilty of murder, she could face life in prison.

(Associated Press via Globe and Mail)  ‘Milkshake murder' accused tells of abuse.  August 2, 2005.

An American housewife on trial in Hong Kong for allegedly killing her banker husband said Tuesday the man was an abusive cocaine user and that she sought refuge in an affair just months before his death in 2003.

The widely watched trial, which began about two months ago, entered a new phase as the accused, Nancy Ann Kissel, took the stand to testify in the bizarre case commonly known as the “milkshake murder.”

The woman is accused of giving her husband Robert Kissel a strawberry milkshake laced with the potent date-rape drug Rohypnol before beating him to death with a metal ornament in their Hong Kong luxury apartment on Nov. 2, 2003. His body was found wrapped in a rug in storage space rented by the couple.

Ms. Kissel, who has pleaded innocent, took the stand for the first time Monday and described her husband -- an investment banker at Merrill Lynch -- as a violent man.

She said Tuesday that her husband knocked her off the top of a staircase after an argument while on vacation in Canada and was rough during sexual intercourse, often wanting to perform sodomy on her.  “He's just extremely forceful,” the woman told a seven-member jury at Hong Kong's High Court.  She also alleged he violently shook the couple's daughter once. She said he was so upset by the incident that she put sleeping pills into her husband's drinks to calm him down.

Ms. Kissel, 41, characterized her husband as detached and leading an extreme lifestyle that involved long hours, hard drinking and cocaine use.  She said her husband in 2002 trained for a trekking competition in the wee hours of the morning despite working long hours. By early 2003, the couple barely spoke and communicated by notes and e-mail, she said.

The defendant said she found refuge during her summers alone with the children in the United States, where she had an affair with an electrician who worked on the couple's vacation house in Vermont in the summer of 2003.  

Ms. Kissel called her lover, Michael Del Priore, a reliable confidant who was a great source of emotional support.  “It was very easy, very comfortable. I could cry. I cried a lot,” Ms. Kissel said.  She said Mr. Del Priore accompanied her to get a tattoo of the Chinese characters of her children's birth years, a move that her husband had objected.  Ms. Kissel said she brought letters from her lover back to Hong Kong and hid them in her closet, but her husband discovered them and ripped them to pieces.

However, despite the tension in her marriage, Ms. Kissel said she was determined to “work through things in my marriage however they played out” and never thought about leaving her husband.

If convicted, Ms. Kissel faces up to life in prison.

(The Standard)  Kissel admits affair, attempted suicide.  By Albert Wong.  August 3, 2005.

Trapped in a marriage in which she was sexually abused by her drug-fueled, obsessive banker husband - and feeling there was no way out, accused murderer Nancy Kissel testified in the High Court she tried to commit suicide.  She also admitted to having an adulterous affair with a television repairman in the United States.

Kissel said she had searched the Internet for ways to kill herself. In explaining why spyware installed on her laptop had picked up that she had typed, "Sleeping pills ... overdose medication causing heart attack ... drug overdose,'' at the end of August, 2003, the accused said it had been research for ways of taking her own life.

Kissel, 41, is accused of serving her former Merrill Lynch banker husband, Robert Kissel, a pink milkshake laced with sedatives, which 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 told a doctor and the police at the time she was assaulted by her husband when she refused him sex.  His decomposing body was found November 7, wrapped in a rug at the couple's Parkview residential complex.

"I was feeling not great about myself. I typed this information for me about 'sleeping pills, overdose.' It was something I considered. I was pretty desperate,'' she said, "and, with everything that had happened, not wanting to face what was going on in my marriage.

"The 'causing heart attack' was something I thought about. If I was going to do something like this, of taking pills, I wouldn't want my children to be affected - of going through the knowledge of their mother committing suicide. To feel the loss of their mother caused by a heart attack was something I wanted to do for their protection.  It was an out for me from being humiliated.''

Earlier that year, while escaping the SARS epidemic with her children, she had sat in her car in Vermont with her garage doors closed and the engine running, crying, "but then got scared'' of leaving her children, she said.

At that moment, she said, she understood what her cousin had meant when she said in a note that she always wanted to commit suicide in the peaceful surroundings of Vermont.  Her cousin was found dead in a car outside their previous Vermont home, said the accused.

According to Kissel's testimony, a little over two months after that incident in the garage, she entered into a relationship with television repairman Michael Del Priore which she said was based on communication, in contrast to one based on physical and sexual abuse.  Del Priore wired the house with entertainment and security systems, said the accused. She met him in 2000, but it was not until 2003, when she stayed longer in Vermont with her children, that she really came to know him, she said.  

In mid-June, they spoke about tattoos, something she always wanted, but her husband had thought "corporate bankers' wives'' should not have.  Del Priore took her to a tattoo parlor, she said, and at dinner after, she opened up to him about the stress of trying to lead a perfect life as a banker's wife.  

"He was very open and honest to me about his childhood,'' she said.  Del Priore claimed his mother was abused by his father and that he had alcoholics in the family. He noticed that "this summer you look like s...'' compared with previous years and had "the same look as his mother did'' which concerned him, said the accused.

"I broke down and cried,'' she said. "It was the first time anybody ever stepped forward and confronted me on an issue that scares a lot of people. People look at you and see change, and they don't really want to know.''

She felt she could finally open up to someone about the "little expatriate world'' where people are "more interested in what you're wearing and how big your diamond ring is and your car.''

From Del Priore, there were "no questions, no 'do this, do that.' It was just basically letting me talk,'' she said.  The relationship continued mostly through phone calls and letters. It involved three sexual encounters, she said.

Tuesday, the accused took to the witness box for the second day in a packed courtroom, saying how she thought "giving in'' to the sodomy, the violence and the restrictive lifestyle was easier than resisting.  She spoke of making "sacrifices,'' subjecting herself to her husband's obsessive control and aggressive sexual whims, because she wanted to remain "Mrs Kissel,'' mother of her children.

During a skiing holiday in Whistler, Canada in 2002, the accused said her husband was "embarrassed'' that she would not ski, despite the fact that she thought looking after their sick two-year-old son was more important.

On Christmas Eve, her husband thought she was fussing over the Christmas tree for too long.  "He grabbed me from downstairs and pulled me upstairs, because he wanted what he wanted. And I let him.  And then I went back downstairs and finished with the presents,'' she said, which angered him more because he had told her not to.

"You're not ... listening to me. I told you not to ... touch the tree and you did,'' he said through clenched teeth, slamming her against the wall, said the accused.

A day or two later, a similar argument erupted about her failing to listen to him, resulting in the accused waving her finger at him. "So he hit me. And I fell down the flight of steps and hit my head on the bottom,'' said Kissel.

When the victim visited his family in Vermont in May 2003, the sexual violence grew worse as the banker had to work around the clock, using cocaine to accommodate different time zones.  The sex was at "an instant'' whenever it suited his work and his mood swings. The accused said she would just walk by his desk, "and he'd grab me.''

Kissel continues her testimony today before Justice Michael Lunn.

(SCMP)  Kissel tells of suicide bid and admits affair.  By Polly Hui.  August 3, 2005.

Nancy Kissel attempted suicide and succumbed to an affair with a TV repairman in Vermont to escape physical and mental torture by her husband, the Court of First Instance heard yesterday.  Kissel, 41, said she attempted suicide the night before her husband, Robert Peter Kissel, who she is accused of murdering, flew from Hong Kong to join her and their three children at their US holiday home in Vermont to escape Sars in May 2003.

After the children and maid fell asleep, she went to the garage and sat in her car after turning on the engine. "I cried a lot. Maybe I got scared of leaving my children. So I turned off the engine and went back into the house," she said.

She told the jury she searched the internet for information on "sleeping pills", "drug overdose" and "medication causing heart attack" in August 2003 because she was contemplating suicide.

One of the triggers was that during their trip to New York that month, her husband had forbidden her from picking up their eldest daughter, Elaine, from a camp in Maine. She was told to return to Hong Kong first, while the deceased and his father, William Kissel, would pick up the daughter.

Kissel said her interest in drugs causing heart attack stemmed from her intention to protect her children. "I thought if I am going to do something like this, taking pills, I wouldn't want my children to be affected - going through the knowledge of their mother committing suicide," she said.

Kissel is accused of killing her husband, a senior Merrill Lynch banker, after serving him a sedatives-laced milkshake in their Parkview flat on November 2, 2003. She has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder.

On day two of her evidence, Kissel recalled occasions when she was hit or sexually abused by her husband. On a Christmas skiing trip in Whistler, Canada, in 2002, she said she fell down a flight of stairs after being hit by Robert after an argument. She also told of how Robert forced her to have oral and anal sex with her in their flat.

Kissel admitted having an affair with Michael Del Priore, who fixed a stereo and TV system in her Vermont house during her stay there in 2003. She recalled he told her over a dinner that June how his mother had been abused by his alcoholic father and how difficult it was for him to deal with his childhood. He had said to Kissel: "This summer when I saw you, you looked like s***, tired and beat-up."

"Something he said to me was I had that same look his mother did," she said. "I broke down and cried. It was the first time anybody ever stepped forward in front of me on an issue that would normally scare a lot of people. There are people who would look at you, notice the ... change, but they don't really want to know.  In Hong Kong, in the expat world, we would run into people who are more interested in what you are wearing, how big your diamond ring is, your car."

She said Mr Del Priore was a comfort to her, for the stress and loneliness she felt after she and her children were turned away by US hotels, clinics and schools for fear they were carrying Sars.  Kissel also admitted having sex about three times with Mr Del Priore when their relationship turned intimate that summer.

"Had you formed an intention to leave your husband?" asked Alexander King SC, for the defence. "No," she said. "There was no question in my mind that I was Mrs Kissel. I have been for 15 years. I am a banker's wife... I worked hard in Hong Kong. It's very much my choice ... to work through things in my marriage however they played out." She described Vermont, of which "Michael was part", as an escape from the "real world" in Hong Kong and from her marriage.

She said the pair had frequent phone conversations and letter exchanges and that Robert had found the letters, which she hid in their Parkview bedroom, during one of his regular ransackings of the room and ripped them apart in her face.  Asked to identify copies of the letters seized by the police from the deceased's office, Kissel said: "They are not in their original form." She said the parts of the letters where they discussed Robert's abuse of her were not there.

Kissel, who told the court her husband was using cocaine, painkillers and whisky, said she became worried when she realised his violence had spilled over to the children. She said he once got angry with Elaine for not eating vegetables in Vermont. He printed her photos of malnourished people - which she hated - grabbed her, kept shaking her and jumped on her. "She said, 'Daddy, you are hurting me.' But he just kept shaking," Kissel said in tears.

She put sleeping pills in Robert's bottle of whisky in an attempt to calm her husband down, she said, but it had no effect on him.

She told the jury how Robert was controlling different aspects of her life. He told her to stop calling her father in the US - she called him every day - and to stop doing volunteer work for her daughters' school. He also took away the children's passports. He was furious when he discovered she had returned from Vermont with a tattoo on her shoulder, reminding her that she was a banker's wife.

The case continues before Mr Justice Michael Lunn today.

From the Chinese-language media: