The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 45

(The Standard)  Accused's father tells of his shock.  By Albert Wong.  August 17, 2005.

The father of accused murderer Nancy Kissel told the High Court Tuesday of his love for his daughter, his bonding with his son-in-law Robert - with whom he often had "guy-talks'' about business - and his belief that "their whole life was ideal.''  But Ira Keeshin's perception of their marriage changed radically when he received a call from his daughter on November 3, 2003, informing him she had been beaten up by her husband, who then walked out of their apartment.  He was shocked again on November 6, the night before the accused's arrest, when he heard for the first time the suggestion that Robert Kissel's body might be concealed in a storeroom.

When told by defense counsel Alexander King, SC, that he would be inquiring about the events of that November, Keeshin asked the judge for some time to "get my breath back.'' Apologizing to the judge, Keeshin said: "There's waves of emotion that just overcome me. I can't stop 'em.''

When Keeshin first heard of the alleged assault and was advised by his son to go to Hong Kong for his daughter's "protection,'' he braced himself for the worst-case scenario.  "You hear all these horror stories of guys that beat up women and then come back and kill the kids, kill the wife and then themselves,'' he said.

He could not remember the details of the conversation which first informed him of the alleged assault. "When a daughter calls you and says 'I've been beaten up,' you're just in shock,'' he said.

Kissel, 41, is accused of drugging Robert Kissel with a milkshake laced with sedatives then bludgeoning him to death as he lay unconscious at the foot of their bed in their luxury Parkview apartment on November 2, 2003.  She has testified that there was a furious fight that night, in which she feared for her life as her husband bore down on her swinging a baseball bat, repeatedly saying: "I'm going to kill you, you bitch.''  She has accepted that she killed her husband, but said she cannot recall how she came to inflict five fatal wounds to the side of his head. She denies the charge of murder and is out on bail.  The decomposing body of Robert Kissel, a former high-flying Merrill Lynch banker, was found wrapped in a rug and locked in a storeroom in the Parkview residential complex on November 7.

Keeshin testified he thought Robert Kissel had been a "good guy, pretty industrious and bright'' and they bonded over their interest in business. He said they had particularly lengthy talks about his son-in-law's move from Goldman Sachs to Merrill Lynch, often over glasses of scotch and cigars.  "It was a nice relationship,'' he said.  He never detected that Robert Kissel had any problem with drugs but, although he had known there were arguments, "she said she was OK.''

Around September, 2003, the accused phoned him to say her husband was jealous of their close relationship and wished her to stop speaking to him on a daily basis.  "I said, 'You know, your marriage is more important,''' said Keeshin. He said he understood that, "as Rob made more money, worked longer hours, traveled more, Nancy's life become more lonely.''

Keeshin arrived in Hong Kong on November 5 after his daughter informed him of an alleged attack by her husband. When he first saw her, "she looked terrible, she looked beat up,'' he said.  At 11pm on November 6, Keeshin went to the Parkview apartment on hearing the police had arrived. He said the police officer in charge took him aside, saying they had search warrants, and asked for the key to the storeroom.

At this point, he exclaimed: "Oh my God,'' because it was the first time he contemplated something else could have happened to Robert Kissel other than he had just disappeared.  As some of the officers opened up the storeroom, Keeshin said his daughter began shaking violently in the apartment, saying repeatedly, "He wouldn't stop, he wouldn't stop.''

The officers present on that occasion have testified that Keeshin and the accused had a private conversation during which Keeshin exclaimed, "Oh my God, I don't believe it,'' although no one had noted it down.

Earlier Tuesday, the accused's half-brother Brooks Keeshin testified that he arrived in Hong Kong on November 8 to help pack the belongings of the children after he heard of her arrest.  He said he was accompanying her solicitor, Simon Clark, on November 9 when they carried out a general inspection of the apartment and found a baseball bat, identified as the one Robert Kissel was said to have been swinging at the accused.  He said Clark had seen the bat lying on the ground behind a chest of drawers, and he helped him move the furniture for him to retrieve the bat.

Under cross-examination, Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Peter Chapman suggested that Brooks Keeshin and Clark had led an "expeditionary force,'' conducting searches. They were then joined by "re-inforcements'' - King and Ira Keeshin - "armed with cameras.''  Brooks said they only moved out one piece of furniture, had one disposable camera with them and were only doing general searches to help with the children's packing and look for the accused's personal belongings.

Chapman will cross-examine Ira Keeshin today. 

(SCMP; no link)  Father tells of anxious dash to protect Kissel, children.  By Polly Hui.  August 17, 2005.

Nancy Kissel's father jumped onto a plane to Hong Kong in fear for his daughter and grandchildren after she told him that she had been beaten up "pretty badly" by her husband, the Court of First Instance heard yesterday.

Ira Keeshin, when asked by defence counsel Alexander King SC to recall events on November 3, 2003, a day after his daughter killed Robert Peter Kissel, took in several deep breaths and said: "There are waves of emotions. I can't stop it. I got a phone call from Nancy about 7pm Hong Kong time ... She said: Dad, I've been beaten up pretty badly." She also told him her husband had left home after the assault.  Kissel, 41, has admitted killing Robert Peter Kissel with a metal ornament on November 2, 2003, but has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Mr Keeshin said his son from the second of his three marriages, Brooks Keeshin, a medical doctor involved in shelters for battered women, urged him to take a flight from Chicago to Hong Kong.  He said his son, who also gave evidence yesterday, said to him: "Dad, this is a defining moment in your relationship with Nancy. When men beat up their wives, sometimes they come back to kill her and their children."  Mr Keeshin said: "I told her to double bolt the doors. I couldn't conceive anything else other than what he and Nancy told me."

Mr Keeshin, who landed in Hong Kong on November 5, said his daughter looked "terrible, beat up", with a cracked lip, a bruised hand and ribs strapped with a Velcro belt, when he arrived at her apartment in Parkview, Tai Tam.  He recalled Kissel shaking when he took her to Aberdeen police station on November 6. She was "spacey and erratic" and told him she could not recall events of the previous day.

Mr Keeshin, who was staying at Parkview hotel at the time, said he received a call from Kissel at about 11pm on the 6th, telling him officers had gone to her flat and asking him to go over.  He said the head officer told him in the flat that they had a search warrant. "He said: 'We're pretty sure we know where your son-in-law was.' He said he needs the keys to the storeroom. It's a huge shock, even imaging what had happened," he said. He recalled saying "goddamnit" when Kissel said she had lost the keys. But the keys were eventually given to the officers.

When some officers had left to search the storeroom, where the body was eventually found, Mr Keeshin asked for an ambulance for his daughter. "She was shaking pretty violently, the dog was barking, Reis [Kissel's youngest child] was wet. I got to change his diaper," he said.

Leaving Parkview for Ruttonjee Hospital with Kissel in the ambulance, Mr Keeshin recalled: "I looked out through the back window and saw a parade of cops. I thought, who could this be at 1am? And there was the press. I remember Nancy screaming when they went into the custodial ward... I broke down. It was very, very sad."

When asked by Mr King about his impression of his son-in-law when he married his daughter in 1989, he said: "Good guy. He used me like his father, which I thought a lot of."  Robert had appointed him guardian of his children in his will. Mr Keeshin had never seen or detected the senior Merrill Lynch banker using illegal drugs, but added he had never lived with him.

Mr Keeshin said he considered the couple's move to Hong Kong a "great success story". When he heard his daughter left Robert on a Canadian skiing trip after a fight in 2002, it was "the first time I began to realise that everything wasn't so glorious in terms of relationship".

In cross-examination, Mr Keeshin told prosecutor Peter Chapman his first wife, Kissel's mother, did not have a drinking problem or depression. He also said he had no tendency towards violence.

The case continues today before Mr Justice Michael Lunn. 

(Bloomberg)  Kissel Didn't Tell Father of Alleged Assaults, H.K. Court Told.  By Clare Cheung.  August 17, 2005.

Nancy Kissel, on trial for the murder of her Merrill Lynch & Co. investment banker husband, didn't tell her father that her husband physically or sexually assaulted her, Hong Kong's High Court heard today.

Ira Keeshin, Nancy Kissel's father, today testified that his daughter -- who has alleged that Robert Kissel had been physically and sexually assaulting her for five years -- hadn't mentioned it to him.

The prosecution has alleged Nancy Kissel drugged her millionaire husband on Nov. 2, 2003, by lacing his milkshake with sedatives and, when he was under the influence of the drugs, struck him with a heavy metal object. Robert Kissel, whose body was found wrapped in a carpet four days later in a storeroom near the couple's Tai Tam apartment, died of head injuries, a police statement said at the time.  Kissel, 41, is pleading not guilty to one charge of murder.

Today the court heard Nancy Kissel called her father in the U.S., a day after Robert Kissel was killed and told him she had been "badly beaten'' by her husband the night before, Keeshin said. He said Nancy told her Robert then left the apartment.

"That's the first time you heard such allegation from Nancy?'' Prosecutor Peter Chapman asked.  Keeshin said: "Correct.''

Nancy Kissel told the court during cross-examination on Aug. 4 that she accepted she killed her husband. She said the pair had a fight about getting a divorce and she threw a metal ornament at him when he came at her swinging a baseball bat and threatening to kill her.  Robert Kissel wanted a divorce because he suspected his wife of having an affair, Prosecutor Peter Chapman said in his opening statement on June 7.

Keeshin came to Hong Kong two days before Robert Kissel's body was found. He went to a police station with Nancy Kissel on Nov. 6 to report an assault against her by Robert Kissel.

Today, Keeshin said he only realized Robert Kissel was dead when the police came up to Kissel's apartment. They told him that they knew where his son-in-law was and asked for a key to the storeroom where the body was found.

Merrill Lynch hired Robert Kissel from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in 2000 to head its distressed assets business in Asia outside Japan. He was a vice president in Goldman's Asian special situations group, helping the firm become one of the biggest investors in bad debt in the region.

The case is HKSAR v. Nancy Ann Kissel, indictment no. HCCC113/2004 in the Court of First Instance of the High Court. The trial continues tomorrow. 

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