The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 46

(The Standard)  Defendant's friends recall various instances of abuse.  By Albert Wong.  August 18, 2005.

Years before the murder of her husband, Nancy Kissel was seen with a bruised face, black eyes, and other injuries witnesses told the High Court Wednesday.  Defense witnesses also suggested that her husband, banker Robert Kissel, was an aggressive man who tightly monitored his wife's finances and was strict with his children.

Testifying for the defense, Nancy Nassberg, a friend of accused murderer Nancy Kissel, said that in February 1999, she and her maid asked why the accused was wearing her sunglasses indoors during a children's birthday party. They were shocked when she lowered her sunglasses, revealing the bruising on her right eye and said, "rough sex.''

After an embarrassed moment, "Nancy, like laughed, and sort of changed the subject,'' said Nassberg.  She noticed bruising on Kissel's face another time in late 1998 at the Hong Kong International school (HKIS) and heard her dismiss it as something inflicted while playing with the children.

The assertions seemed to back up Kissel's earlier claims that she was routinely abused by her husband, who took drugs, and was obsessed with power, success and money.

Nancy Kissel, 41, is accused of giving her husband a spiked milkshake which left him unconscious as she bludgeoned him to death with a heavy metal ornament on November 2, 2003 in their luxury Parkview apartment. She denies the charge of murder and is out on bail.

She has accepted that she killed her husband, but says she cannot recall how she came to inflict five fatal wounds to the side of his head.  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.

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 in the early hours of November 7.

Testifying to Kissel's mental state after the crime, defense witness Geertruida Samra, who provided surety for the accused's bail application, spoke of visiting her in Siu Lam psychiatric centre in "the very early days'' of her stay there.  She was shocked when Kissel asked, "how's Rob?''

Samra said she told the accused, "Honey, Rob's gone, you know that right?'' Kissel replied she didn't "remember much,'' according to Samra.

Witness Nassberg, who worked for the US consulate in Hong Kong for five years, first met Nancy Kissel in 1998 and offered to help her get settled in Hong Kong. She said Robert Kissel frequently queried the accused about her food purchases from Oliver's Delicatessen.  "She had to justify [her purchases] with Robert,'' she said.

Nassberg said the defendant always wanted her children to have fun and freely express themselves, but that the deceased "criticised her that she was too lenient.''

Nassberg remembered two occasions, both during meals at the Aberdeen Marina Club, when she thought the deceased was "on edge'' and reprimanded the accused in public for not controlling the children.

Samra, who knew the accused from the Parent Faculty Organization at HKIS, said she noticed three injuries to Nancy Kissel in 2002.  Once, she noticed a black eye that was explained away as being caused by her younger son bumping her on the head accidentally.  

Another time, Samra noticed what she thought were rib injuries. According to Samra, the accused told her she "played rugby with the girls'' and bruised her ribs.  When Samra said she didn't think her friend played rugby, Kissel responded that it was from a "tumble'' while playing with the girls.

Samra also described the scene she found at the couple's apartment after the body had been discovered on November 7.  Her first thought was that the deceased had died of a heart attack and she had rushed to their apartment.

"The door was wide open. I walked in,'' she said, adding that there were no guards outside. She saw a flurry of activity, policemen carrying computers and the dog moving from one room to another, she said.

At the beginning of the trial, one of the Kissel's domestic helpers testified that she never saw the police cordon off the suspected crime scene and that police, friends and family were able to walk in and out relatively freely.

Earlier on Wednesday, prosecutor Peter Chapman completed his cross-examination of the accused's father Ira Keeshin, noting that he said he feared Robert Kissel would return and harm the family.  Keeshan added it did not occur to him to ask the family's two domestic helpers what might have happened and where Robert Kissel was.

The trial continues today before justice Michael Lunn.

(SCMP; no link)  Friend shocked by Kissel's question.  By Polly Hui.  August 18, 2005.

Nancy Kissel shocked her friend when she asked how her husband was, shortly after she was arrested for killing him, the Court of First Instance heard yesterday.

Geertruida Samra said Kissel did not seem to know during their conversation at the Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre that Robert Peter Kissel was already dead. The defence witness, described as one of Kissel's best friends in Hong Kong, recalled seeing Kissel step into the visitors' room assisted by a warden because she could hardly walk by herself.

The accused asked her friend: "Trudy, how's Rob?" Shocked, she replied: "Honey, Rob's gone. You know that right?" Kissel replied: "I don't know, I can't remember much."

Ms Samra said that they did not say much about events surrounding November 2, 2003, the day Kissel allegedly bludgeoned her husband to death after serving him a drugged milkshake. "It's not something that you bring up ... I never thought I should be so curious ... I trust her. I trust that, in my opinion, whatever happened was never meant to be," the witness told defence counsel Alexander King, SC.

Kissel, 41, has admitted killing her husband at their luxury Parkview flat but has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Ms Samra said Kissel had told her on the telephone on November 2 that she could not attend Ms Samra's birthday lunch on November 6 because "something terrible has happened to Rob".

Ms Samra, who also lives in Parkview, said Kissel turned down her offer to go to her apartment to help out.

The witness, one of three people who stood surety for Kissel, said the accused had been vice-president of the Parent Faculty Organisation of the Hong Kong International School in 2001 when she was president. She said Kissel was a "sociable, giving" person who dedicated her life to her children. She recalled seeing her friend injured on three occasions, including once with a black eye. Earlier, in cross-examination by prosecutor Peter Chapman, Kissel's father, Ira Keeshin, said he had come to Hong Kong after a call from Kissel in November to tell him that she had been badly beaten by her husband.

Mr Keeshin said his daughter had told him during the family's visit to the Whistler ski resort in Vancouver in December 2002 that her husband had slammed her into a wall during a fight. But Mr Chapman showed him his statement to the police which said he had heard about this assault only during a November 3, 2003, phone call from his daughter. "I must have my time mixed up. The statement must be more accurate," he said.

He told Mr Chapman that Kissel had not told him she had arranged for her husband's body to be taken to a storeroom. He also said he could not recall if he had made inquiries about Robert Kissel's whereabouts after he had been missing for days.

"I wasn't investigating anything, I was handling things, which I ended up doing the rest of the week," he said.

Contrary to police officers' accounts, he said he had not had a private conversation with his daughter before putting his hands up to his head saying: "Oh my God, I don't believe it" when the officers went to the Parkview flat to investigate on November 7.

He said he had made the remark because he had realised what had happened after an inspector asked his daughter for storeroom keys and told him they were pretty sure they knew where the deceased was.

"What did you realise?" asked Mr Chapman.

"That Rob was dead. Why would he be in a storage room? You just don't have somebody in a storage room at 11pm," he said.

Nancy Nassberg, another friend of the defendant who testified yesterday, recalled her maid asking Kissel why she was wearing sunglasses indoors over a dinner in February 1999. The defendant lowered her glasses to the tip of her nose, showing bruising around her right eye, and said "rough sex" before changing the subject.

The case continues today before Mr Justice Michael Lunn.