The Nancy Kissel Case - Part 52(Reuters) Wife of HK banker planned murder, prosecutor says. August 26, 2005.
The widow of American banker Robert Kissel planned to murder him "in cold blood" and there was no basis for her to say she acted out of self-defense, prosecutors told a Hong Kong court on Friday. Summing up the prosecution's case in a murder trial that has riveted Hong Kong for almost three months, lawyer Peter Chapman said the evidence showing that Nancy Kissel plotted to kill her Merrill Lynch banker husband was "unassailable."
Police found she had searched the Internet for information on drugs and obtained sedatives from her doctors a few months before the killing. She fed him those drugs in a milkshake she prepared on November 2, 2003, and then clubbed him to death as he laid drugged and unconscious in their bedroom, Chapman told the High Court.
Dressed in her usual black attire, Nancy, who has been charged with one count of murder, was expressionless in the dock. She has admitted to killing her husband but has pleaded not guilty to murder. She has also denied having spiked the milkshake that she made for him with a cocktail of anti-depressants and hypnotic drugs.
During the trial, she told the court how she suffered her husband's physical and sexual abuse for years, who often flew into cocaine and alcohol-fuelled rages. She said she struck her husband five times on the right side of his face with a metal statue after he hit her repeatedly with a baseball bat, but added that she had no recollection of what happened afterwards on the night of November 2. But Chapman said: "These were five fatal blows with murderous intent ... Self defense has no basis in this case."
An autopsy found six types of sedatives in Kissel's stomach -- evidence the defense has not contested. Detectives also found that Nancy had gone to doctors a few months before the killing complaining of insomnia and obtained four of those drugs. Chapman said the drugs were so strong that Kissel was likely to have passed out and he could not have threatened Nancy. "Even if he was conscious when she struck him, his ability to defend himself would have been impaired by the drugs. There is no provocation in this case," Chapman said. "This meant that Nancy Kissel was able to take the ornament from the kitchen and inflict the injuries on Robert Kissel as he was lying down," said the lawyer. "These injuries (found on Robert) did not result from a life and death struggle. There were no screams, there was no baseball bat, there was no provocation. This was cold-blooded killing."
Chapman also said Nancy had been plotting to kill her husband from as early as August 20, 2003, when she made searches on the Internet using key words like "drug overdose." "The seed to kill her husband was planted firmly from August 20 ... to remove the obstacle in her life that Robert Kissel had become," Chapman said, adding that by that time, her TV repairman lover in the United States had become "the man in her life."
During the trial Nancy admitted to the affair, which happened between March and July 2003 when she fled to the United States with their three children to escape the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong. If convicted of murder she could face life in jail.
Police found Robert Kissel's body four days after his death rolled up in a carpet in a storeroom in the luxury residential estate where they lived with their children. The case has shocked Hong Kong's expatriate community since the trial began in June.
The prosecution said earlier that Kissel had decided to divorce his wife after discovering the affair and was going to tell her that on the night that he was murdered.
The defense will sum up the case next Monday and a verdict from the jury is expected by the end of next week.
(Associated Press via Mainichi Daily) Prosecution in Hong Kong murder trial calls housewife cold-blooded killer. By Helen Luk. August 26, 2005.
A prosecutor gave his closing argument Friday in an American housewife's Hong Kong murder trial, saying she was a cold-blooded killer who cheated on her wealthy husband before serving him a drug-laced milkshake and bashing in his head.
Speaking in a packed courtroom, prosecutor Peter Chapman rehashed much of the sensational testimony about alleged domestic violence, abusive sex, drug use and infidelity in Nancy and Robert Kissel's stormy marriage.
The nearly three-month trial has made big headlines here, giving the public a rare glimpse into the private world of wealthy Hong Kong expatriates.
Chapman challenged the defense's argument that Nancy Kissel, 41, was defending herself against her violent banker husband who was armed with a baseball bat.
The lawyer said that the woman had planned the killing in the couple's luxury apartment in 2003. "There was no provocation, no baseball bat," Chapman said. "This is a cold-blooded killing."
Nancy Kissel allegedly beat her husband to death with a metal ornament. "These injuries inflicted on Robert Kissel were not the result of a life-or-death struggle," he said. "There was no shouting, yelling, screaming."
Nancy Kissel has admitted dealing the fatal blows to her husband, a 40-year-old investment banker at Merrill Lynch. But she has pleaded innocent to murder, which involves premeditation. Chapman argued that the defendant planned the killing. He said she searched the Internet for information about how to drug her husband.
Before the killing, she mixed Robert Kissel a milkshake laced with sedatives that disabled him, the prosecutor said. After the killing, Nancy Kissel allegedly rolled her husband's body in a carpet and had maintenance workers haul it away to storage space rented by the couple.
The prosecutor also mentioned an affair that Nancy Kissel, who has three children, admitted to having with repairman Michael Del Priore, who lived in a trailer park near the couple's vacation home in the northeastern U.S. state of Vermont. "Nancy Kissel didn't want Robert Kissel alive anymore. She wanted the children, but Michael Del Priore was the man in her life," Chapman said.
The prosecutor repeated testimony by witnesses, who said the victim was a loving, kind, soft-spoken husband who was well regarded by his company.
Nancy Kissel, dressed in black as she has been for much of the trial, was expressionless and often looked down at the floor as she listened to Chapman's closing argument.
She has said her desperation and unhappiness in her marriage drove her to seek comfort in an affair, and that her husband was an abusive workaholic who used cocaine, drank too much and forced her to have anal sex. She has testified that she cannot clearly remember what she did after her husband's death.
The victim was from New York. Nancy Kissel was born in Adrian, Michigan, but her family had also lived in Minneapolis, in the northern U.S. state of Minnesota.
(Times) Woman in black who ‘killed in cold blood’. By Jane MacCartney. August 27, 2005.
A wealthy American housewife whose trial for murder has gripped Hong Kong’s expatriate community was described yesterday as a cold-blooded killer who was unfaithful to her banker husband and then served him a drug-laced strawberry milkshake before battering him to death.
Nancy Kissel, dressed in her trademark black, sat impassively as Peter Chapman, summing up for the prosecution, reminded the jury of the sensational testimony that included alleged domestic violence, kinky sex, cocaine use and internet pornography.
The 41-year-old mother of three is charged with murdering her husband, Robert, in the luxury flat that they shared with their children and two maids in November 2003 while he was living in Hong Kong and working for Merrill Lynch, the American investment bank.
Dismissing defence arguments that Mrs Kissel fought back to protect herself when her husband attacked her with a baseball bat, the prosecutor said that she had carefully planned the killing.
The trial has lasted nearly three months and has made headlines daily as it has given a rare glimpse into the private world of wealthy expatriates in the former British colony that returned to Beijing rule in 1997.
Mrs Kissel stunned the court when she took the stand and said that she had dealt the fatal blows to her husband, but said that she was acting in self-defence. She wept as she gave her account of her husband’s death and has pleaded innocent to murder, which involves premeditation. Police found that she had searched the internet for information on drugs and obtained sedatives before the killing. She fed him those drugs in a milkshake on November 2, 2003, and then clubbed her husband to death as he lay unconscious in their bedroom, the prosecutor told the High Court. “These injuries inflicted on Robert Kissel were not the result of a life-or-death struggle,” Mr Chapman said. “There was no shouting, yelling, screaming.” A post-mortem examination found six types of sedatives in Mr Kissel’s stomach — evidence that the defence has not contested.
Mr Chapman said that the drugs were so strong that Mr Kissel was likely to have passed out and he could not have threatened his wife.
After the killing, Mrs Kissel allegedly rolled her husband's body in a carpet and had maintenance workers haul it away to rented storage space. The workers commented on a strong “fishy” smell from the carpet roll, which she said was stuffed with cushions. The prosecutor also mentioned an affair that Mrs Kissel admitted to having with Michael Del Priore, a repairman who lived in a trailer park near the couple’s holiday home in the northeastern US state of Vermont.
“Nancy Kissel didn’t want Robert Kissel alive any more. She wanted the children, but Michael Del Priore was the man in her life,” Mr Chapman said. The prosecutor repeated testimony by witnesses, who said that the victim was a loving, kind, soft-spoken husband.
Mrs Kissel has said her that unhappiness in her marriage drove her to seek comfort in an affair, and that her husband was an abusive workaholic who used cocaine, drank too much and forced her to have anal sex. She has testified that she cannot clearly remember what she did after her husband’s death.
A verdict is likely by the end of next week.
(SCMP) Kissel killed 'to be with her new man'. By Polly Hui. August 27, 2005.
Nancy Kissel murdered her husband - possibly with the "tacit encouragement" of her lover in Vermont - to escape a messy divorce and be with the "new man" in her life, the Court of First Instance heard yesterday. She then fabricated "layer upon layer" of deception to cover up her crime, fooling even her father, her half brother and her closest friend, prosecutor Peter Chapman said in his closing submission.
A long queue started forming more than an hour before the court opened yesterday. Some people had to leave after Mr Justice Michael Lunn said he could only tolerate up to 10 people standing near the entrance to the courtroom.
Inviting the jury to "return a true verdict" by finding Kissel guilty of murder, Mr Chapman said the five fatal blows the defendant struck to the head of her husband in their bedroom in Parkview on November 2, 2003, were not done "in a frenzy". "These were not five fatal blows struck in self-defence when one of these blows would be sufficient [to kill]. These were blows struck with murderous intention to kill ... while he's unable to defend himself," he said.
Mr Chapman said the central issue of Kissel's defence was her credibility. He accused her of painting a picture of herself as a compromising, self-sacrificing, and abused wife of a stressful, demanding and controlling husband. "[She claimed] she was the victim of five years of humiliation, of raving sexual abuse and violence at the hands of Robert Kissel, who abused cocaine, sleeping pills, and painkillers. But no one, no one, including Ira Keeshin [her father], noticed the abuse."
The prosecutor said that the starting point of the "cold-blooded" murder case was at the Kissel family's trip to Whistler skiing resort, Vancouver, in December 2002. It was there that Jane Clayton, the younger sister of Robert Peter Kissel, said her sister-in-law had become distanced from her husband and left mid-way through the holiday with her youngest child, Reis, to return to Hong Kong. About a month later, the deceased installed Eblaster, a spyware programme, in his wife's Sony laptop and a desktop computer in their flat to monitor her activity.
But the idea of killing her husband by using drugs only began to be planted in her mind on August 20, 2003, when spyware reports showed Kissel's internet searches on "drug overdose" and "medications causing heart attack", the prosecutor argued. He alleged that Michael del Priore - a TV repairman with whom Kissel had an affair when she went to Vermont for four months to escape from Hong Kong during the Sars outbreak between April and July 2003 - was the "catalyst" to the series of events leading to the death of the 40-year-old Merrill Lynch banker.
In June 2003, the deceased hired private investigators from Alpha Group to confirm his suspicions of his wife's affair. The next month he sought advice on divorce settlements from two divorce lawyers. But the prosecutor said that despite his intention of divorce, the deceased - described by prosecution witnesses as a loyal and loving husband - had never removed the accused as the primary beneficiary of his will and life insurance policies, with estates worth US$18 million.
The accused's computer diary entry in August 21, 2003, indicated she knew her husband had hired a private investigator to follow her, the prosecutor told the jury.
"She knew that divorce was looming. Nancy Kissel, and perhaps, Michael del Priore, felt somewhat vulnerable. She knew the messy divorce proceedings could last a long time," said Mr Chapman. "She wanted her children, yes, but above all, Michael was the man in her life. Michael, too, regarded Nancy as a gold mine and as a way out of his life in a trailer park. She was planning, thereafter, with possibly Michael del Priore's tacit encouragement, to remove the obstacle in her life, which Robert Kissel had become."
Mr Chapman said she acquired "four drugs in seven days" in her various visits to doctors in late October - Stilnox, Lorivan, amitriptyline and Rohynol. "There was no possible medical reason for her to take them together. Whether the drugs were intended to kill or to subdue him was an open question, but they were employed successfully by Nancy Kissel."
After taking the opportunity of the unexpected visit by their neighbour Andrew Tanzer and his daughter, Leah, on November 2, 2003, she drugged her husband.
The prosecutor also urged the jury to consider the two significantly different versions of the November 2 incident she gave to her doctor two days later and in her testimony in court, in which she said she used a metal ornament to defend herself when her husband used a baseball bat to beat her. He said the version she gave in court was to "explain away the most incriminating part of her act". "When it became impossible, she then claimed loss of memory."
Her father, Ira Keeshin, with whom she had daily phone contact, her half brother, Brooks Keeshin, and one of her closest friends, Trudy Samra, did not know about Mr del Priore, her secret phone bills and her five years of abuse by the deceased. He asked: "How well did they know Nancy Kissel?"
The prosecutor said the actions after the killing, including the purchase of new rugs and boxes, spoke "so loudly, so incriminatingly, of her intent to cover up".
Alexander King, SC, for Kissel, began his closing submission yesterday afternoon by arguing his client had acted in lawful self-defence. He will continue on Monday.
(The Standard) Kissel murder case nears end. By Albert Wong. August 27, 2005.
"This was a cold-blooded killing,'' chief prosecutor Peter Chapman said of banker Robert Kissel's 2003 death, pointing the finger squarely at accused murderer Nancy Kissel, the victim's wife, as final summations began Friday in a trial that has riveted Hong Kong for months.
With the prosecution leading off inside a packed courtroom, both sides appealed to the jury to decide - is Kissel a vicious killer, as Chapman said, or an abused victim who acted in self-defense, as her lawyer claimed.
"Before our very eyes, the summer has disappeared,'' said Alexander King SC, representing Kissel, as he recounted the long saga of sex, love, lies and deception that has unfolded during the course of what has been dubbed the milkshake murder trial. "The evidence of the prosecution case points conclusively to her guilt on the count of murder,'' Chapman said earlier in a lengthy summation that took up the better part of Friday's hearings.
But King told the jury the prosecution's case was flawed and that "common sense'' will rule out their "theory of premeditation.'' Kissel's lawyer said: "The only true verdict according to the evidence, is `not guilty'.''
Chapman began Friday saying that the detailed record of Internet searches for sedative drugs was "unassailable evidence'' that Robert Kissel's wife of 16 years had the intent to kill him.
"On November 2, 2003, Nancy Kissel would do exactly that,'' Chapman said. In August, she had searched on the Internet for "sleeping pills, overdose on sleeping pills, medication causing heart attack, drug overdose,'' he said.
"Nothing can be possibly clearer than that,'' Chapman said, which establishes her "murderous intent.'' He asked the jurors to bear in mind, that the accused was named as the primary beneficiary in the victim's will and life insurance polices, and that his estate had been estimated at US$18 million (HK$140.4 million).
By August 2003, she had spent four to five months away from Hong Kong in the US state of Vermont, "and her perspective and outlook in life had changed considerably when Michael Del Priore had entered her life,'' Chapman said, referring to Nancy Kissel's alleged lover, a TV repairman. "She was planning thereafter, with possibly Michael Del Priore's tacit encouragement, to remove the obstacle in her life which Robert Kissel had become,'' he said.
Her show of normality, her suggestions of an abusive husband to counselors and doctors in the days leading up to the death of the victim, was evidence that she was "attempting to lay the ground for the events that followed,'' Chapman said. She obtained the drugs, which found their way into her husband's stomach via a pink milkshake, in advance, Chapman said, for "no possible medical reason.'' He dismissed Nancy Kissel's testimony that she was attacked by the victim before the murder. "There was no life or death struggle,'' said Chapman. No-one heard screaming, nor yelling, nor was there evidence of defensive injuries on the deceased.
"This was no frenzied attack. This was a cold-blooded killing,'' he said, noting that Kissel herself has admitted to inflicting five vicious and fatal blows to the head of her husband with a metal ornament. From November 2 until her arrest on the night of November 6, "she set about a cover-up in the most calculating and determined way possible,'' Chapman said. Those actions "speak so loudly and so incriminatingly that Nancy Kissel now claims to have no recollection of those events,'' he said.
"This case is not about a battered wife doing away with an abusive husband,'' he said. Kissel's allegations that her husband was abusive are a "self-serving act of deception and lies'' he said, part of an "assassination of the character of Robert Kissel [that] was solely done in an attempt to avoid criminal responsibility for what she had done.''
Acts of forced and injurious sodomy committed against the accused by her husband over many years were a similar fabrication. She never sought medical attention for the supposed attacks, he said. "Why not? It never happened.'' The years of physical and sexual abuse were invisible to friends and family, including those who guaranteed her bail and her own father, he said. "The reason for this?'' Chapman asked. "It never happened.''
When it came time to respond, King noted that 3.30pm on a Friday was "the worst time to start.'' But he outlined his arguments and prepared the jurors for Monday.
"We say, she is not guilty, because in the course of events, Mrs Kissel acted in lawful self-defense,'' King said. He said that "circumstantial evidence'' points conclusively in the direction of the defense and that, like a rope, "when you put all the strands together, it's strong enough to rely upon.''
The prosecution case has been flawed since November 6, 2003, when police went to the Kissel residence before arresting her, King said. "The police at that time thought there was nothing to investigate,'' because they were already convinced of her guilt, he said.
From then on "flaws in the prosecution case have continued,'' King said, promising to elaborate Monday. He warned that the jurors must "resist the temptation to come to a collective decision'' and that it was the individual view that matters. King also warned against speculative inferences and prejudice against the lifestyle led by the accused. But once the jurors put that aside and look at the evidence carefully, they will see the prosecution has "failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt, that she did not kill in self-defense,'' he said.
The trial continues Monday.
(The Standard) Moment of truth nears for Kissel. By Albert Wong. August 29, 2005.
Murder trial draws to a close, with lawyer stating case for acquittal as wife `acted in self defense' Hong Kong's relentlessly captivating summer courtroom drama enters the home stretch today when defendant Nancy Kissel's counsel tells the jury she should be acquitted of murder on the grounds of self-defense.
Having outlined his final speech briefly Friday, Kissel's lead counsel, Alexander King SC, will continue his summation before the five men and two women sitting in judgment, and try to convince them his client is not guilty of murdering her husband Robert Kissel on November 2, 2003.
Given only the last hour of Friday afternoon to begin the crucial remarks, King will expand upon the details of his arguments today.
The prosecution has been flawed since day one, November 6, when police went to the Kissel home before arresting her, King told jurors Friday. "The police at that time thought there was nothing to investigate,'' because they were already convinced of her guilt, he said.
A supposed series of continuous errors, King argued, should be enough to sow doubt in the minds of jurors. The jurors will have to answer: "'Was [the prosecution] done to a standard that I can be sure of?' The answer is 'no','' King said.
The prosecution's "theory of premeditation'' based on her purchase of drugs has no basis, once "common sense'' was used.
King also warned jurors against being prejudiced against the accused because of her lifestyle. If they looked at the evidence carefully, he argued, jurors would see the government had "failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that she did not kill in self defense.''
Kissel, 41, has testified that there was a furious fight about divorce in the couple's Tai Tam Parkview apartment, during which her husband came at her swinging a baseball bat, saying, "I'm going to kill you, you bitch,'' while she fended off the blows with a metal ornament.
The decomposing body of the wealthy Merrill Lynch banker was found wrapped in a rug, locked in a storeroom of the Parkview complex on November 7, 2003.
Apart from King's prologue, most of Friday's hearing was taken up by the closing speech of senior assistant director of public prosecutions Peter Chapman.
"This was a cold-blooded killing,'' he said and "the evidence of the prosecution case points conclusively to her guilt on the count of murder.''
Chapman said Kissel planned and carried out the murder in detail and then constructed a fabric of lies to try and confuse police, relatives and friends about what really happened.
Chapman suggested that Kissel's sexual affair with American TV repairman Michael del Priore may have spurred her on to commit the crime. After the affair began during a lengthy visit to the United States, she started planning "with possibly Michael Del Priore's tacit encouragement to remove the obstacle in her life, which Robert Kissel had become,'' he said.
He invited the jurors to bear in mind that she was the primary beneficiary in Robert Kissel's will and life insurance polices, and that his estate had been estimated at US$18 million (HK$140.4 million). "This was no frenzied attack. This was a cold-blooded killing,'' Chapman said, adding that the accused had already accepted she inflicted the five fatal blows to the head of her husband.
And the reason she could inflict those blows was because she had already drugged him with a sedative-laced fruity milkshake, he said.
Also last week, government forensic expert Dr Wong Koon-hung told the court that he did not think the baseball bat - allegedly used by Robert Kissel to attack his wife - made significant contact with the murder weapon since he found no woodgrain patterns imprinted on the ornament, or traces of lead left on the baseball bat.
Once King finishes his closing speech, Justice Michael Lunn will summarize all the evidence heard and give directions to the jury before they retire for a verdict. Kissel faces life imprisonment if convicted.