'Milkshake murder' retrial starts

2011-01-11 13:43

Hong Kong - A story that gripped Hong Kong with its ingredients of murder, money and infidelity was back in the spotlight on Tuesday as the retrial got under way of alleged "milkshake murderer" Nancy Kissel, accused of killing her wealthy husband.

American Kissel, aged 46, was jailed for life in 2005 after being found guilty of bludgeoning to death Robert Kissel, a Merrill Lynch executive, after giving him a strawberry milkshake laced with sedatives.

The conviction was overturned in January 2009 by the Court of Final Appeal, Hong Kong's highest court, after Kissel's lawyers successfully argued that she had been improperly cross-examined and that hearsay evidence was admitted to her original trial.

Kissel, looking frail and confused, appeared in court on Tuesday, pleading not guilty to murder but guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter with her lawyers arguing diminished responsibility and provocation.

The prosecution did not accept the plea to manslaughter, and the murder trial was to continue.

The prosecution claimed the mother of three bludgeoned her 40-year-old husband with a metal ornament and then wrapped his body in a carpet. She then allegedly asked workmen to carry the carpet into a storeroom where his decomposing body was found days later by police.

Self defence claim

In the original trial, it was alleged Kissel killed her husband, reported to be worth $18m, to avoid a messy divorce after he discovered she was having an affair with a television repairman who lived in a trailer park in the United State.

Kissel claimed she had acted in self-defence.

The retrial was expected to last several weeks as did the original, which attracted much attention in the local media, which became fascinated with the idea of love, money and murder in Hong Kong's wealthy expatriate community.

In November, an application by Kissel to halt the retrial was thrown out, but the judge imposed a reporting ban on details of that hearing until further notice or the conclusion of the retrial.