Poisoning victim's sister investigated death

Lee-Anne Cartier
Lee-Anne Cartier
The sister of Phil Nisbet suspected his death wasn't a suicide and spent the next two years doing her own "detective work", feeding information to police, a court heard today.

"It didn't add up," Lee-Ann Cartier told the jury in Helen Milner's murder trial in the High Court at Christchurch.

She first became suspicious when Milner, 50, passed her a suicide note she claimed to have found.

Ms Cartier thought the signature on the note was fake and didn't believe her brother would have taken his own life.

She tried to stay friends with Milner and sympathise with her, in the hope she would "let something slip", it emerged in court today.

Mr Nisbet, 47, was found dead in the early hours of May 4, 2009 in a case that police originally ruled suicide.

Milner denies murdering her second husband by giving him a fatal overdose of the anti-histamine and sedative Phenergan, and possibly finishing him off with a pillow over his face.

The Crown said she was unhappy in her marriage and motivated to murder by the prospect of cashing in the $250,000 life insurance policy.

Milner plotted the best ways to kill her husband; buying drugs under false names, asking friends for views on poisoning methods, and even offering to pay $20,000 for a hit man to kill Mr Nisbet, it is alleged.

Defence counsel Margaret Sewell put it to Ms Cartier under cross-examination today that she became a "sort of detective" after seeing the alleged suicide note on June 6, 2009.

Ms Cartier accepted that she had.

"My brother had died and I needed to know the truth. And I think everyone here in this room would've done that too."

Within four months of the death, she had talked to Milner's workmates at Christchurch-based grounds maintenance firm GSL.

They told her Milner had been asking about rat poison and whether it would kill someone.

She passed the information to police on August 26, 2009.

Ms Cartier - who lived in Queensland, but returned several times in 2009 and 2010 - also spoke to Milner's neighbours, who told her they'd seen a bedroom light on the morning Mr Nisbet died.

While she was over for a visit a month after the death Milner gave Ms Cartier a sim card and phone to use.

She wrote down all the contacts on the sim card and handed them to police.

"Then you preceded to contact a lot of people - anyone you thought might be associated with this case?" Ms Sewell asked, and Ms Cartier agreed she did.

The trial, before Justice David Gendall, continues.


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