Defence closes case in 'Black Widow' trial

The defence has this afternoon closed its case in the 'Black Widow' murder trial.

Helen Milner, 50, denies killing second husband Phil Nisbet, 47, by slipping the sedative Phenergan into his evening meal and, while he was heavily sedated, probably suffocating him.

She is also accused of making his death, on May 4, 2009, look like suicide in the hope of cashing in the life insurance cash.

Milner also denies attempting to kill him twice on April 15, 2009.

Today, on the 11th day of her trial in the High Court at Christchurch, her defence gave their side of the story.

The jury was told that Milner would not be taking the witness stand.

Instead, four defence witnesses took the stand, including Milner's close friend of 25 years, Wilma Walsh.

While she accepted she "personally didn't like" Mr Nisbet, she said Milner "very much loved him".

The court has heard from several witnesses that Milner acted strangely on the morning of her husband's death.

The first police officers thought her hysterical reaction amounted to "acting", while other family members and friends when they saw her later, was showing very little emotion in the circumstances.

But Mrs Walsh told the court that her good friend was indeed "very upset" when she went round to see her that morning.

"She was quite stressed, but she does have a tendency not to show her emotions, but that was the way she was brought up," she said.

She did understand why her husband would take his own life, Mrs Walsh said.

Milner has also been questioned for a lack of emotion on the day of the funeral.

But again, her "stoic" demeanour was a product of her upbringing, Mrs Walsh said.

"She may not have cried, but she was very sad."

Earlier, a former workmate of Mr Nisbet's at Christchurch distribution firm, Bidvest, told how he seemed different after the April 15 incidents, when he'd been hospitalised twice in one day with a suspected spider bite.

"He seemed withdrawn, quieter, his sense of humour wasn't there. I wouldn't say moody ... but certainly sullen," said distribution manager Leslie Kennedy.

Also on the stand today was a solicitor who acted for both Milner and Mr Nisbet in the couple's refinancing after they met, and later in a separation he took for a final split.

Graham Coumbe thought the couple were still apart when he learnt Mr Nisbet had died. When he was told they had been living together, he said it "came as a bit of a surprise".

After Mr Nisbet's death, he said he supported Milner as a friend, and they had often texted each other. But when he went to support her at the coronial inquest as a friend, he ended up representing her as her solicitor.

During the inquest, he raised concerns that an email from Milner to Mr Nisbet's father had later been "doctored" by the family, and also raised concerns over some allegations the family had made towards Milner.

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

She 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 hitman to kill Mr Nisbet, it is alleged.

The trial, before Justice David Gendall, continues tomorrow when the Crown will give its closing address.

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