The killer known as the Black Widow is already behind
bars for a "perverse'' crime that saw her son wrongfully
imprisoned to silence him and deprive him of access to his
Helen Milner, 50, had two previous convictions before she was
found guilty of murdering Phil Nisbet.
In August last year, she was jailed for two years and eight
months for sending herself death threats and pretending they
were from her son Adam Kearns.
Milner became eligible for parole in June, but remained
behind bars during her murder trial because the Parole Board
found she remained an undue risk to the safety of the
The fake death threats were prompted by her son telling
police and anyone who would listen that Milner had killed her
second husband on May 4, 2009.
But police had ruled suicide, and it looked like she had got
away with murder.
To silence her son, then aged 18, she tried to frame him
early in 2010 and get him out of the picture.
She bought a cellphone and used a pre-paid SIM card to send
herself the texts, claiming they were from her son, who she
had taken a protection order out against.
Police arrested Mr Kearns and he spent 18 days in jail. The
truth only emerged after a thorough police probe.
"Needless to say he found the experience of being remanded
wrongfully in custody extremely harrowing,'' said Judge Paul
Kellar, as he jailed Milner last year after she pleaded
guilty to one charge of perverting the course of justice.
Judge Kellar said it was difficult to understand or speculate
on her motives - but he believed the crime's intent was to
adversely affect Mr Kearns' contact with his newborn son with
then-girlfriend Kasey Woodstock, who he had just split from.
"That is almost too perverse to contemplate but I can't
imagine what other motivation you would have had.''
The Parole Board convenor who kept Milner behind bars during
her trial, Judge Raymond Kean, described the crime as
unusual, calculated and "very concerning''.
In his decision, Judge Kean said her son's wrongful
imprisonment had been "a very upsetting and traumatic
experience'' and Milner had offered him neither an apology
nor the slightest indication of guilt.
The board heard Milner had been undergoing counselling to
tackle issues from her past, but no programmes to address her
It said she would benefit from a group-based prison programme
for female offenders but Milner had told the board she did
not like participating in groups and would rather do
something in the community.
The then-pending murder charge had played a part in the
decision to keep Milner locked up, with Judge Kean saying it
was not possible to fully assess her ongoing risk to the
safety of the community.
"Unless we are satisfied she would not pose such a risk, then
we cannot release her.''
Milner's sentence had been due to finish in April 2015 and
she would next become eligible for parole in June next year.
Milner had earlier served home detention for five months
starting in October 2010.
She had stolen $29,000 while working as an office
administrator at Christchurch grounds maintenance firm, GSL,
where workmates dubbed her the Black Widow because of all the
references she made to "get rid'' of Mr Nisbet.
- By Kurt Bayer and Matthew Backhouse of APNZ