Dark past of 'black widow' revealed

The Crown said Helen Milner gave husband Phil Nisbet crushed Phenergan tablets. Photo / Martin Hunter
The Crown said Helen Milner gave husband Phil Nisbet crushed Phenergan tablets. Photo / Martin Hunter
Black Widow murderer Helen Milner's first husband has broken his silence on their marriage - and revealed how she almost destroyed his relationship with their children.

Mark Robert Kearns and his second wife Dawn said Helen Milner was motivated by money and fuelled by lies.

Speaking at his Christchurch home last night, Mr Kearns described a manipulative woman who said what she needed to to get what she wanted.

"She got what she deserves," said Mr Kearns, after a jury found Milner guilty of murdering second husband Phil Nisbet in 2009.

Mr Kearns and Milner split 20 years ago after seven years of marriage.

He said Milner lied in the Family Court to gain custody of their two sons - then told them he'd moved to Australia and didn't want anything to do with them,

"It was bullshit. I did my absolute best for the boys and had no-show. It was not just the lies to me ... No matter what I spent with lawyers - 20-odd grand for a children's lawyer - she managed to put a stop to all that."

The truckie couldn't bring himself to attend her trial.

He followed it through the media and kept a watchful eye on the emotions of his sons, who both gave key evidence against their mother.

"I had a gut feeling all the way throughout that she was guilty," said Mr Kearns. "I said that to anyone that asked me - she's done it."

Dawn Kearns said her relationship with her husband was lucky to survive Milner's efforts to break them up.

"She tried all sorts of tactics too. Not trying to kill him, but she wanted to get rid of him, get him out of the house.

"It was money right through with her. It's always been money.

"Like the time she took her car to the [Waimakariri Rriver] burnt it out and claimed insurance. She did that too - got full insurance on the car."

The Crown argued Milner poisoned Mr Nisbet then faked his death to look like suicide, motivated by a $250,000 life insurance payout.

Financial advisor Stephen Westcombe told Milner's trial in the High Court at Christchurch that she was with Mr Nisbet when the policy was taken out in 2007.

"I'm not 100 per cent certain but it may have been Helen Milner that filled out the form on Mr Nisbet's behalf. I do believe Helen filled in some forms."

Her murder conviction means she's ineligible for the life insurance payout, which was put on hold after insurers AXA were told of the homicide investigation into Mr Nisbet's death by his sister Lee-Ann Cartier.

"We are in the process of determining the legal recipients of the proceeds of the insurance policy," a spokeswoman for AMP, which merged with AXA in 2011, said yesterday.

Financial Services Council chief executive Peter Neilson said such cases are rare.

"If you purposefully burn your own house down after taking out a fire insurance policy then you cannot be a beneficiary of your own actions regarding an insurance claim," he said.

"But on the other hand, that doesn't mean to say anybody's else should be tainted by that illegality. So it may be someone else may have some eligibility based on the circumstances on the person has died."

Milner was found guilty of one charge of murder and one of attempted murder. She was found not guilty of a second charge of attempted murder.

She will be sentenced in February.

Mr Kearns, meanwhile, will continue to work hard on strengthening his good relationships with his sons Adam, now 22, and Greg, now 24.

He hopes they can get on with their lives and make up for lost time.

"You've got to put it behind you and move on."


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