Tuesday 2nd November 2010

Nancy Kissel, or the Milkshake Murderer as she is frequently cited, is one of the most famous trailing spouses in the world right now and her conviction for killing her husband after feeding him a milkshake laced with sedative drugs has captured the attention of expatriates all over the world. As her retrial begins in Hong Kong this week, we take a look at the events surrounding her case and the proceedings so far.

Nancy Kissel: Milkshake Murderer

In 2003 Nancy Kissel, 41, was arrested after the decomposing body of her husband, Robert, was found bludgeoned to death and wrapped in a rug in the basement of the Parkview apartment complex in Tai Tam, Hong Kong. After initial police investigations Kissel was accused of drugging her husband with a sedative-laced strawberry milkshake, which left him unconscious, allowing her to beat him to death with a heavy metal object.

The subsequent murder trial grabbed headlines throughout the world, with expats and locals alike being captivated by the story of a very wealthy expatriate family and relishing the rare glimpse into the lives of Hong Kong’s wealthy expat community. The murder and events preceding it spawned two books and a television special.

During the initial trial Kissel admitted killing her husband but claimed that it was in self-defense after her husband threatened to kill her with a baseball bat. Her defense shocked Hong Kong with tales of marital violence and brutality at the hands of a controlling husband who had a cocaine problem and regularly hired the services of both male and female prostitutes.

The prosecution, however, refuted claims that Robert Kissel had abused his wife, claiming that Kissel had killed her husband in order to avoid a “messy divorce” and assure her access to his $18 million USD estate after he had uncovered an affair between his wife and a television repairman, whom she had met in Vermont while visiting family.

In 2005 Kissel was convicted of murdering her husband and was sentenced to life in prison and an initial appeal against her sentence in 2008 failed. However, after the second appeal against her conviction in January this year Kissel’s appeal was upheld and the judging panel ordered a new trial, citing that there were "numerous elements of grave concern" surrounding her initial trial after it was found that the trial judge had permitted hearsay evidence. "The court unanimously allows the appeal, quashes the conviction and orders a retrial," the judgment said. "The court further orders that the appellant be remanded in custody pending retrial."

Request to Halt Milkshake Murder Trial

Lawyers yesterday formally applied for an application for the case to be dismissed, claiming that the amount of publicity surrounding the case entails that Kissel will not receive a fair retrial. The Hong Kong court will hear arguments regarding this matter and it is anticipated that a decision will be made this week regarding whether the planned January 2011 retrial should proceed. If dismissal is granted Kissel will walk away a free woman.

Unfortunately it’s bad news for those expats who were avidly following the trial. Yesterday High Court Judge Andrew Macrae imposed a ban of press coverage of the hearings, specifying that media representatives could attend the trial but were not permitted to report the events “until the conclusion of the trial or further order.”

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