Nancy Kissel jailed for life

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 September, 2005, 12:00am

The verdict is murder, the jury unanimous. For Robert Kissel's father, justice has been served; for the killer's mother, just tears

Nancy Kissel was sentenced to life in prison yesterday after seven jurors unanimously found her guilty of murdering her husband after one of Hong Kong's most sensational trials.

The 41-year-old mother of three was expressionless in the dock as guards put her in handcuffs and escorted her to a prison van after Justice Michael Lunn passed sentence. Her mother, Jean McGlothlin, and friends broke down in court.

After eight hours of deliberation, the grave-looking jurors entered the courtroom about 8.30pm, to return a unanimous verdict of murder.

Sentencing Kissel, Mr Justice Lunn thanked the jurors for sitting with patience and care through the 'gruesome details of the circumstances in which Robert Kissel met his death' in a trial that almost lasted three months. He exempted them from jury service for the next 15 years and granted them the maximum additional allowance of $280 a day for performing their duty.

Michigan-born Kissel was arrested five days after she drugged Robert Kissel, a senior Merrill Lynch banker, with a milkshake and bludgeoned him to death with a heavy lead ornament in their luxurious Parkview flat on November 2, 2003. She arranged for workmen to carry the victim's body, concealed in an old oriental rug, to her storeroom.

Prosecutor Peter Chapman said during the trial that Kissel killed her husband in a 'cold-blooded' murder to escape a 'messy, lengthy' divorce and be with Michael Del Priore, her TV-repairman lover who lived in a trailer park in Vermont.

Defence counsel Alexander King SC claimed Kissel had been subjected to five years of forceful anal sex and physical assault by a husband who abused cocaine and searched for gay porn websites. Kissel told the court her husband had threatened to kill her with a baseball bat and that she had almost no memory of the activities she embarked on to cover up her crime.

William Kissel, the victim's 77-year-old father who flew from Florida to attend the trial, said after the verdict: 'Justice has been served. Am I sad? Yes, I lost my son. My son is resting in peace now. All the allegations against him have been proven false. The jury, after a three-month trial, in half a day, declared her guilty of murder.

'Rob was a wonderful father. He tried his best to be a wonderful husband and I just wished that his children could go on with their lives knowing the beauty of their father and how much he loved them.

'One doesn't stand up in court and accuse one's husband of all these horrible events because at the same time you do that, you are condemning your own children, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.'

Kissel's mother, Jean McGlothlin, who stood by her daughter every day in court, held back tears as she said to a crowd of journalists: 'Mostly I would like to say thank you for the respect you have shown me and my family. Except for photographers, you have all been wonderful. It's helped me enormously ... I am trying to get my feet on the ground.'

She refused to say whether an appeal would be lodged. The simmering feud between the camps of Robert and Nancy Kissel boiled over into a public slanging match as they waited for the verdict.

As William Kissel was telling reporters about what he termed the 'terrible legacy' his daughter-in-law had left for her children, Nancy Kissel's adviser, former journalist Jim Laurie, said she should be allowed to see her children.

Mr Laurie, a lecturer in journalism at the University of Hong Kong, suggested the children's financial security would be threatened if Robert's brother Andrew, who is facing embezzlement charges in the US, won custody of the children.

Mr Kissel lashed out at the defence's tactic of portraying his son as a sodomist, cocaine addict and alcoholic. 'You don't know him [just] because you lived in the same building,' he said to Mr Laurie.

'What puts you in a position to judge?' Mr Laurie replied it was 'impossible to know what happened' in the relationship.

Mr Kissel shot back: 'Are you going to write a book now ... and say Nancy is innocent?'

The judge also ordered transcripts and statements on the withholding of the baseball bat by the defence for 18 months to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Justice Lunn said in his summing up yesterday morning that the court had heard nothing about the defence keeping the baseball bat - allegedly used by the deceased to beat his wife - until July 21. He said that Simon Clark, the defence solicitor who was in court throughout the trial, had been keeping the bat since finding it in the bedroom of Kissel's flat in November 9, 2003.

'What became of the baseball bat during the period between November 9, 2003, and July 21, 2005? We knew nothing about it at all.'