The rot behind a life most people dream about

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 October, 2008, 12:00am

With Nancy Kissel's defence team already foreshadowing an appeal to the highest court, it seems certain the city has not heard the last of this sensational murder case.

The tragedy that has surrounded the Kissel family - Robert Kissel's brutal killing, his wife's subsequent conviction for his murder, the effective orphaning of the couple's children and the slaying in the United States of Robert Kissel's brother, Andrew - has by turns captivated, enthralled and appalled not only Hong Kong, but a wider global audience.

The events that unfolded in the couple's luxury Parkview flat on November 2, 2003, have spawned countless centimetres of newspaper copy, books, documentaries and even a film.

News of Kissel's death broke on the morning of November 7, when his body was found rolled up in a carpet inside a basement storeroom of the Tai Tam hilltop development where he had lived.

As head of global principal investment at Merrill Lynch, Robert Kissel seemed to have a life most Hong Kong people dream of - a beautiful wife, three young children, a flash apartment and a stellar career.

But with the arrest of his wife a different story began to emerge. Theirs was a tortured marriage beset by mistrust and, as it turned out, well-founded suspicion. Robert Kissel had begun spying on his wife, installing software to monitor her computer use and hiring a private detective to keep track of her.

His fears were confirmed when it became apparent that Nancy Kissel had begun an affair with electrician Michael del Priore, who had done some work on their home in Vermont, United States, while she and the children were there riding out the Sars outbreak of early 2003.

Shortly afterwards Robert voiced concerns that his wife was spiking his drinks in order to poison him.

He had come to the realisation that the marriage was beyond rescue and was about to divorce Nancy when she disabled him with a drug-laced milkshake and bludgeoned him to death.

Her trial, which began on June 7, 2005, caused a sensation, with judiciary staff having to install a waiting area outside the packed courtroom. Allegations of infidelity, homosexuality, drug use, violence and non-consensual anal sex made sure the story got maximum billing all the way up to her jailing for life on September 1.

Although rejected by a jury, Nancy Kissel's story of a helpless mother trapped in a loveless marriage and subjected to brutal psychological, physical and sexual molestation by a drug-addled, power-mad husband has won her legions of supporters.

It is understood she regularly receives gifts and letters of support from people around the world sympathetic to her plight. Legal sources say she is the only white woman ever jailed for murder in Hong Kong - a status which remains unchanged.