Banker's worries about marriage a rebuttal of abuse claim, court told

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 January, 2010, 12:00am

The concerns that Merrill Lynch banker Robert Kissel had about his marriage months before his wife killed him amounted to a rebuttal of her claims that he physically and sexually abused her, a court has heard.

The argument was yesterday put forward by deputy director of public prosecutions Kevin Zervos SC in Nancy Kissel's appeal hearing in the Court of Final Appeal.

The appeal is her final chance to fight the murder conviction she received in 2005. The US-born woman was sentenced to life in prison after a jury unanimously found her guilty of murdering her husband at their family home at Parkview in Tai Tam in the early hours of November 2, 2003. He had been bludgeoned to death with a metal ornament.

At the trial, Kissel had argued she killed her husband in self-defence. She also claimed that her husband used cocaine, and was an abusive man who often assaulted her and forced her into depraved sexual acts.

She said she could not remember what happened when the killing took place nor recall any details surrounding the event, except for briefly scuffling with her husband while holding a metal ornament to defend herself as he came at her with a baseball bat.

The trial judge sentenced her to life in jail.

On the fifth day of the appeal hearing yesterday, Zervos rebutted the defence's earlier claims that some of the trial evidence was prejudicial.

Gerard McCoy SC, for Nancy Kissel, argued last week that evidence from the banker's private investigator and a confidante concerning the marriage should not have been admissible because it was 'prejudicial' hearsay evidence. The court was told that evidence from the two prosecution witnesses at the murder trial divulged Robert Kissel's fears that his wife might try to poison him.

One of the witnesses was his confidante, Bryna O'Shea, who said Robert Kissel had asked her if his wife would kill him after having found out she had done a search on a website concerning 'drugs or death'.

The second witness was a private investigator, hired by Robert Kissel to look into his wife's alleged love affair, and with whom he discussed fears about being poisoned by his wife.

Yesterday, Zervos said the evidence was not used to prove whether Kissel had killed her husband but to prove the husband's state of mind. 'His concerns ... reveal that he is not an aggressor,' he said.

The hearing before Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, Mr Justice Syed Kemal Bokhary, Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi, Mr Justice Roberto Riberio, and Sir Anthony Mason continues today.