Hong Kong ‘milkshake murderer’ Nancy Kissel launches fresh legal challenge over life imprisonment
Writ filed at High Court asserts special circumstances in case relating to 2005 killing of her husband
An American woman who was jailed for life in Hong Kong for drugging and bludgeoning her husband to death in 2003 has surfaced from behind bars again to challenge her sentence.
Nancy Kissel, serving time in Tai Lam Centre for Women for murdering her husband, applied for a judicial review of the sentencing review board’s decision not to recommend to the chief executive that a determinate sentence be substituted for her indeterminate mandatory life prison sentence.
In a writ filed at the High Court on Wednesday, Kissel, 52, argued that the Long-term Prison Sentences Review Board had acted unreasonably and violated her rights under the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights Ordinance.
The special circumstances surrounding her case, which include her mental state at the time of the offence and subsequently “the guilt and remorse” she had exhibited, served as grounds, the writ said, justifying the need for her indeterminate sentence to be substituted for a determinate one.
The writ asserted Kissel was “a foreign prisoner who is likely to be deported upon completion of any converted determinate sentence so that she and her family in America have a special need to have some idea as to what the future holds”.
According to the writ, she still wanted to transfer to a US prison under a reciprocal agreement allowing the transfer of inmates between Hong Kong and the US – after media reports of an unsuccessful bid to apply to serve out her term in the US a few years ago.
“She presents no danger to society and is highly unlikely ever to reoffend,” it added. Kissel said her case involved “unanswered questions of public importance” on the treatment of prisoners serving mandatory life sentences and the function of the board in that treatment. She asked the court to order the board to reconsider its decision.
Kissel was found guilty of murder in 2005 after she killed her husband Robert, then a Merrill Lynch investment banker, at their luxury flat in Tai Tam in 2003. She bludgeoned him to death with a lead ornament after incapacitating him with a drug-laced milkshake. The high-profile case had earned her the nickname “milkshake murderer”.
The Michigan-born woman arranged for workmen to carry the victim’s body, concealed in an old oriental rug, to her storeroom.
The court heard during the original trial in 2005 that Kissel killed her husband in “cold blood” 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.