Hong Kong 'milkshake murderer' challenges life sentence

Nancy Kissel, dubbed the "milkshake" murderess, sits in a prison van as she arrives at the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong on Feb 11, 2010. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (AFP) - American Nancy Kissel, dubbed the "milkshake murderer" for one of Hong Kong's most notorious crimes, was back in court on Friday (Dec 15) to challenge her life sentence for murdering her banker husband.

Kissel lost an appeal in 2014 against a conviction for drugging her husband - a senior executive at US bank Merrill Lynch - with a sedative-laced strawberry drink before clubbing him to death with a lead ornament in their luxury home in the southern Chinese city.

She is currently serving a life sentence at Hong Kong's high-security Tai Lam Centre for Women.

With bobbed hair and wearing glasses, she took copious notes throughout the judicial review hearing into her case at Hong Kong's High Court on Friday.

Kissel's lawyers challenged a decision last year by the government's Long-term Prison Sentences Review Board, which they said refused an application for conditional release or to recommend a determinate sentence.

The board makes suggestions to Hong Kong's chief executive about inmates it deems suitable to be released before the end of an imposed jail term.

Kissel's representative Edward Fitzgerald argued she was entitled to know what length of time the board would deem "sufficient" before considering releasing her from detention early.

It was "cruel" to repeatedly allow a prisoner to go in front of the board without knowing where they stood, said Fitzgerald, pointing out that a life sentence does not always mean life behind bars.

The hearing followed a writ filed by Kissel's legal team last year which said the review board had "wrongly" refused to shorten her sentence.

"Given... the applicant's demonstration of remorse and repentance, the respondent acted unreasonably," the writ said, referring to the board.

The review judges said they would hand down a decision at a later date.

The Michigan-born mother-of-three was first convicted of murder and handed a life sentence in 2005.

The city's top court overturned the conviction in February 2010, citing legal errors, and ordered a fresh hearing. But she was convicted again in 2011 and then lost the final appeal in 2014.

At her 2011 retrial, Kissel sobbed as she told the jury she had endured physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband.

She maintained she acted in self-defence and offered to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Prosecutors accused Kissel of rolling up her husband's body in a carpet and covering his head with plastic after killing him in their luxury home at the hillside Parkview apartment complex.

She left the body in the bedroom for days before hiring workmen to carry it to a storeroom, they said.

Prosecutors also argued that Kissel stood to gain up to US$18 million (S$24.2 million) from the death of her wealthy husband, saying she planned to run away with a television repairman with whom she admitted having an affair in the US.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.