Sadistic double murderer Paul Russell Wilson manipulated the parole system once, but he might never get the chance to do so again.

Wilson was sentenced in the Christchurch High Court today to life in prison, with a minimum parole period of 28 years, for the brutal rape and murder of Nicole Tuxford last April. The Crown was pushing for a term of life without parole, which has never been imposed in New Zealand.

Given Wilson, who has legally changed his name to Paul Pounamu Tainui, is 55, he won’t even have the chance to go before the Parole Board until he’s at least 83.

At the time of the murder, in Tuxford’s Merivale home, Wilson was on parole for the 1994 murder of Kimi Schroder. Both women rejected him and he enacted violent vengeance, in chilling similar circumstances, because of his immense jealousy and distorted views about women. In both cases, he cut their necks so savagely with a knife that their heads were almost severed.

“I saw what you did to my sister,” Tuxford’s sister, Jess, told Wilson in her victim impact statement read to the court. She saw every cut and injury, showing how hard she had fought for her life. “She still looked beautiful, you couldn’t take that from her.”

(Before she started reading her statement, she asked Wilson: “Can you look at me while I speak to you, please?” He did not. “I didn’t think so,” she said.)

Jess Tuxford, sister of murder victim Nicole Tuxford, makes her victim impact statement at Paul Wilson’s sentencing at the High Court in Christchurch. Photo: Dean Purcell

Justice Cameron Mander, the sentencing judge, said given Wilson’s pattern of violent and sexual offending, and his very high risk to the community of reoffending, it’s not clear if he will ever be eligible for parole. “It seems unlikely.”

Tuxford was described by her devastated family in court yesterday as a beautiful, kind and happy 27-year-old, who saw the goodness in everyone. The kindest of souls. Her mum, Cherie Gillatt, described her second child as an “amazing woman” who, as a spiritual teacher and aspiring life coach, took pity on Wilson, gave him “so much more than you deserved”. She declared to Wilson: “You will not break us.”

Several of Tuxford’s family urged Mander to ensure Wilson would never be released from prison.

Leading up to Wilson’s parole in 2011, for Schroder’s murder, he was described as a model prisoner, who had made huge strides thanks to extensive therapy, and was of low risk of reoffending. “Those considerations were illusory,” Justice Mander said, referring to psychological assessments that describe Wilson as calculated and self-serving – basically telling mental health professionals what they wanted to hear to secure his release.

Tuxford’s partner Clay Saunders said in his victim impact statement Wilson was a callous, evil, manipulative animal, who was just a role model for “bringing back the death penalty”.

His guilty plea wasn’t an act of contrition, Mander said, but a move judged on the overwhelming evidence against him. Wilson was described by professionals as superficial and contrived. Rather than accepting responsibility, he had little emotional connection to the suffering he caused. There was a sense he was trying to impress his mental health assessor rather than expressing genuine regret.

There was remorse but without tears, with Wilson being primarily concerned about how his actions will affect his friends and family.

Nicole Tuxford’s mother Cherie Gillatt reads her statement in court. Photo: Dean Purcell 

Crown prosecutor Pip Currie mentioned how, when interviewed by mental health professionals, there was an escalation of Wilson’s negative comments about his victim. He expressed feelings of absolute hatred and rage. He gave a quite graphic description of what he’d done to Tuxford and spoke about her in derogatory terms.

Reports suggested Wilson was likely to be highly resistant to change.

Currie: “He was unable to hide his sense of gratification [regarding] the notoriety he’d gain.”

Put simply, Currie said the best way to predict future offending is by looking at Wilson’s past offending. That disturbing picture, including the failure of therapy, made the only safe option of dealing with “the prisoner” was life without parole, Currie suggested.

The level of Wilson’s premeditation and determination was illustrated by the fact he wasn’t deterred by being caught drink-driving by police, and not being able to take two long knives from his car’s locked boot. He also lay waiting for Tuxford for eight hours, with electrical tape and knives from the house, until she arrived home from her partner’s house, in the morning of April 7 last year.

There were muted gasps from Tuxford’s family when defence lawyer Ruth Buddicom suggested the judge favour a long non-parole period. While the judge should not retreat from the compelling material from victims, past and present, Buddicom said the court must take a balanced and principled approach.

“He was unable to hide his sense of gratification [regarding] the notoriety he’d gain.”

She said the lack of ability for the sentence to be reviewed, for any circumstance, meant that, for human rights reasons, a sentence of life without parole was “unacceptable”. Yet, given his age and the expected lengthy non-parole period, Buddicom said Wilson was realistic enough to expect not to ever step foot “outside of the prison environment” again.

To murmurs from the public gallery again, Buddicom said Wilson should be given credit for “proving himself able to live in a constructive and good manner in the community”, between his parole and the dreadful events of last April, for which “he has taken responsibility”.

Overseas, such a sentence is largely reserved for the worst of murders, such as massacres and terrorism attacks, she said. She referred to the recent terror attack in Christchurch in saying: “New Zealand is starting to understand those things can also occur in this country.”

Mander said given the premeditation, the fact Tuxford’s murder happened in her home, where she was entitled to feel safe, and the extreme violence, Wilson’s actions involved a “high level of brutality and callousness”. The preceding rape was done with the knowledge he would kill her, and was used to punish, degrade and humiliate her, in his desire to see her suffer. “Your actions were sadistic and depraved.” The murder had also re-traumatised the Schroder family, the judge said. The damage done is “irreparable”, Mander said.

Alongside the life sentence, with 28-year non-parole period, Wilson was sentenced to 12 years of preventive detention. In what was an “empty exercise”, Mander also gave Wilson a formal warning for his first “strike” under so-called three strikes legislation for serious offenders.

Wilson spent the hearing staring impassively at the front of the court. When Mander asked him to stand for sentencing, he reached back, gently, as if to stop the seat he was sitting on from flipping up too violently. But this glimpse of the ordinary, a seeming veneer of normality, was quickly extinguished. The cold-hearted killer, a “monster of a man” described in court has having a recurring absence of empathy and remorse, didn’t even look in the direction of Tuxford’s or Schroder’s families as he left the court.

Read more:

Two mothers united by evil

Should he have been released? 

The ins and outs of life without parole

David Williams is Newsroom's environment editor, South Island correspondent and investigative writer.

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