The baby farmer… The Black Widow….The Heavenly Creatures…..The body in the garden.

Lillybing. Decelia. Moko. Malachi. These are all notorious criminal cases in New Zealand where people have been murdered at the hands of women. Husbands, children, friends, lovers and complete strangers slain. Babies and children abused, neglected and brutalized. Police figures show between mid-2012 and 2022, about 280 people were convicted of murder in New Zealand.

Of those, just 9.5 per cent of offenders – 26 in total – were women. A further 47 women were convicted of manslaughter, 27 per cent of the 271 total offenders in that category. Senior crime and justice reporter Anna Leask looks back at some of New Zealand’s most shocking cases of murder, manslaughter and even some mercy killings carried out by women.You can also listen to Herald podcast A Moment In Crime, which revisits the offending by some of these offenders.Some of these cases relate to child abuse or domestic violence. For information on where to get help or report concerns or crimes, scroll to the bottom of this article.

Historic killers.. Minnie Dean – multiple murders..In 1895 Minne Dean became the first – and only – woman to be hanged in New Zealand for the murder of two babies. In the 1880s Dean started taking in the children of unmarried mothers or women who had too many children.

Juliet Parker and Pauline Hulme – murder The 15-year-olds murdered Pauline’s mother, Honora Rieper, in Christchurch in 1954 by bludgeoning her on a park walkway. The schoolgirls lured Rieper to Victoria Park in Christchurch, on June 22, 1954 and proceeded to hit her repeatedly on the head with half a brick in a sock. The girls wanted Rieper dead so Pauline would be sent to live with Juliet, whose family were set to move overseas.

Child killers Lise Jane Turner – multiple murders In 1984 Turner was convicted of killing 8-month-old Michael Tinnion while she was babysitting him. He was the son of a neighbour. She also murdered her own two daughters by smothering them: Megan in 1980, and Cheney in 1982.Turner was also convicted of attempted murder after she tried to kill two other babies in her care – a 5-week-old girl and a 4-month-old girl. In 1997 Turner, then 41, was released from prison on parole. She spent 13 years behind bars for her crimes.

Tania Witika – manslaughter Witika, later known as Tania Gaye Hopping, was sentenced to 16 years in prison after her the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Delcelia. The case was the first to highlight the shocking level of child abuse in New Zealand. A High Court judge said at the time Delcelia’s death was one of the most disturbing cases he had seen.

Rachaelle Namana – manslaughter Hinewaioriki Karaitiana-Matiaha, known as Lillybing, died at a Carterton house in July 2000.Police said she died after “a series of dreadful injuries suffered over a three-day period”.She was suffering from rotavirus, was covered in bruises and scratches, was violated and bleeding internally, and had horrific scalding burns on her face, shoulder and pubis.

Lisa Kuka – manslaughter The death of Nia Glassie remains one of New Zealand’s most horrific and high-profile child murders.The 3-year-old Rotorua toddler died in August 2007 at the hands of her mother and stepfather and other adults living in her home. She was abused for months leading up to her brutal death. When details emerged of what the toddler had been subjected to, New Zealanders were appalled. Nia was admitted to Starship Hospital with critical head injuries in July 2007. When she was admitted to Starship, Nia’s brain damage was so severe that she could no longer breathe for herself.

Tiana Mary-Anne Odessa Kapea – murder Jyniah Mary Te Awa died in September 2007 after being abused repeatedly by her babysitter Kapea, who was a close family friend. Kapea was caring for Jyniah when she suffered a brain injury. The little girl was admitted to Starship Hospital but died the next day.

Tania Shailer – manslaughter Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri died on August 10 last year from injuries he received during prolonged abuse and torture.His case shocked, saddened and angered New Zealanders and led to marches in his name against child abuse.Shailer, then 26, and David Haerewa, 44, eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to 17 years in jail with a minimum non-parole period of nine years.

Michaela Barriball – Malachi murder In 2022 Michaela Barriball was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a little boy in her care.

Southern Thompson – murder In May 2022 Southern Thompson was jailed for abusing, neglecting and bashing her 18-month-old daughter Comfort Jay Thompson-Pene to death in their Tirau home in July 2018.

Comfort was born with a birth defect, and she spent the first few months of her life in hospital.

Spouse killers :Helen Milner – murder

Milner was dubbed the “Black Widow” after she was convicted of murdering her second husband Phil Nisbet by poisoning him with crushed sedatives in his food in 2009.

Rena Joyce – murder In January 2021 Rena Joyce walked into the central police station in Christchurch and told staff she had killed her partner. Within an hour officers had found the decomposing remains of Martin Orme Berry dumped in a compost heap in his own backyard.

Gay Oakes – murder In 1994 Gay Oakes was found guilty of murdering her de facto husband and burying him in the backyard of her Christchurch home.

Michelle Nicholson – murder Michelle Elizabeth Ann Nicholson was sentenced to life in prison in 1997 for the murder of her partner, Dennis Hind, of Temuka.

Amandeep Kaur – murder Amandeep Kaur, 33, and her lover Gurjinder Singh, 28, were found guilty in 2016 of the murder of Kaur’s husband, 35-year-old Davender Singh. Singh’s throat was slit as he sat in his car on a south Auckland road on August 7, 2014.

Joseph Michael Ngapera died in November 2018 after being stabbed twice in the chest. The first blow pierced his ribs, lung and heart.

His partner Karen Ruddelle was charged with murder, but after a trial in the High Court at Auckland she was found guilty of the lesser alternative charge of manslaughter.She never denied she was responsible for Ngapera’s death – but strongly denied there was any murderous intent.

Rikki-Lee Simeon – murder Simeon was just 18 when she murdered her partner Brendon Hamilton at an Auckland flat.

Sarah Barry – murder The 28-year-old was sentenced to seven months’ home detention after she admitted a charge of manslaughter.

Alana Bamber – murder Tony Waldron was found dead at his Gardiners Rd, Rakaia, home, 45 minutes south of Christchurch, on September 18, 2019, after failing to show up for 5.30am milking.After a lengthy homicide investigation, Waldron’s wife Alana Bamber, 35, and her cousin Joshua Dylan Morris-Bamber, 28, were charged with murdering the 25-year-old in his bed.

Pack killers

Natalie Fenton, Katrina Fenton, Daniella Bowman – murder Sisters Natalie and Katrina Fenton and their cousin Daniella Bowman were sentenced to life in prison in 1999 for murdering Raymond Mullins.Renee O’Brien – murder Puti Maxwell, Kararaina Te Rauna – manslaughter The brutal killing of Keith Piggott in 1993 was carried out by three teenage girls and shocked New Zealanders.Renee O’Brien was just 15 when she was found guilty of murdering the Waitara man.Puti Maxwell and Kararaina Te Rauna, both 14, had earlier pleaded guilty to his manslaughter. The body of the 60-year-old was found in the Waitara River on the afternoon of March 11 1993.

Friend killers: Naomi Morrison – murder Dunedin hairdresser Naomi Morrison stabbed her friend to death and buried her in a shallow grave in the backyard.

Anna Browne – murder Repeat violent offender Anna Browne was jailed for life after she was found guilty of murdering Carly Stewart at a “pamper party” in West Auckland.

Gwenda Sloane – murder Michelle Hoffman-Tamm, 51, disappeared in November 2012 after leaving the Rotorua home she shared with her long-term partner to visit Gwenda Sloane.Police found her body weeks later in a forested area just off State Highway 38 near Murupara. The police summary of facts revealed the two women, who had been friends for more than 20 years and were having a casual sexual relationship, had been drinking together at Sloane’s house on the evening of November 7. Sloane told police she “lost it” when she thought Hoffman-Tamm had taken $20 from her wallet.She launched a frenzied attack that left Hoffman-Tamm with 33 stab wounds and her ears severed and one shoved in her mouth.Hoffman-Tamm’s body lay on her kitchen floor for more than a day before Sloane wrapped up the body, put it in her car and buried it in a ditch near Murupara.

Melissa Wepa – murder Melissa Anne Wepa was jailed for life for killing a friend who dobbed her into police about her involvement in a burglary.She stabbed Porirua woman Caroline Gardiner 50 times before dumping her body down a bank.

Mercy killers: Leslie Martin – attempted murder In 2004 prominent euthanasia campaigner Lesley Martin was sentenced to 15 months in jail for the attempted murder of her terminally ill mother.

Donella Knox – murder Donella Knox, 49, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment after she admitted to murdering her 20-year-old daughter Ruby in May 2016 at their Blenheim home.


WakeUpNZ   RESEARCHER: Carol Sakey


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