Two mothers united by evil
Today one of the country's most vicious, calculating killers is sentenced for a second murder of women he befriended, stalked, tortured, raped and killed.
Here, and in the video interviews above, the two women's mothers talk exclusively to Newsroom investigations editor Melanie Reid about the horror of learning of each other's tragedy and loss - and their anger at the killer being released by the Parole Board.
Cherie Gillatt was having a casual Saturday evening at her Dunedin home in early April last year watching a movie with her young son and her partner when the police knocked on her door.
They had come to tell her that her 27-year-old daughter Nicole Tuxford had been brutally murdered at her Merivale flat in Christchurch.
It’s a cliché but it’s true, it’s every mother's worst nightmare. That moment plays over and over in Cherie's mind. “It never leaves you, it just never leaves you”.
It was the first of two profound shocks.
"I just lost it. I was shell shocked in a daze and I just couldn’t understand it, I was like, who would do that to her and why? Why would anyone do that to her, she’s lovely and would never hurt anyone. I just couldn’t understand it."
Cherie always talks about her daughter as “My Nicole”. They were close, talked a lot about everything and anything. Cherie had spent over an hour on the phone to Nicole the night before she was murdered.
“We're laughing and carrying on as we did. She’d just turned 27 and was really blossoming as a young woman. She was just happy go lucky, enjoying life, enjoying people and enjoyed the spiritual work and life coaching which she was studying".
Cherie says: “I just go over and over it in my mind Why did he do it? Why would you do that to somebody? How could someone take a life just because you couldn't have what you wanted.”
The killer, Paul Wilson, had got to know Nicole at work at an industrial yard. They were a generation apart. She tried to help him by using the spiritual self-help that she had benefited from herself and genuinely thought she could help him; but they were no more than acquaintances.
One night he turned up at her house when she was away staying with her boyfriend, broke in and lay in wait until the morning, attacking, torturing, raping and slitting her throat.
Her mum, Cherie, saw her in her coffin when her body returned to Dunedin: "She had a bruise on her face where he punched her one. She had marks on the back of her head, big lumps ... everyone knows he raped her and then he slashed her throat. How anyone could do that. I don't know."
Through her tears Cherie puts her head down and repeats, “My beautiful daughter, my Nicole.”
Cherie says she has to stop herself thinking about her daughter's final hours because it is sending her crazy.
“It's a freaking nightmare, if you start thinking about it too hard … I've had to pull myself back so many times because if I go there I just lose it, thinking that someone can be so evil and do what he did."
“I held her hand, in a coffin, and I was talking to her, there were cuts on her hand, where he had cut her, and I remember looking at her going Oh Coley what's wrong with your face…and I rubbed her face, and the more I touched it, it was the bruising that he put on her face. It was coming out. And I thought Oh God. And I tried to fix her but it didn’t work. And then I had this beautiful crystal that I wore all the time, and I went to put it around her neck, and at that stage I didn't even know he'd cut her throat."
Cherie stayed with her daughter's body until her funeral.
“And I remember... I felt, yeah, I was ready to say goodbye, but early one morning and I don’t even remember driving back to the undertakers, I just remember someone opening the door and I just said I can't say goodbye to her. I need to see her. And I didn't want to say goodbye to her, I wanted her back."
The depth of her shock and despair worsened at the second of two bombshell revelations.
Wilson had done almost the exact same thing to another young woman. Another family. Years before. And had been released from prison on parole, only to do it again, to Nicole.
As police told Cherie and her family that Saturday night of Nicole's murder, another police house call occurred over on the West Coast. They went to tell Nancy and Gary Schroder, parents of Wilson's first victim Kimi, that Wilson had struck again.
They were totally devastated, because in the back of their minds, they knew that day would come. They had campaigned ceaselessly, annually, at Parole Board hearings to keep Wilson from ever being released. They had predicted, fatefully but unheeded, that he would murder again.
"Don't try and dwell on what he did to her because if I dwell on what he did to her, it would destroy me. And I won't allow him to do that."
Nancy told Newsroom: "Oh we were just gutted, absolutely gutted, it was like it had happened to us all over again, and it was it. What can you do? We knew the Parole Board were responsible for it for letting him out... They were the first words we said: 'It's the Parole Board's fault for releasing him when we told them 'No'."
Just days after Nicole Tuxford was murdered, Gary Schroder took his own life.
Close family friend Jenny Keogan says: "We have lived and breathed this for many years since Kimi died, and now of course he has come along and murdered again, and it's like we're all going back to relive exactly that moment, all those years ago. And for Gary, Nancy's husband and a very, very dear and good friend of mine. It was too much for Gary. It was too much for Gary to bear having to go through that again. And, unfortunately, Gary took his own life. Well, actually Wilson took his life."
For Nancy, that means Wilson took her daughter's life and her husband's life.
After killing their daughter and being sentenced to life in prison, Wilson became eligible for parole in 2007. The Schroders and Jenny went to every hearing year after year.
From the beginning until the 13th year of his sentence, Wilson showed no remorse. "He still believed he'd still had consensual sex with Kimi, who he originally murdered. It was just a constant ... There were red flags all the way through, every Parole Board meeting that we went to. There were red flags up showing that this man was never going to be ready to go back out into the open and in amongst the community again," Jenny said as she sat beside Nancy in our interview.
"The situation every year makes us have to relive Kimi's murder in 1994. And our greatest fears were always if and when the Parole Board released this psychopath, which he is, he'd have an opportunity, no doubt, to enter into new relationships or face some kind of rejection from a woman, which is his trigger. And we honestly believed he would do it again and destroy someone else's family as he has done to ours. And look what's happened. Except now, two more people have died at his hands."
From Dunedin, Cherie Gillatt says the Board needs to take a good look at itself. "They have let us down. Who are they to sit in their little chairs in their offices and look at pieces of paper and go, well, this person needs to be released. Who are they? Do they have families? Have they lost a family member in horrific ways like we have? Just sit back and go: 'Hey, it's okay. This person deserves a second chance'. No."
Two Mums meet
After Nicole died, Nancy Schroder went to meet Cherie. At the Christchurch police station.
Nancy says it was "Bloody rough. Yeah. Knew exactly what she was feeling and how they were feeling. And it wasn't good."
The Schroders' efforts hadn't saved Nicole. "Well we'd tried to stop it hadn't we?... stop him being released..." Nancy says.
For Cherie the meeting was equally hard. "I have met the family, very hard, very emotional.
"When I came into the room, Nancy ... she goes: 'Where's, where's the mum?' And we just hugged. And we cried. We just cried 'cause we know exactly what each other's going through. It was just so sad because she said we should never be going through this again.
"Just by talking to them I found out who this person was and what he was capable of. And it horrified me. To think that this piece of shit can walk out on the streets again and have a life, and pretend everything's okay after what he did to Kimi and then to go and do it to Nicole."
Cherie says it was "another nightmare on top of a nightmare. How the heck did he do it again? How did he get out and why did they let him out after what he did to [Kim]. And it wasn't just random. He tortured her.... to go on and torture again..."
"So many people have got blood on their hands. So many."
She is devastated at the death of Gary, Kimi's father, just after Nicole's murder. "They fought and fought and fought until there was no more fighting. And the fact that when Gary had lost, taking his life three days after Nicole had died ... that was another blow. Absolutely fricking devastation again.
"He was just so distraught. And he was just so broken, a broken man, that he just couldn't take it any more.
"So many people have got blood on their hands. So many."
Unsurprisingly, she is angry at the Board. "The Parole Board. They're the ones that let him out. Paul Wilson did such a horrific crime to Kim that he should never have been walking the streets. He should never have got a second chance to say 'Hey, I'm reformed'. He was never reformed."
When the Schroder family first learned of a murder in Christchurch last year, they had a terrible sense.
Friend Jenny Keogan tells Newsroom: "And not just for us to find that out and know that this poor girl had died under very similar circumstances. But the remorse and the sympathy that we had for the Tuxford family who at that stage we still had not met, was just overwhelming. We knew exactly what they were going through and were still going to have to go through once it all came out in the open."
As further details emerged of the night Wilson lay in wait for Nicole, her mother Cherie learned that another part of the 'system' failed her and her daughter that night. Before he broke into Nicole's house, Wilson had been picked up for drink driving at a police checkpoint. He was over the limit and was found to have knives in his car. Police took his keys, secured the knives, and despite his criminal record and lifetime parole, let him leave in a taxi.
"The system failed because they had someone in the car who had knives, who has murdered before, and they let him away.
"They need to lock these people, especially the likes of Paul Wilson, up and never let him out because he's so evil. He was never going to be one of these people that can be rehabilitated. He was just too evil."
To know Wilson is now unlikely to be let out of prison again after today's sentence is little solace. "It's not going to bring my daughter back. He's taken something so beautiful. He's taken her life. She had a great life, she was happy.
"You know one day she would have had children. Just a part of our family. He has taken a big part of this family and destroyed us. And I really do hope he rots. I really do.
"I'm never going to see her and share things with her. No birthday, Christmas celebrations, nieces and nephews, you know, nothing."
Cherie says she has to remember the beautiful things about Nicole. "Don't try and dwell on what he did to her because if I dwell on what he did to her, it would destroy me. And I won't allow him to do that. Take me or somebody else."
*Made with the support of NZ On Air*