'Black Widow' who murdered Sunderland City Council electrician husband is released from prison

Christina Button.
Christina Button.

A woman dubbed "The Black Widow" after being found guilty of the murder of her husband has been released from prison.

Christina Button was handed a life sentence for the murder of her husband George in March 2003.

George Button.

George Button.

Mr Button, 53, who worked for Sunderland City Council as an electrician, was bludgeoned to death as he walked his dog Laddie near the couple’s home in West Rainton.

Also convicted of the murder was Christina Button’s nephew Simon Tannahill, who administered the fatal blows.

Tannahill has now also been released from prison.

A jury at Newcastle Crown Court was told at the couple’s joint trial in December 2003 that Christina Button was guilty of murder because she “planned and orchestrated” the killing, even though she struck no blows.

Police officers close to the area in West Rainton where George Button's body was discovered.

Police officers close to the area in West Rainton where George Button's body was discovered.

The court heard how besotted Tannahill killed his uncle so his aunt could plunder his £450,000 insurance policy.

Police gathered evidence which proved Christina Button was in the village at the time of the killing, allegedly to be certain Tannahill went through with it.

Investigations revealed he had been struck several times and Tannahill and Christina Button, who had debts of £200,000, were arrested.

Christina Button took her daughter to a Brownie meeting, which was something she didn’t usually do, in an apparent attempt to establish an alibi.

Trial judge Mr Justice Royce said: “George Button was by all accounts a kind and gentle man who had done nothing to deserve his terrible fate.

“This was a wicked and evil murder which was orchestrated by Christina Button.”

Tannahill later admitted his part in the murder, meaning he was eligible for parole in 2016 when he had served his 13-year tariff.

Christina Button failed in an attempt to have her 14-year tariff reduced, and in 2005 she failed in an attempt to have her conviction overturned.

A spokesman for the Parole Board said: “The Parole Board directed the release of Simon Tannahill, following an oral hearing in March 2017.

"Christina Button was also directed for release by a panel of the Parole Board in January 2018.

“Parole Board decisions are solely focused on whether a prisoner would represent a significant risk to the public after release.

"The panels will have carefully looked at a whole range of evidence, including details of the original evidence and any evidence of behaviour change.

“We do that with great care and public safety is our number one priority.”

A Probation Service spokesman said: “The independent Parole Board decides whether those sentenced to life should be released from prison.

“When released such offenders are on licence for life and are subject to strict conditions and controls, which may include exclusion zones preventing them from going to certain places and living in accommodation where they are supervised by probation staff.

“If they fail to comply or commit another crime, they face being recalled to prison.”