‘Black Widow’ killer to be released from jail, Parole Board rules

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Dena Thompson during her trial at the Old Bailey (Fiona Hanson/PA) (PA Archive)
Dena Thompson during her trial at the Old Bailey (Fiona Hanson/PA) (PA Archive)

A woman dubbed the Black Widow after she murdered her husband with a poisoned curry on his birthday could walk free from prison within weeks.

The Parole Board granted Dena Thompson’s bid to be released, indicating this could take place as early as next month.

Now 61, Thompson was jailed for life in 2003 after she was convicted of killing her second husband, Julian Webb, at their home in Yapton, Sussex, on his 31st birthday in June 1994.

Described by police as a “dangerous woman” and “every man’s nightmare”, Thompson, of Cullompton, Devon, had a history of conning men out of money.

Officers said she had targeted men “sexually, financially and physically” for a decade.

After considering the circumstances of her offending, the progress made while in custody and the other evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was satisfied that Ms Thompson was suitable for release once suitable accommodation became available in early June 2022

Parole Board

In a document setting out the decision, the Parole Board said: “After considering the circumstances of her offending, the progress made while in custody and the other evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was satisfied that Ms Thompson was suitable for release once suitable accommodation became available in early June 2022.”

Thompson, whose minimum jail term was later increased to 16 years, hid anti-depressants in Mr Webb’s favourite meal and laced his drinks with ground aspirin, but claimed he had taken his own life.

The truth of her crimes only emerged seven years after the murder, when his body was exhumed from a family plot in Hayling Island, Hampshire.

A witness had come forward after a jury cleared Thompson in 2000 of trying to kill her third husband, Richard Thompson, during a sex bondage session.

Fresh tests revealed a higher level of drugs in Mr Webb’s body than first thought.

Thompson married Mr Webb bigamously in 1991 while still married to first husband Lee Wyatt, who told the court she had made false accusations against him, made him go on the run and set him up to take the blame for her frauds.

After Mr Webb’s death, and eventually divorcing Mr Wyatt, she married Mr Thompson.

They were later divorced after she attacked him with a baseball bat and a knife because she said she feared for her life.

At the time of her crimes Thompson was “deceptive”, “could hold grudges” and did not always have “control of her temper”, Parole Board papers said.

While behind bars she had taken part in rehabilitation courses, therapy, training and had already been temporarily released from prison.

All the professionals who gave evidence during the hearing recommended her release on licence, according to the document, and the parole judges concluded the plan, which will see restrictions imposed on who she contacts, her movements and activities, was “robust enough” to support her ongoing supervision outside jail.

Thompson will also have to disclose any new relationships, provide details of vehicles she uses, as well as her passport and bank details when required. She will also have to wear an electronic tag and adhere to a curfew.

Another factor which would reduce the risk of reoffending included the “financial backing built up from sale of her artwork”, the parole document added.

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