Mum's last-ditch fight to keep killer in jail

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2013
Healy
CONVICTED: Elizabeth Mary Healy leaving court in January 1997.
Andrea Keats
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ
ANDREA KEATS: 'Who's to say she's not going to flip again? A leopard doesn't change its spots.'
Shae Hammond
HELPLESS VICTIM: Shae Hammond, who suffered a violent death in 1997. Her nanny Elizabeth Healy was subsequently convicted of murder.

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It was a case that rocked the country - a Christchurch nanny who passed police and reference checks only to murder a toddler in her care.

Now, 15 years after Liz Healy was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing 17-month-old Shae Hammond, she may be about to walk free - but the toddler's mother is making a last-ditch plea to keep her child's killer behind bars.

Healy will go before the Parole Board this week to make yet another bid for freedom - her third in nine months.

Shae's mother, Andrea Keats, says Healy must admit her guilt before she is considered for release, and the ongoing hearings brought "everything to the surface".

Healy has maintained her innocence. She never told police what happened that night in January 1997 - only that she had been drinking heavily and found Shae unresponsive in a cot the following morning, the back of her head bashed in.

Shae died in Christchurch Hospital from a severely fractured skull.

The Crown said Shae's injuries could not have been accidental.

The force it took to crack her skull was equivalent to dropping a child headfirst on to concrete from three metres up. Keats fears Healy could harm other children, or worse, kill again.

"Knowing that she could walk free and hurt her [future] grandchildren . . . who's to say she's not going to flip again? A leopard doesn't change its spots."

Healy was denied parole in May last year because she wanted to be released into Christchurch. Keats and her family had objected to her living in the same city.

In its decision, the board also said it "cannot be satisfied" Healy did not present a risk to the safety of the community.

In July, Healy applied for an early hearing, which went ahead in November.

She had since found an alternative release address, understood by Keats to be in the lower North Island, a job, accommodation and had access to a support network.

The board recommended a release and safety plan be drawn up and presented at this week's hearing, but "with no promises as to the outcome".

Keats, now 45, said she felt compelled to speak out as it looked more likely than ever that Healy would be granted parole.

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She was 29 when Shae was killed but still remembered every day of her "carefree" and "cute" child's life.

"There's a lot I still don't accept.

"I look at my friends' kids and think what I'm missing out on. I never got to see her go to her first prom, her first day at school, her 2-year-old tanties. It's too much."

While Keats had learned to accept her daughter's death, she could never forgive Healy until she explained "why and how" Shae died.

Keats said Healy had never shown remorse.

Healy played an electronic game during court depositions. She later sent Keats a letter from prison saying she was innocent, Keats said.

The one time Keats visited Healy in prison, she showed her a photo of Shae and asked why she killed her daughter.

"She turned the photo over and put her hand over it."

At the last Parole Board hearing, Keats asked to see a copy of Healy's latest psychological assessment, but it had not been supplied.

"If they can prove to me she has tried to redeem herself in some way, I'd feel different," Keats said.

"I just fear when she does get out, she's left at home a couple of hours with a child, and it all happens again."

Healy was also convicted of poisoning and injuring two other children she cared for.

A 2-year-old suffered extensive bruising to his face and Healy tried to feed a third victim food full of excessive salt.

- The Press

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