'Beast' wanted to do campervan trip

BLAIR ENSOR, SHANE COWLISHAW AND DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 08:08 09/08/2012
Stewart Murray Wilson
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
'BEAST OF BLENHEIM': Stewart Murray Wilson, seen giving evidence via video link from Rolleston Prison to the High Court.

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The man known as the Beast of Blenheim wanted to travel around New Zealand in a campervan when he is freed from prison on September 1.

Instead, Stewart Murray Wilson will be living in an old state house in the shadow of Whanganui Prison, and paying about $100 a week from his pension for the privilege.

Wilson, now 65, was jailed for 21 years in March 1996 - one of New Zealand's longest sentences at the time - after being convicted on 22 sex charges against women and children between 1971 and 1994. Although he is considered by the Parole Board to be at high risk of reoffending, he cannot be held in jail beyond the beginning of next month.

However, the Corrections Department believes the conditions imposed on Wilson are the most stringent on any released prisoner in New Zealand history. The 17 special conditions include one that will make him the first child-sex offender to be tracked by a global positioning system (GPS) on parole.

He has to live in a $70,000 relocated state house on Whanganui Prison property. The house is yet to be moved. Resource consent for the two-bedroom house is expected to be ready in time for his release.

Whanganui was chosen because it is one of only a few towns in New Zealand where Wilson would not be in close proximity to any of his victims.

Moving there was not part of Wilson's preferred release plan, Corrections chief executive Ray Smith said yesterday.

'I think at one point he had hoped he would have a campervan and be able to travel around. His plan fell well short of any expectations. We think the decision to locate him here on prison grounds almost 10 kilometres from the perimeter of the nearest population base - it just kind of made sense.'

But the decision has been greeted with anger from some parts of the district, with Whanganui Mayor Annette Main saying Wilson would "never be a part of our community".

John Campbell, who will be Wilson's nearest neighbour, said he was surprised at the news and concerned that children used a nearby lake for yachting.

"To be honest, it doesn't really worry me greatly because of the assurances we've been given. I've lived next door to this prison forever. Nothing is going to frighten me."

Mr Campbell, whose farm borders the prison, felt sure he would see Wilson when he arrived, but "I don't think I'll be stopping by for a chat".

Kathy Verhoek, who also lives near the prison, said officials had assured her Wilson would be well monitored and posed no threat. "Obviously nobody would choose to have this guy in their backyard but he's got to go somewhere. It's a no-win situation for anyone. What else are you going to do? Kill him?"

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Ms Main said she was unhappy about Wilson's release but it was unlikely the council could stop his move to the area.

"I don't like it, but in this particular case I think it's bad luck for us that we have a facility that appears to be able to provide the ability to keep this person away from any community."

The offences for which Wilson was jailed included rape, stupefying or attempting to stupefy, attempted rape, bestiality, ill-treatment of children, assault and indecent assault.

It is estimated that making sure he is housed safely will cost $100,000 a year, in addition to the cost of shifting the house.

He will be asked to pay about $100 rent out of his pension.

Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar said Wilson's strict parole conditions "reflected the mood of the country" but still did not go far enough.

"He hasn't finished tormenting these victims . . . I've spoken to some of these women and they're terrified . . .

"They believe anywhere in this country is too close to Wilson."

Rethinking Crime and Punishment director Kim Workman said it appeared Corrections had done all it could to protect the community.

But it would be hard to call Wilson's release conditions rehabilitative as they were designed more as a separation strategy. "It gets to a point where you have to beg the question, would he actually prefer to stay in prison?"

The only previous case of an inmate being freed to live on prison grounds was Lloyd McIntosh, a notorious child sex offender ordered in 2005 to be kept under 24-hour guard in a house at Rolleston Prison.

- The Dominion Post

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