Beast walks free: 'A disappointing day'
LATEST: The reviled sex predator dubbed The Beast of Blenheim has walked free from prison this morning under the cover of darkness.
Stewart Murray Wilson, 65, walked into self care unit No 5 outside the wire of Whanganui Prison about 6am.
It is understood he has already been fitted with a new GPS monitoring system. Security guards with dogs are patrolling the perimeter.
Wearing a green jersey, Wilson was escorted onto the property by an entourage of about eight people after arriving in a white van. He wasted no time getting inside his new home. The curtains have been closed.
It is understood Corrections and Probation staff are taking him through his induction and the rules he must abide by now he is a free man.
Wanganui district councillor Hamish McDouall visited the prison after Wilson's release.
"It's a disappointing day. It's another hurdle Whanganui's reputation has leap. We've managed to recover and bounce back time and again from bad press and sad events. It just seems Whanganui gets the rough end of the stick on a lot of occasions, which is a shame because it's a great community.
"I'm not comfortable that he's a resident of Whanganui District.
"If he has to be a resident at least this is close to facilities to keep the community safe."
In a statement, the Department of Corrections said Wilson's actual release date was September 1, but as that was a Saturday he had to be released today, the Wednesday prior.
"He must now abide by stringent parole conditions set by the [Parole] Board which will result in his gradual reintegration into the community," Corrections Services general manager Brendan Anstiss said.
"Given the later-than-expected approval of resource and building consents for his house on prison land, the department will temporarily utilise other accommodation options on prison land."
Anstiss said Whanganui was chosen because it was one of the few places in the country where he has no registered victims, it was some distance from neighbours and still close enough to Corrections staff who would monitor his release conditions.
"I know this is a stressful time for the community and this offender, but the safety of both parties is now priority and the orders of the Parole Board must be followed.
"My staff and I have met with the mayor, councillors, stakeholders, iwi, the public and neighbours to explain our plan for this offender. The plan we have developed gives us the best chance of ensuring the community's safety as well as allowing this offender's gradual reintegration into the community," Anstiss said.
WILSON 'MAKING THE BEST OF SITUATION'
Wilson's lawyer Andrew McKenzie spoke with his client last night.
"I think he would prefer to be moved elsewhere, but it's making the best of the situation he's been given," Mr McKenzie said.
Wilson did not have a phone in his house, but McKenzie would send him a non internet capable cellphone later this week.
Corrections had assured him it would work despite a reception jamming system at the prison.
"I don't think he'll be going out on Whanganui's main street for a while so he'll have to occupy himself for a while. At least the phone will allow him to have contact with the outside world."
Mr McKenzie questioned the council's decision to ban him from areas of the district.
"We could challenge that."
However the decision could "strengthen his hand" for moving to another area, he said.
Security was stepped up at Whanganui Prison as it awaited the release of Wilson.
His move to the area has been greeted with outrage by the community and members of the district council, who voted at an extraordinary meeting last night to ban him from all its parks, reserves and recreational spaces.
However, the council accepted that it had no choice but to approve resource and building consents for a two-bedroom state house to be moved on to prison grounds for Wilson outside the fence.
Lawyer Hayden Wilson advised the council by letter that the law allowed them to trespass Wilson for two years from any buildings in the city where "council is the lawful occupier".
But he advised them to be selective about the locations they chose, and to single out areas such as playgrounds and other recreational areas where he "could be considered to be a threat to public safety".
The meeting was called to discuss how the council dealt with Wilson's release after a judge threw out its appeal at a judicial review in the High Court at Wellington on Monday.
The council failed to convince the judge that the Parole Board had not followed the correct process in deciding that Wilson should be freed to Whanganui.
At last night's meeting, the council agreed to seek legal advice about making a challenge to the Court of Appeal once the reasons surrounding the judge's decision were released.
An "action team" will also lobby the Government about introducing retrospective legislation to keep offenders such as Wilson in jail permanently.
Wilson was jailed for 21 years in 1996 after being convicted on 22 sex charges against women and children between 1971 and 1994.
Justice Minister Judith Collins said yesterday that she was considering putting forward a law change that would allow the Corrections Department to keep Wilson behind bars.
Her proposed public protection orders would allow High Court judges to review the cases of former prisoners subject to extended supervision orders, and put them back in jail if they were still a risk to the public.
Whanganui's public "shunning" of Wilson will be co-ordinated by councillors Jack Bullock and Ray Stevens.
"I don't have any faith in the Department of Corrections and the [release] conditions," Mr Bullock said at last night's meeting. "They [Corrections] have a bad track record."
Councillor Michael Laws said the decision to ban Wilson from areas of the city would have implications throughout New Zealand.
"Corrections, Probations and the Parole Board have had their way for too long in terms of releasing dangerous people into communities.
"I have little doubt that, throughout New Zealand, councils and communities will be looking at Whanganui and thinking, 'Great, that's what we're going to do'."
The council also voted to establish a multi-agency safety group to protect the community from Wilson and other sex offenders.
Mayor Annette Main said the decisions made by the council would help keep the community safe from sex offenders such as Wilson.
"He is not our only threat, but people need to know what to do about that threat."
Meanwhile, the Parole Board met yesterday to consider a revised reintegration plan for Wilson. Its decision is expected today.
Editorial: Keep calm as Beast released
- © Fairfax NZ News
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