Beast of Blenheim 'apprehensive' about leaving jail

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 12:41 29/08/2012
MARCUS WILD

Sex predator Stewart Murray Wilson is escorted to his new home.

Stewart Murray Wilson
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Sex predator Stewart Murrary Wilson, bald patch and in green top, is escorted to his new home.
Beast of Blenheim
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ
CONVOY: The prison van carrying Stewart Murray Wilson arrives at Whanganui Prison.

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The reviled sex predator dubbed The Beast of Blenheim 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.

Wilson was sentenced in March 1996, to 21 years in prison for a variety of sexual crimes, including seven rapes, stupefying women for sex, the wilful ill-treatment of children, bestiality and assault, most of which happened in his Blenheim home.

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 were then closed.

Corrections general manager Brendan Anstiss said Wilson was released without incident and had spent the morning being inducted onto his new parole conditions.

He would not be left on his own until later tonight.

Wilson was "more apprehensive than excited" about his release, Anstiss said.

He said to my staff that he intends to remain quiet and keep to himself.”

Wilson had no intention of going into Whanganui in the near future.

"He’s happy to stay just where he is for the time being."

Wilson was able to roam the prison grounds, he said.

"He’s on the GPS system so his movements are being tracked continuously."

Self-care unit No 5 would be his home for about a month until a two-bedroom state house was ready for his use, he said.

The four-bedroom unit had a couch, a television, a single bed, a kitchen and a laundry.

"This isn’t a lavish environment for him, but he is a free man so this is the most appropriate place for him to be housed temporarily."

Corrections was providing Wilson’s food, but when he moved into his permanent home it would be covered by allowances he received. The department would charge him rent and board for essentials like power, Anstiss said.

Wilson would not be allowed to own a pet because it was against prison rules.

He had been given a cellphone by Corrections so he could be contacted and asked about his whereabouts, he said.

The prison had fielded no special requests from Wilson.

"Many things are new for Mr Wilson. What we take for granted about using telephones and cellphones that's new for him. He's never had to deal with that before so many things are new, I don't believe many things are exciting for Mr Wilson.

"I understand this can be a stressful time for some people. I’m especially conscious of the people who have been injured by Mr Wilson’s previous offending. Our job is to make sure no further offending can occur."

John Campbell, one of Wilson's closest neighbours, said the release was disappointing but not unexpected.

"I'm disappointed for the community mostly.

"It doesn't make any difference to me. I don't think he'll fancy me somehow."

Campbell said he wouldn't be stopping by for a cup of tea with his new neighbour.

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"I don't think I'd shake him warmly by the hand."

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 to 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."

Wilson's lawyer Andrew McKenzie said this morning it was a relief his client had finally been released. The pair spoke on the phone last night.

"I think he was kind of looking forward to it and he was grateful for how the prison officers had treated him.

"I think he would prefer to be moved elsewhere, but it's making the best of the situation he's been given."

McKenzie also 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.

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.

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.

SECURITY INCREASED

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.

- The Dominion Post

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