Stewart Murray Wilson, 65, would be a shoo-in for top spot if New Zealanders were asked this week to compile a list of the country's pariahs. He is dubbed the Beast of Blenheim, although the hostility triggered by news of his impending release from prison suggests even the SPCA might turn a blind eye were he tied up in a sack and dumped in a river.
While still considered a high-risk offender, 65-year-old Wilson nevertheless has served his time and will be released on September 1, more than 16 years after being jailed for a slew of sexual and violent crimes against women and girls over more than two decades. His crimes included several rapes, bestiality and ill-treatment of children.
The Parole Board paved the way for Wilson's inevitable release by imposing an extended 10-year supervision order. But Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman met police and Corrections Department representatives to seek assurances he would not return to Blenheim to live.
There are good reasons for keeping him away from there. The challenge for Justice authorities is that no other community wants him, either.
In the upshot, Whanganui has drawn the short straw, to the obvious consternation of civic leaders. District Councillor Jack Bullock is considering a High Court injunction to stop the release, a public meeting is being called for citizens to voice their concerns, Mayor Annette Main insists Wilson will "not be part of our community".
But nobody says he should be part of it and the howls from councillors, verging on the hysterical, downplay the severe constraints applied to Wilson. For starters, he will be released only to a house within the grounds of Whanganui Prison - more than 10km from the city - and he must comply with 17 conditions. He will be denied the right to drive a car, he will be monitored by GPS, and he can leave the prison grounds only in the company of two approved people. Without permission, he cannot have female visitors or contact with children. If he breaks the rules, he will be recalled to prison. Those are extraordinary measures for an extraordinary - and, we are told, unrepentant - offender. Short of dropping him off in the farthest-flung of the Auckland Islands, authorities have done as much as they can do within the law.
- © Fairfax NZ News