The Editor on the Beast of Blenheim

April 18th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

This is fairly unusual. An opinion column from an editor, which is not an editorial. That is because it is a personal reflection on the Beast of Blenheim by Dominion Post editor Bernadette Courtney, who covered his trial as a junior reporter.

Bernadette writes:

Parole Board members say Wilson is “likely to commit a specified sexual offence” and remains “threatening and intimidating”. Now his imminent release has become a test case, with Justice Minister Judith Collins trying to rush through new legislation to keep the Beast of Blenheim in prison indefinitely.

I back this legislation. Stewart Murray Wilson must never be released.

Why. We read on:

In 1995, I was a Dominion reporter assigned to cover Wilson’s case. Over a year I attended court hearings, spent time with his many victims, visited Wilson in prison twice and got to know his in-laws. …

During his depositions hearing, Wilson tried to pass me notes. I felt so uncomfortable that I moved seats.

The three-week hearings in Blenheim were gruelling. The court heard testimony after testimony, some from victims behind screens barely audible, they were so beaten, ashamed and destroyed. Others were so angry.

I have covered many horrific stories in my almost 30-year career as a journalist here and in Britain, but none that has affected me as much. It sounds silly but I couldn’t touch whitebait for a few years because it constantly reminded me of Wilson, a whitebaiter.

In pre-social media and internet days, my colleagues back at the office were often speechless as I recounted down the phone the details of each day’s court hearing. 

And these are people used to reporting on crime.

I have seen up close the damage this sick man has done to his own family and the many victims who were scattered across the country and wider; he picked up two young Danish hitchhikers and raped them. Both had to be flown back to New Zealand for the trial.

The women I interviewed were broken. Some had had mental breakdowns, one had become a drug addict, one was a bag of bones.

Wilson has shown no remorse, no appetite to seek proper help while in prison and still, authorities believe, is a danger.

My brush with Wilson was brief. I’m no expert on the mind of a monster. But every time Wilson comes up for parole anger stirs inside me. There will be those who argue that he has served his time and should be released.

The Government is looking at how to keep him behind bars. Ms Collins has got it right. Wilson’s crimes were so abhorrent that we should support the move.

The proposed civil detention orders are a necessary evil. I’d rather we didn’t need them, but we do. Allowing Wilson out with the near certainty he will rape or abuse is just not an option.

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