Stewart Murray Wilson
Stewart Murray Wilson
|Born||11 December 1946|
Timaru, New Zealand
|Known for||Sexual offending|
Stewart Murray Wilson (born 11 December 1946) was born and raised in Timaru, New Zealand. During his 20s he lived in Sydney before moving to Blenheim, New Zealand. He is known publicly for serious sexual offending including offences against children. He has served 18 years in prison. In September 2012 he was released on parole with the most stringent release conditions ever imposed on a person in New Zealand. These included that he would be required to live in a house on the grounds of the Wanganui prison – which led to public outrage from local citizens and the Wanganui City Council. Wilson was recalled to jail in February 2013 after he allegedly made a phone call to someone he was not allowed to contact.
Wilson was the eldest child in his family, with two brothers and a sister. His youngest brother was killed in a car crash aged 14. The family home was in Essex St, Timaru and the children attended Marchwiel Primary School. His parents divorced during the 1970s. A family friend has reported that Wilson's father used to beat his wife and the children. Wilson missed a lot of school and would sometimes come to school with bruises. In 1996, Wilson's mother told a newspaper reporter her son suffered brain damage in his early teens which, she claimed, 'caused him to lose control occasionally'. Wilson was directed to live in a children's home. He also resided at Cherry Farm Psychiatric Hospital during his youth.
Wilson's criminal record began in 1962 when he appeared in court on burglary charges. Prior to the 1990s he also had convictions for assault on females, living off the earnings of a prostitute, and assault on a child. In 1996 Wilson was convicted on sex offences involving 16 female victims from 1972 to December 1994, when he was arrested. The guilty verdicts were for seven charges of rape, one of attempted rape, six of indecent assault, two of stupefying, one of attempted stupefying, two of wilful ill-treatment of a child, three of assault on a female, and one of bestiality. Some of the charges were laid representatively. One of the indecent assaults was of a girl under the age of 16. He was acquitted of two other charges. Wilson was sentenced to 21 years in prison, in March 1996. During sentencing the judge said that he would have given a sentence of preventive detention, except that this option was not available for him to use.
Lack of rehabilitation in prison
For many years Wilson was held in Rolleston Prison, a low-security prison. This prison has a sex offenders unit called Kia Marama, providing a group-based treatment programme for convicted child sex offenders. However, the Department refused to put Wilson into the programme because he would not admit to a psychologist that he was guilty of the child sex offences for which he was convicted and this is one of the criteria for inclusion: "To be admitted to the Kia Marama Unit, prisoners must admit to their offending.". However one other entry criteria for the programme states that, "denial or other cognitive distortions related to offending behaviour" is an indication of suitability for the programme."
Wilson claimed that not only had he been denied any treatment since being sentenced in 1996, he had also been denied one-on-one counselling with a psychologist – again because he would not admit he was guilty. Prior to his release in 2012 he told the High Court he had received only four hours one-on-one counselling in the 18 years he had been in prison. Wilson said he had also offered to attend a 'Sexual Treatment Outpatients Programme' (STOP) to treat sex offenders, but was not permitted to do so.
Wilson made repeated appearances before the New Zealand Parole Board from September 2006. However, he was not released until his statutory release date in 2012 because he continued to deny responsibility for his offending, appeared to have no remorse, and had not engaged in any treatment. The Corrections Department also claimed he was at high risk of reoffending although his score on the Department's main risk assessment tool (the RoC*RoI) placed him at medium risk.
Parole Board hearings
Prior to his impending release in September 2012, Wilson appeared before the Parole Board at least five times. Each application for early release was turned down. At the age of 65, after 18 years in prison, he was released two days before his statutory release date of 1 September 2012.
In the process of establishing his release conditions, the parole board was told by clinical psychologist, Jane Freeman-Brown, that Wilson was still at high risk of reoffending. Wilson declined to be interviewed for the assessment, which relied instead on information from his prison file. Nevertheless, the Parole Board accepted her assessment of him as high risk and imposed 17 release conditions, said to be the toughest conditions ever imposed on anyone released from prison in New Zealand. The first of those conditions requires Wilson to live in a state house which was to be shifted onto the grounds of Wanganui Prison especially for him. Another condition was for him to wear a GPS tracking device – one of the first prisoners ever to be fitted with one. Wilson must seek permission from his probation officer before inviting females to his house, and cannot have contact with anyone under 16 without supervision. The conditions also prohibit him from attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and church groups and he is not allowed to use the internet.
Three months after his release Wilson continued to live rent free in a house on prison land. The Parole Board turned down a request from the Corrections Department that would have forced him to pay about $100 a week to live there. His lawyer Andrew McKenzie said Mr Wilson had not been offered a tenancy agreement and Corrections was "essentially asking to take $100, but not give him the rights of a tenant".Wilson has not even been allowed to go into stores in Wanganui to buy clothes. McKemzie says the rules surrounding Wilson's release remained unclear. "Corrections writes and then rewrites [the rules] and doesn't tell anyone."
Public reaction to his release
The news of Wilson's release created a public outcry, led by former Wanganui mayor and controversial broadcaster, Michael Laws who was furious that Wanganui was being used as a 'dumping ground' for sex offenders. The Wanganui District Council was so concerned it filed proceedings with the High Court to try and prevent him being sent there. After the High Court ruled against the City Council, Councillor Ray Stevens started a campaign to have Wilson trespassed from Wanganui shops.
Media coverage about Wilson's release has been extensive. In almost every story, it says he's been 'dubbed the Beast of Blenheim'. How Wilson first came to be labelled the 'Beast' is not known although columnist Rosemary McLeod notes that the media generally cannot get away with such insulting terminology – but says nobody seems to be protesting at Wilson being 'dubbed in this way'. Jim Hopkins, a columnist for the New Zealand Herald noted for his humorous writing style said: "We're never told who did the dubbery, but it is exceedingly kind of the media to advise us that it's happened". According to Hopkins: "Dubbing tells we're allowed to loathe the person concerned with a clear conscience and that we needn't restrain our abhorrence in any way."
Very few commentators tried to allay the public's fears. One who did is Victoria University professor, Tony Ward, a clinical psychologist with expertise in sexual offenders. He said it was irresponsible for local body politicians to ramp up public fear of Murray Wilson. He described the fervour at Wanganui's public meetings as a type of "moral panic" and said the overly punitive stance from Wanganui people undermined the justice system. He also said that given Mr Wilson's age, he was unlikely to reoffend as "The reoffending rate for very high risk people over 60 is about six per cent." Professor Ward said the best way to rehabilitate sex offenders was to keep them in the midst of other people – where they could be watched – and give them support. The Howard League for Penal Reform was also concerned about "local bodies feeding moral panic and hysteria" and wrote to the Wanganui District Council stating it may issue a High Court challenge over Council steps to orchestrate the shunning of Murray Wilson.
Wilson was recalled on an interim basis in February 2013 after Corrections claimed he had made a phone call to a woman he had been restricted from contacting because she was a relative of one of his victims. When he appeared before the Board in April 2013, the Board made the recall 'indefinite'. The Board said he still posed an undue risk to the community after it emerged that he talked with the woman about leaving the country and said he "remained deceptive in his behaviour and selective in what he chose to disclose to his probation team". This means that Wilson is likely to remain in prison until the end of his sentence in September 2015, after which release conditions can be imposed for a maximum of six months. The Corrections Department is seeking an extended supervision order against Wilson for a term of 10 years, starting when his parole or release conditions come to an end.
His brief stay in the community cost the taxpayer over $200,000 – double the amount it costs to keep a prisoner in jail for a year. This includes the cost of his relocation from Rolleston Prison to Wanganui, the cost of his housing in the grounds of the Wanganui prison and the Crown's cost of defending legal action brought by Wilson and the Wanganui District Council against his placement at Wanganui.
Wilson was granted parole again in December, 2014 and released to live in a house on the grounds of Whanganui Prison where he will be subject to GPS monitoring and supervision if he leaves the house.
In May, 2017, Wilson met journalist Harrison Christian while fishing at the Whanganui river mouth. He told Christian he was being investigated by police once again for historic rape allegations. He denied all of his offending, and demanded more freedom.
- "Beast gets taste of freedom in prison gardens", New Zealand Herald (Auckland), 2 September 2012.
- "Beast of Blenheim 'better off in jail'", New Zealand Herald (Auckland), 27 August 2012.
- "Stewart Murray Wilson back in prison". The New Zealand Herald. 21 February 2013.
- "Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections v Stewart Murray Wilson". Courts of New Zealand. 13 July 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- R v Wilson HC Wellington T104/95, 15 March 1996.
- "'Beast of Blenheim' denied parole". The New Zealand Herald. 23 September 2008.
- Rolleston Prison Archived 30 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Corrections website
- "Suitablility of Offenders". Archived from the original on 15 October 2008. Retrieved 23 August 2012. Corrections Department website
- "Beast of Blenheim cries to judge". Stuff. 27 June 2012.
- "Beast of Blenheim asks for privacy". Stuff. 13 March 2012.
- "'Beast of Blenheim' before parole board". nzherald.co.nz. 4 September 2007.
- Beast of Blenheim 'still a risk, 5 July 2012
- Information supplied by Wilson's lawyer, Andrew McKenzie. Wilson's score on the RoC*RoI was .48 meaning he had a 48% chance of reoffending. A score of .7 (or above) indicates a 70% risk and is classified as high risk.
- "The beast must go somewhere". Herald on Sunday. 19 August 2012.
- No scooter for Beast of Blenheim, Dominion Post 11 December 2012
- The beast must go somewhere NZ Herald on Sunday. 19 August 2012.
- First legal steps taken against 'Beast' parole, NZ Herald 21 August 2012
- Wanganui council to continue 'Beast' fight, NZ Herald 28 August 2012
- 'Beast' among acceptable insults, The Press 16 August 2012
- Oh what fun it is to mock the Beast of Belarus, NZ Herald 17 August 2012
- Council's fear of Beast 'irresponsible', NZ Herald 22 August 2012
- The Howard League Warns the Wanganui Council of Court Action, Press Release, 12 September 2012
- 'Beast' ordered back to prison
- Stewart Murray Wilson appeal loses steam
- Beast of Blenheim costs taxpayers $200,000
- Sex offender Stewart Murray Wilson released from prison, Stuff 30 March 2015
Parole Board documents: