Rape victim faces her demon

By Carolyne Meng-Yee

Rape victim Amanda Watt is relieved that she was able to meet her rapist and have some burning questions answered. Photo / Janna Dixon
Rape victim Amanda Watt is relieved that she was able to meet her rapist and have some burning questions answered. Photo / Janna Dixon

One of the country's most notorious killers has told one of his victims what she has waited nearly 15 years to hear - he raped her.

Hayden Taylor, 35, who is on preventive detention at Paremoremo Prison for the murder of pregnant teenager Nicola Rankin in 1996, has confessed to Amanda Watt that he assaulted her in the months before Rankin died.

The pair met in prison in an emotion-charged restorative justice hearing.

Rape charges in the Watt case were dropped against Taylor at the time, in return for him telling investigators where in Riverhead Forest, 35km northwest of Auckland, he had buried Rankin.

Taylor was last year denied parole but Watt, a month older than him and a street worker when she was raped, has been desperate to know why he picked her and why he did not kill her, as he did Rankin.

Until now Taylor has not been ready to meet her, and Watt has given a rare insight into the restorative justice process by talking about the meeting and how it affected her.

"When I first saw him I wanted to run. I saw him from behind as I was checking into Pare, so my victim support person had to grab me.

"I instantly became petrified. I thought I was going to have a stroke. My face started going numb and tingly." She fought through it to see Taylor and spoke first.

"I wanted to be acknowledged as a person. I had to have that control and make that connection."

Taylor read a letter to her. "His first words were, 'I am sorry'. That was the first thing I didn't want to hear. Sorry rolls off the tongue too quickly. Sorry is for accidents. The letter never described what he did to me.

"I said: 'Your sorry means nothing until you admit to me that you raped me in front of other people'."

She told Taylor the impact the event had had - she turned to drugs and alcohol and lost her daughter because she was not coping.

"I just lost the plot. I said to him: 'You have already been convicted of these offences, you are serving time for it, so 'fess the f*** up Hayden because you aren't going to get anything from me'.

"I said: 'If your goal is to not reoffend then you have to start confronting your demons'."

The outburst had an effect. "He asked for some time out. We went out for a cigarette - then he finally told me he raped me. He said: 'Amanda, I did rape you and I am sorry for doing that' and that was all I needed to hear. He also said: 'Amanda, you had nothing to do with the rape at all, it was all me. Everything you went through that night was all my fault'."

She learned other key details. "He still thinks the rape was unpremeditated. I said: 'I don't know how you can say that when you are cruising around with a 15-inch blade in your car and rope'. He said his car was a dumping ground and he used to carry rope and stuff in it."

Watt had her hands tied during the attack and was driven to Muriwai beach where he tried to force her into the sand dunes.

Watt was told he picked her "simply because I was there".

Their meeting went for about two hours and Watt said Taylor was tall, shaven and fit. "He looked like he was being cared for. He is more gentle in the eyes. He doesn't look so angry. But you can tell there is still something in him."

Taylor told her he was starting to have a relationship with his family again and that at 15 he watched someone die on a rugby field while volunteering for St John Ambulance. It affected him badly.

She eventually told Taylor she forgave him.

"I have had the chance to eyeball him and tell him I am no longer scared of him."

He said he would not reoffend if released but she was unsure whether to believe him.

"He needs to open up his heart to search his soul and be honest with himself."

For further information about restorative justice go to www.pfnz.org.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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