Earlier this year four women gave evidence against a man known around New Zealand as the 'Beast of Blenheim', including one who had just months to live. While the jury wasn't told who the defendant standing before them was they believed the horrific stories about him. The Herald was also there to listen to Stewart Murray Wilson's forgotten victims.

Warning: Graphic content and sexual violence themes.

Sitting in the same court dock, in the same black jacket and moss-green tie for an October week was one of New Zealand's most notorious offenders.

He had been living in his cottage on the grounds of Whanganui Prison - after being released from prison with the most stringent conditions ever imposed on a New Zealander - and had not been on trial for more than 20 years.

Now, the 71-year-old will return to prison after being found guilty again of more historic rapes.

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Stewart Murray Wilson appeared today in the High Court at Auckland to be sentenced for several charges, including the rapes of a woman, a then 9-year-old girl and the attempted rape a third woman some four decades ago.

He was no longer wearing his green tie, his face scraggly and unshaven.

He appeared more beast than man.

Prior to the trial one of the complainants was very ill - she had advanced cancer.

The Crown was concerned she might die before the trial started and asked her to give her evidence in the High Court at Wellington in August.

It was filmed and later played to the jury.

"She will be at risk of succumbing to her illness from October 2018 when the trial is scheduled to commence ... there is a significant risk [she] may not survive until the commencement of the trial," Justice Graham Lang, the judge overseeing the case, said.

"The application is therefore made not for reasons of convenience but because [she] may never be able to give her evidence if the orders are not made."

Stewart Murray Wilson in the dock during his sentencing. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Stewart Murray Wilson in the dock during his sentencing. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Crown's case for the charges relating to the woman rested wholly on her evidence.

Justice Lang said the inability for the jury to ask questions of her at trial was "far outweighed" by the obvious disadvantage if the woman did not survive to testify.

And she would get her justice - the jury found Wilson guilty on all six charges relating to her.

Her evidence, however, was harrowing to hear.

A friend of Wilson's partner at the time, she recalled a night in 1971-72 at her Wellington home knitting.

He baby daughter was asleep.

Then Wilson knocked on her door.

"I didn't answer because you don't answer the door at night when you're living alone," she told the court.

"I heard a voice say 'it's Murray Wilson'."

Frightened because she knew of his violent nature, she hid under her bed.

But Wilson bashed his way through the wooden front door and began stalking the home.

Believing he had left, the woman left her hiding spot and phoned police.

"They searched the grounds," she said. "But couldn't find anyone and said if there was any trouble to call them back."

Wilson had been hiding though - he was still in the house, unseen in a kitchen cupboard.

Stewart Murray Wilson was dubbed
Stewart Murray Wilson was dubbed "the Beast of Blenheim" after being convicted of multiple rapes in 1996. Photo / Supplied

As the woman returned to her bedroom an arm reached around her neck from behind.

"You bitch, I'll get you for this. I heard you ringing the police," Wilson told her.

He attacked the woman, hitting her several times across the face and back.

Wilson then took his prisoner to dinner at a hotel's restaurant in central Wellington. The woman remembered splashing water on her face to try and cover the marks and bruises.

While at the restaurant, Wilson spiked her drink before taking her back to the house.

"I was raped by Murray Wilson," the woman said.

"It was just a horrific night, it seemed the longest night of my life."

Before he let her go, Wilson said if the woman told anyone she would be "dead meat" and "hunted down and killed".

Crippled by fear, she stayed silent for years before she went to see Wilson on trial in 1996.

In that courtroom in 1996, Wilson, she said, turned around and glared at her from the dock as she sat in the public gallery.

"I was told [by police] Murray Wilson couldn't be charged at that time [for the crimes against me] because he was already on charges," she said.

Wilson was sentenced in 1996 to 21 years' imprisonment for sex and violence offences against women and girls, as well as charges of stupefying and bestiality.

At his sentencing in March 1996, the late Justice Richard Heron said the prison term was "a very long one in this country's history" but "justice requires nothing less".

An appeal by Wilson was later dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

At the time of the trial, however, Wilson also faced a further 23 charges alleging sexual crimes against several other women.

But this second indictment was not used at trial because at the time the law limited the number of charges which could be contained in a single indictment - and in 2000, the Attorney-General entered a stay of proceedings on the second indictment.

"The reasons for the Attorney-General's decision not entirely clear," Justice Lang remarked today.

Stewart Murray Wilson, pictured at a 2013 court appearance, wearing the same moss green tie. Photo / File
Stewart Murray Wilson, pictured at a 2013 court appearance, wearing the same moss green tie. Photo / File

It was also in 1996 when one of Wilson's victims from this year's trial went to police for a second time to make a formal rape complaint.

She was attacked by Wilson in Auckland during December 1976, but despite immediately going to police after escaping Wilson's grasp she said police officers mistreated her and failed to take her allegations seriously.

She said detectives joked and treated her "like a piece of scum" just hours after the Beast of Blenheim tried to rape her.

"For whatever reason this was not acted on until 1996 when the complainant went back to police and asked what was happening with her complaint," Justice Lang said today.

Police had also failed to keep any record of the woman's complaint from 1976.

In 2012, Wilson was subjected to an extended supervision order and released with the most stringent conditions ever imposed on a New Zealander, including being paroled to a two-bedroom house which had been moved onto the Whanganui Prison grounds.

Then 16 more charges were laid against Wilson after police reinvestigated him in 2016.

He was accused of raping three more women and a then girl in the 1970s and early 1980s in Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland.

Wilson applied for a stay on the new proceeding against him, with his lawyer Andrew McKenzie contending the stay of the second indictment in 2000 created a "prosecutorial estoppel" rendering it an abuse of process for the present charges to continue.

However, Justice Lang said in his June ruling: "Wilson had no grounds for any legitimate expectation in 2000 that he could never be prosecuted for further offending that was not included within the charges to which the stay applied."

Stewart Murray Wilson was living at his cottage on the grounds of Whanganui Prison. Photo / File
Stewart Murray Wilson was living at his cottage on the grounds of Whanganui Prison. Photo / File

The judge also addressed the "issues relating to the public interest".

"These include on one hand the desirability of having allegations of serious alleged offending determined by the courts and on the other the likelihood that in practical terms Wilson may receive little or no additional punishment if the charges are proved."

The reasons for the delay in trial, Justice Lang said, could be attributed in part to the police failing to investigate the allegations at the time.

"Although [one of the women] went to the police immediately after the alleged offending against her in 1976, the police took no steps at that time," he said.

"They did not begin to investigate the allegations until [she] contacted them again following the publicity surround Wilson's trial in 1996."

Two of the women had made detailed statements to police in 1996.

When Wilson eventually went to trial this year the jury was prevented from knowing the history of the man standing before them.

Justice Lang had also dismissed the Crown's application to lead propensity evidence and suppressed his infamous nickname.

"It is well-known he offended against woman, girls, animals - that's why it's the beast," McKenzie said of the nickname at the pre-trial hearing.

The judge said media coverage of Wilson from 2012 and 2017 may have tainted the jury pool, "if only by the nickname the media have used".

"Many potential jurors will know Wilson has been convicted of serious sexual offending in the past ... however, I doubt that many will have any knowledge of the details of Wilson's past offending because the focus of recent media attention has been on other issues."

Stewart Murray Wilson, pictured during his trial earlier this year. Photo / Michael Craig
Stewart Murray Wilson, pictured during his trial earlier this year. Photo / Michael Craig

Wilson's charges were later amended at trial, and he was discharged on one count of stupefying, while one of the rape charges was changed to attempted rape.

After the alterations, the jury deliberated on six rape charges, three indecent assaults, three counts of indecency with a girl under 12, two charges of threatening to kill, one charge of attempted rape, and one charge of burglary.

The jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts on 11 charges, one unanimous not guilty verdict, majority verdicts of not guilty on two charges, and were hung on two other charges.

Wilson was found not guilty of two rape counts and one charge of indecent assault. The jury was unable to reach verdicts on a charge of indecent assault and one count of threatening to kill.

Following the verdicts, Justice Lang revealed Wilson's beastly past to the jury.

Today, the judge told Wilson, who has never admitted any of his sexual offending, his victims have been traumatised and remain "haunted by what you did to them".

McKenzie has indicated Wilson will appeal his new convictions and sentence.

A handwritten letter to the court from Wilson: