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Victim believes alleged abuser still a danger

Published: 3:35PM Friday June 15, 2012 Source: ONE News / Newstalk ZB

A woman whose alleged abuser walked free from court today believes he remains a threat to the community.

But Heather Walsh told Close Up tonight that she takes some comfort from the fact that her tormentor has been publicly exposed.

Walsh says she was held captive and repeatedly raped by 79-year-old William Cornelius, but it took her decades to confide in anyone.

Talking to TV ONE's Close Up shortly after her court victory, Walsh said that she wanted her abuser unmasked, and was willing to give up her own right to name suppression to do it.

She said, "I made the decision not to be living in fear and hiding any more, because there is no need. It's quite liberating. It's not justice, but it's as close as we are going to get."

"I can now take solace in the fact that people will now know who he is, what he has done, and what he is capable of," Walsh said.

Cornelius has mild dementia and was deemed unfit to plead against 22 charges relating to acts against four women between 1960 and 1980.

But Judge David Cameron said it was probable Cornelius had raped the four teenagers.

When the judge announced Cornelius would walk free, the heads of two alleged victims dropped in disbelief, but there was a sigh of relief in Whanganui District Court when Cornelius' name suppression was lifted.

A group of women, including four alleged victims, stood and embraced each other. And as he was led away from court he was met with a barrage of screams and verbal abuse, while two women rushed at him.

"A risk to the community"

Heather Walsh told Close Up that she feels Cornelius remains a risk to the community.

"He is still living in the same place, he used so successfully to abuse so many women. That scares me, because Bill Cornelius is a repeat sex offender."

Walsh explains that Cornelius is a very "cunning, shrewd and clever man". Her key concern is that Cornelius is to return to his property as a free man - the same property where he kept her captive.

"He was able to successfully use that property to commit offences because it is so remote. There's no witnesses, no chance of his victims getting away. No fear of somebody turning up in car," she said.

Walsh hopes her decision to come forward will encourage others to do the same.

"There were four complainants in this case, but there were seven victims that the police spoke to. It is my hope, with his name now made public, that hopefully they can get help, or whatever sort of support that they need," she said.

'He would keep me in a cave'

Prior to the lifting of name suppression, Walsh told Close Up three weeks ago that she was prepared to lose her right to anonymity if Cornelius could be exposed.

She said she had been held captive for five months as a "sex slave" and it was outrageous that her tormentor may have walked free with permanent name suppression.

"I believe if somebody commits those kind of horrific offences in their lifetime and they're still alive they should be tried for those offences," she said.

After accepting a job in a home in a remote location, Walsh effectively became her boss' sex slave. She told Close Up she was sexually abused at least once a day.

She said there was no possibility of just walking away because the only access to the property was by four wheel drive vehicle.

"If he had caught me, the threat was he would keep me in a cave and I would be reliant on him for food and water. So if something happened to him then I would die of starvation in that cave.

"And any babies I bore while in that cave, he wouldn't be able to explain those, so he would throw those to the wild pigs. They would be killed. There were other threats of torture - slitting my belly open, throwing me to the pigs alive so they could eat me alive."

Her tormentor then got her pregnant, she said.

"He did that deliberately. He stole my contraceptive pills and that was a deliberate move on his part. I miscarried that baby while being raped."

The woman said she eventually escaped, taking the man's truck when he left the keys in it while he went into the bush with a friend who came to visit.

From her complaint in 2008, the first court hearing was December the following year. That was the first of 27 separate court hearings spanning nearly two-and-a-half years. They ranged from pre-trial hearings to arguments over suppression.