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Bulli rapist's first victim: chance encounter changed her life forever

Date

Jodie Duffy

Terry Williamson leaves Silverwater jail in 2012.

Terry Williamson leaves Silverwater jail in 2012. Photo: Dave Tease

It was August 1989 when she first laid eyes on Terry John Williamson.

He was standing under a lamp near the teachers' staff room at Bulli High School. The fact he was wearing a balaclava sent a chill through her and the plump 13-year-old kicked off her shoes and began to run as fast as she could, reports the Illawarra Mercury.

She was just four houses from home when he caught up to her and at 11.30pm, with not a soul in sight, there was little chance of escape.

The sexual predator had just snared his first victim and for the next 10 months, there would be no turning back. The 20-year-old would go on to terrorise an entire community and sexually assault 10 women and girls and an 11-year-old boy.

Women and children were not safe in their own homes.

With few leads to go on, police urged any female living alone in Wollongong to make plans to have a male relative or friend move in with them. By the end, there were even calls from a vigilante group for a curfew for all men.

For the man who would later become known as the Bulli rapist, that night in August was his first strike: a chance encounter with a young, vulnerable girl on her way home from a Blue Light disco at Bulli Police Citizens' Youth Club.

With a knife pointed at her throat, he directed the girl back on to the grounds of the school, which she attended as a year 8 student. They passed the buildings where she studied, crossed the playground where she usually sat at lunch talking about horses and music with her girlfriends and then down on to the middle of the oval where no one could hear her scream.

He then ripped off her clothing and tied her head up with her shirt and the new jumper her mother had just bought for her. With the knife still pointed at her neck, he raped her. The pain so intense that even today she can still feel the grass blades slip through her fingers as she pulled at them during the attack and the dirt stuck in her fingernails.

"You've been smoking," were the only words she can remember he had said to her.

After that they had walked, he behind her with the knife pointed to her back, down to the cycleway and into the caravan park. He told her he was taking her to the nearby cemetery, but when she explained the only entrance was via another road, he changed his mind and set her free.

"I don't know what his intentions were for me at the cemetery," she said. "But sometimes, on my bad days, I wish he would have ended it for me that night so that I don't have to live through this pain day after day. So that this nightmare would be all over for me. But then I would never have had my three boys."

The woman, now 38, contacted the Mercury on Monday to share her story in the hope that it would convince the Supreme Court to impose strict supervision on Williamson for the rest of his life.

Fearing he will rape again and not wanting another woman or child to suffer the same horrible fate, she is pleading for Illawarra residents to support her in a public campaign to keep the serial rapist under the watch of Corrective Services for the rest of his life.

Williamson's maximum 24-year prison sentence expired last week.

The second time she was to see Williamson would be on the day of his parole hearing almost 23 years later. She was with three other victims when she finally laid eyes on the monster without his balaclava. What she saw was an unremarkable looking man who showed no remorse either in his words or his manner.

"If I was to pass him on the street, I would never guess that this was the man who had caused me so much pain and torment," she said.

That one decision to walk home alone after the disco changed her life and forever linked her to Williamson.

Her girlfriend's mother had been late picking them up and, fearing she would be grounded for arriving home late, she made the decision to walk. On that night, Williamson was waiting in the dark for a victim and she was it.

As he continued his sexual rampage in the months that followed, police, desperate for an arrest, would show up at the girl's school to question her again.

"Was there anything else she could remember?" they would ask. The answer was always "no".

"I was just 13," she said. "Pretty soon the other students began to figure out what had happened to me and I just couldn't take it any more so I went to live with my father in Sydney."

By 14, she had developed an eating disorder and weighed just 35 kilograms, by 15 she was a school drop-out. She still battles an eating disorder.

Not a day goes by that she doesn't see Williamson's menacing figure standing under that light and feel those blades of grass in her hand.

In the bad times, she hides herself away in her bedroom, sometimes for days on end. She drinks cans and cans of alcohol each day, not to get drunk, but to numb the pain and to send herself to sleep, when for a few hours, she will be at peace until the night horrors begin.

A few years ago, she attempted suicide. When Williamson was released on parole two years ago, she bought herself a dog for protection.

"I sleep with the lights on now," she said. "If he comes into my room at night, I want to see him. I want to see everything. If I had the chance again, I would take that knife he used on me when I was 13 and stick it in his neck until it comes out the other side."

She is also angry that there has been little, if any support for herself or his other victims.

"Nobody has cared about us and what we've had to live through," she said.

"But he gets all this help from the government so he can go out and live a normal life. He even has a part-time job somewhere. I don't think he deserves to work. I wonder if the person who hired him knows what he did."

The Illawarra Mercury

 ❏ Support is available for those who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

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