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Sentence cut for engineer who abducted, raped, imprisoned woman in soundproof room

Date

Mark Russell

An aeronautical engineer who kept his victim chained to the floor in a soundproof room and repeatedly raped her has had his jail term cut by five and a half years.

Michael Pilgrim, 35, had been jailed for 23 years and six months with a non-parole period of 19 years after pleading guilty to rape, abduction, stalking, theft and child pornography charges but appealed the sentence, claiming it was manifestly excessive.

In a judgment handed down on Thursday, Court of Appeal Justices Geoffrey Nettle, Robert Redlich and Peter Almond reduced Pilgrim's jail sentence to 18 years with a non-parole period of 14 years.

The appeal judges said Pilgrim had become obsessed with his victim, a sex worker, before abducting her.

"His planning was meticulous," the judges said.

"He researched torture and stress positions, how to construct a soundproof room, the availability of secluded rural and rental properties, the best days and times to abduct someone, unarmed combat techniques, and the chemical composition of, and methodology for, making explosives and detonators.

"He obtained three magnetic GPS tracking devices and disguises including beards, wigs and moustaches."

The judges said Pilgrim rented a secluded house in Drouin under a false name in April 2012, where he built a small, soundproof space with mattresses about one metre high in a bedroom.

Wearing a black cap, dark sunglasses, a false beard and moustache, a high visibility vest and cargo pants, Pilgrim abducted the victim from a friend's house in Frankston on July 5, 2012, when armed with a stun gun, knife and pistol.

Pilgrim told the woman he had been been tracking her for weeks as he bundled her into the boot and used cable ties to bind her legs.

He told her, "You better not play up because I really feel like carving someone up today."

Pilgrim drove to the Drouin house and led the woman inside, handcuffed. She was seated in a room on a mattress. Her ankle was padlocked to a chain attached to an eye bolt on the floor.

Pilgrim told the woman he was not going to hurt her but he was going to rape her.

He claimed he was going to go on a rampage and was planning to abduct women, bring them to the house and use them and control them with drugs and if the police came he would shoot at them and "hopefully take one down".

When the woman asked him if he was going to kill her, Pilgrim replied: "No, I'm planning to keep you here and using you."

Some time later Pilgrim moved the woman to the darkened soundproof room he had created, calling it the "cubby house", and raped her for the second time. She was chained to the floor.

Pilgrim kept the woman under constant surveillance during her five-day ordeal, with alarms fitted all round the house. The woman was allowed to eat cereal and two-minute noodles and to use the bathroom.

The appeal judges said that throughout the woman's captivity, she feared for her life after Pilgrim had boasted about how he had been in prison in France; had been involved in the trafficking of women in Europe; had been tracking girls from brothels in Melbourne; had a liking for explosives; and had previously disposed of bodies.

Pilgrim eventually released the victim near the West Gippsland hospital in Warragul after she began to suffer severe stomach pain. He was arrested 10 days later in Sydney's Kings Cross.

The appeal judges said on Thursday they had decided to reduce Pilgrim's jail sentence because the total sentence for all the charges he faced was excessive.

They said the average sentence for murder when life imprisonment was not imposed between 2007 to 2012 was 20 years, significantly less than Pilgrim's original sentence while the average sentence for rape during this same period was six years.

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