Serial rapist may get life

Paul McLeod
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Crown aims to have Bird declared dangerous offender

William Bird feared he would rape again. After serving a nine-year sentence for sexually assaulting an 83-year-old woman, the former Amherst man knew he might re-offend.

William Bird feared he would rape again. After serving a nine-year sentence for sexually assaulting an 83-year-old woman, the former Amherst man knew he might re-offend.

Social workers agreed. Two separate reports pegged him as a high risk to violently re-offend. But through a twist of circumstances, Bird was set free without supervision and, in 2005, committed his third sexual assault with a weapon.

The Crown is trying to have Bird declared a dangerous offender. If the rare step is taken, he may never be free again.

At the hearing yesterday, Bird's former social worker, John Lutz, detailed Bird's "complex and difficult journey" through the justice system.

Bird was first convicted in 1985 of sexually assaulting a 61-year-old Pugwash-area woman he knew, shortly after her husband suffered a heart attack and was admitted to hospital. He was convicted a second time in 1994 for the attack on the 83-year-old woman, and received a nine-year sentence.

In 2003, Bird's sentence was nearly complete and he stated he wanted to be put in a supervised environment. But once he was set free he couldn't be sent to a halfway house run by Corrections Services Canada, because those are for people still serving sentences.

There was trouble finding a community home, and eventually Bird changed his mind. He wanted to set out on his own, and chose to be released in Saint John, N.B. He was released in August of 2003. A "network of support" was set up, including appointments with a community chaplain and the Ridgewood Addiction Services.

It didn't work. In May of 2005 he assaulted another person. He pleaded guilty in January of 2006 to sexual assault with a weapon, forcible entry, possession of a weapon and breach of court-ordered conditions.

Lutz described Bird as growing up in deplorable conditions. By age nine he was in a foster home. He went between institutions and foster homes until he was a young adult. Described as illiterate and having "mild mental retardation," Bird told social workers he was neglected by his foster family and estranged from his birth family.

He was also sexually assaulted himself, by as many as 50 people. According to Lutz, this detached Bird from being able to feel for other people.

"I don't know what it's like to care for someone or to be cared for," Bird told Lutz at the beginning of an eight-month program between 1999 and 2000 designed to reduce recidivism.

Lutz said Bird began to accept responsibility for his actions and wanted to change his behaviour. But he noted Bird's risk of re-offending greatly spiked if he consumed alcohol or drugs.

Organizations: Corrections Services Canada, Ridgewood Addiction Services

Geographic location: Pugwash, Saint John

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