'Evil' man who raped Cooks Hill woman set free

A sadistic rapist who was given two life terms for repeatedly stabbing and assaulting a woman before trying to burn her alive has walked free from jail after it was determined he could not receive any more treatment for his "evil" urges in prison.

Although his sexually depraved behaviour continued behind bars, including episodes where female prison guards and psychiatric nurses were transferred to keep them away from him, Mark Terrence Woods will only have to abide by some parole conditions to remain free.

In a crime which shook the Hunter, the then 24-year-old broke into a Cooks Hill home on a summer morning in 1986 and sexually assaulted a 56-year-old woman before subjecting her to a horrific 3.5-hour ordeal.

The woman received multiple stab wounds to her throat, chin and chest, had three toes broken, suffered facial bruising and was burnt on her back, buttock and left arm, requiring skin grafts.

Woods took the woman to a track off Scenic Drive, Merewether Heights, where he raped her a second time before he shoved her into the car boot and set fire to the fuel tank.

He attacked her twice as she attempted to escape, throwing her into the flames and repeatedly stomping on her head before stabbing her several times and leaving her, bleeding profusely, on the ground.

Woods has also admitted to trying to drown his mother when he was 16, and to another sex attack in 1983.

The Cooks Hill woman, now aged 80, is still living in fear.

Authorities have spoken to her about her concerns that Woods could return.

‘‘It has been 10 years since he first went for parole. They kept him in there for 10 years so it goes to show they know something is very wrong with him,’’ the victim told the Newcastle Herald yesterday.

In sentencing Woods to two terms of life imprisonment, Justice Marcus Yeldham remarked: ‘‘No words of mine can adequately describe the enormity of what you did.

‘‘... In almost 13 years upon this bench I have seen many wicked crimes in our community. I doubt whether any have been more evil than that which you did to this middle-aged, innocent and helpless lady.’’

Justice Yeldham also made special reference to Woods’s answer in his record of interview when he was asked why he committed the crime.

‘‘I needed a sheila. It just got out of hand,’’ Woods told police.

Woods’s sentence was redetermined in 2005 to a minimum 20 years with a maximum of life. He was released last month after serving just over 24 years.

Woods will need to abide by 26 conditions, including wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet, abstaining from alcohol and not visiting Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland or Port Stephens local government areas.

But the reasons for granting his parole have most incensed victims’ groups.

Woods successfully completed two sexual offender’s courses in jail and in a psychological risk assessment last September it was noted: ‘‘It is generally considered that Mr Woods has done all that he can re treatment in custody.’’

A probation and parole report, dated September 30 last year, also noted ‘‘his successful response to day and weekend leave opportunities’’.

In redetermining his sentence in 2005, however, Justice Budden noted ‘‘expert evidence uniformly indicates that [Woods] ... is at risk or even at high risk of reoffending’’.

Victims of Crime Assistance League executive director Robyn Cotterell-Jones said Woods’s victim had become resigned to the fact that Woods would be released.

‘‘Justice for victims can be an elusive thing with little certainty,’’ Ms Cotterell-Jones said.

‘‘Trusting a sentence of ‘never to be released’ or ‘two life sentences’ should never be taken as the end of the matter, that a victim is now forever safe, because laws are always being changed and never doesn’t mean never.’’

The fact that a probation and parole report noted there were ‘‘no further treatment options’’ available to Woods in custody was of little comfort to victims.

‘‘It is inevitable that when a person who has committed a gruesome crime that changed everything about you and your life is to be released, and one of the reasons given is ‘he’s had all the treatment we can give him’, is to hope and pray that no other woman crosses his path if the whim takes him to rape and attempt to murder,’’ Ms Cotterell-Jones said.

‘‘It’s a bad way to find out that analysis was wrong.’’