Calgary’s ‘Hemlock Crescent Rapist’ Emile Cromwell granted day parole

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WATCH: A man known as the Hemlock Crescent Rapist will be moving back into the community after he was granted day parole. Nancy Hixt explains why – Jul 27, 2017

A man known as the Hemlock Crescent Rapist will be moving back into the community after he was granted day parole.

The Parole Board of Canada gave Emile Cromwell the added freedoms following a hearing at the minimum security annex at Bowden Institution Thursday afternoon.

The now 75-year-old has been serving a 20-year sentence for sexual assault with a weapon, sexual assault causing bodily harm, and break and enter with intent.

Cromwell put the entire city of Calgary on high alert in the late 1980s and early ‘90s when he broke into homes on Hemlock Crescent in the city’s southwest and raped four women, covering their heads with pillowcases. The victims ranged in age from 13 to 29 years old.

READ MORE: Freedoms increased for Calgary’s ‘Hemlock Crescent Rapist’

The crimes went unsolved for years, until advancements in DNA testing led to his arrest in 2004. He later pleaded guilty.

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Cromwell has been going on unescorted temporary absences (UTAs) from the prison for the past two years. Each time, he’s been allowed to stay with his wife at their Bragg Creek home for 72 hours.

He’s been eligible to apply for day parole and full parole for several years, but waited until now.

On what led to his crimes: ‘My childhood was pretty terrible’

On Thursday, he explained to the board what led to his crimes.

He said he at the time he suffered from “depression, anger and self-loathing. My childhood was pretty terrible.”

Cromwell said it was a divorce from his first wife and when she took their son away from him that really triggered his anger.

He said to clear his head, he would wander the neighbourhood of Spruce Cliff, where he used to live with them.

Then one night, everything changed.

“I saw a light on in an apartment,” Cromwell told the board. “I wondered who was in there. I started to get excited.”

He says in his fantasies, victims didn’t resist

He said from that moment on, he would fantasize about breaking in and attacking women.

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“I tried the doors. If they were unlocked, I went in,” he said. “To me, it was like a power trip.”

“It was going into the apartment, subduing my victims, tying them up and putting a pillowcase over their heads.”

He admitted he did hit some of his victims, at times using bottles, but he added that wasn’t part of the fantasy. In his fantasy, he said the victims didn’t resist his attacks.

Cromwell told the board he always felt guilt after the attacks, but said when “the police didn’t show up at my door, I would get those excited thoughts again.”

“My last offence was a 13-year-old girl,” he said.

Cromwell sought psychiatric help at one point and has been on Prozac since 1994. He credits counselling for helping him to manage his anger.

Cromwell eager to apologize to victims

He told the board he won’t reoffend, and said he thinks about his victims and the impact of his crimes all the time.

“I would love to apologize,” he told the board.

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“I used to try and put myself in their place. I would think, ‘What if that happened to my daughters?’”

Cromwell said it was actually a relief when sex crimes detectives arrested him. He said his only request at the time was that he be allowed to go tell his wife.

“I said…remember a while back a guy was attacking women in Spruce Cliff? Well that was me.”

He wiped tears from his eyes as he spoke about his wife — a woman who has supported him through every step of the court proceedings and time spent in prison.

“We’re joined at the hip,” Cromwell said of his wife.

READ MORE: Calgary ‘Hemlock Crescent Rapist’ granted unescorted passes in community

The board also heard Cromwell has had a bit of a rough time in custody.

“I’ve had things thrown at me and name-calling,” he said, specifically telling the board he’s referred to as a “skinner.”

He also spoke about current health problems. He said he has Type 1 diabetes and prostate problems. He said he can’t eat and has lost a lot of weight, and he’s tired all the time because of the medications he takes.

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Full parole request denied

In granting day parole, the board members also denied Cromwell a request for full parole.

“We think that it’s too soon for that big of a step,” a board member told Cromwell.

Once in a halfway house, Cromwell will have to follow specific rules and curfews.

He’s not allowed contact with any of his victims and he can’t go to places where underage children frequent or be left unsupervised with anyone under 18. He is also not allowed to possess any pornography.

Day parole is granted for six months at which time it will be re-assessed.

He can also apply for full parole again.

But no matter what the board decides, Cromwell will be free in less than a year.

He is up for statutory release in April 2018, which is mandatory release after serving two thirds of his sentence.

He will be monitored by parole until at least 2025 when his full sentence is up.

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