Double jeopardy case: Wendell Baker jailed for pensioner rape

Wendell Baker was jailed after a judge ruled he should be found not guilty at his first trial, in 1999

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A man convicted under the amended double jeopardy law of raping a pensioner has been jailed for life.

Wendell Baker, 56, beat and raped 66-year-old Hazel Backwell before locking her in a cupboard at her home in Stratford, east London, in 1997.

Baker was found not guilty in 1999 when a judge wrongly ruled his trial could not proceed. Changes to the law in 2005 meant he could be retried.

He has been ordered to serve a minimum of 10 years and six months.

Ms Backwell suffered a "terrifying ordeal" and thought she was going to die at the hands of Baker, who broke into her home and attacked her, the Old Bailey heard.

'Beaten black and blue'

He tied her hands behind her back with flex and beat and raped her. He then proceeded to ransack her house before leaving her bound and trapped in a cupboard.

A "terrified" Ms Backwell was found by chance by a neighbour the following evening.

Analysis

Wendell Baker almost got away with it.

Had it not been for a court order compelling his defence solicitors to hand over copies of the case papers after the police had inexplicably lost theirs, a retrial would not have been possible.

Baker had escaped justice in 1999 because of another blunder: a judge wrongly ruled that the key - and virtually only - evidence against him, from DNA samples, was inadmissible.

The decision, corrected by the Law Lords, led Labour to introduce sweeping new powers ensuring DNA profiles from people cleared of crimes could be retained, measures which the Coalition Government has now watered down.

Baker, from Walthamstow, was acquitted of raping Ms Backwell, who died in 2002, when the first trial judge ruled DNA evidence had not been collected correctly and could not be used.

The Law Lords later overturned the judge's ruling, although as the law stood Baker could not be tried a second time for the same crime.

But after the law was amended it was possible for him to be tried again. Jurors heard a DNA match was found "in the order of one in a billion" linking him to the case.

Sentencing Baker at the Old Bailey, Judge Peter Rook said: "It seems to me it's difficult to find a case of more serious rape during the course of a burglary, short of where the victim is either killed or caused very serious harm.

"This was a particularly grave case of the rape of a woman in her own bedroom, you having broken into her home at night. Up until then she had always felt safe and secure in her home.

"This was a planned offence to steal money. When you could not find any, you decided to punish her with a brutal and vicious attack and by raping her."

The victim was beaten "black and blue" and "her face was unrecognisable even to her own son who only recognised her by her voice," the judge told the court.

'Raped a second time'

A statement on behalf of Ms Backwell's son David and her family said the "depraved attack" had "completely ruined her life".

It added: "She survived the attack and was able to give a detailed account of what Wendell Baker put her through but her life was never the same again.

Hazel Backwell Hazel Backwell said she thought she was "going to die" during the attack

"My mother sadly passed away lonely, with a broken heart and a shadow of her former self and was never able to see the man who caused her so much pain jailed for what he did.

"My mother felt as if she had been raped a second time when Wendell Baker was first acquitted.

"My mother suffered and it saddens me that she is not here to witness this momentous day.

"Today is a good day for our family but it will always be tinged with sadness."

Following the sentence, Det Ch Insp Christopher Burgess said: "Wendell Baker mistakenly believed that he had got away with this horrific crime back in 1997 but the Special Casework Investigations Team has worked tirelessly to ensure that he will now spend a considerable amount of time in jail for the crime he has committed."

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