Northern Ireland

Police told Baker 'sex slave' victim wasn't missing

Keith Baker Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Keith Baker raped the woman repeatedly in his home and filmed his assaults

Police were told that the victim of rapist Keith Baker was not missing, but "on holiday with a friend", it has emerged.

On Tuesday, Baker was sentenced to 15 years in jail and a further five years on licence.

He subjected his victim, a disabled woman, to sexual assaults while holding her as a virtual prisoner.

His 54-year-old wife Caroline received a three-year sentence, 18 months of which will be spent in jail.

Prosecutors are considering appealing against the sentences the Bakers received.

'On holiday with a friend'

Police rescued the victim from the house in Craigavon, County Armagh, in 2012.

She had been reported missing to Suffolk Police by her husband eight years earlier.

The force confirmed she was reported as missing by her husband on 15 March 2004.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Keith Baker was a 'Svengali-type figure' who controlled his wife, said the judge

"On 16 March 2004, police took a call from a woman who said her husband had reported her as missing.

"She told officers she was not missing, but was on holiday with a friend.

"Police updated her husband to this effect and, as a result, enquiries were concluded."

Asked by BBC Radio Ulster whether it was usual for a missing person search to be given up after one phone call was received, Tim Passmore, Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk, said: "In today's situation, it certainly wouldn't be.

"I would be seriously alarmed if that happened today."

'I was terrified of him'

Ask those who knew Baker and knew the family set-up - described in court as "grossly unconventional" - and one word keeps cropping up: "Control".

It was Baker's second partner and mother of four of his eight children, Mandy Highfield, who brought the abuse to an end just before Christmas 2012.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The woman was kept in a room without a handle on the door so she could not escape

Baker had gone to England and she took the chance to escape from his control, something that for years, she told me, she had felt unable to do.

"If you wanted to go to the toilet, you'd have to tell him that you wanted to go to the toilet and he would get somebody to stand at the bottom of the stairs to make sure you didn't go out the front door," she said.

"If you wanted to make a cup of coffee, you had to tell him you were making a cup of coffee and he'd come out and stand there just to make sure you were still there.

"You couldn't do nothing without telling him, or asking him if you could do it. I was terrified of him, really terrified. People kept telling me to leave him, but I said: 'I can't because he'll find me.'"

'Very controlling'

Another woman who knew the family tells a similar tale. She wants to remain anonymous.

"He was very controlling," she said.

"He said where they could go, who they could go with."

"He never left them on their own. Even at the doctor's he was stood outside waiting on them.

"He didn't let them wear trousers; he just seemed to be very, very controlling, you know, where they went and who they spoke to, because Caroline asked me not to - if I met her outside - not to speak to her, just to pretend I didn't know her if he was around."

Prosecutors are considering appealing against the sentences the Bakers received.

A Public Prosecution Service (PPS) spokesman said: "The Public Prosecution Service is currently considering if there is a basis to refer the sentences handed down in this case to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they may be unduly lenient.

"An unduly lenient sentence is one that falls outside the range of sentence that a judge, taking into consideration all relevant factors and having regard to sentencing guidance, could reasonably consider appropriate."

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