Tyne & Wear

Father's body exhumed in hope of clearing son of Tyneside rapes

Eric McKenna Image copyright Northumbria Police
Image caption Eric McKenna was linked to the rapes after he was arrested following a dispute with his neighbour

The body of a jailed double rapist's father has been exhumed in an effort to prove the son's innocence.

Eric McKenna, 60, was jailed for 23 years in 2018 for raping two women in Newcastle and Gateshead in the 1980s.

His family claim his father Thomas McKenna was responsible and won permission for an exhumation from the Church of England.

Newcastle City Council has confirmed it was carried out at St John's Cemetery, where Thomas McKenna is buried.

Eric McKenna's DNA was linked to the crimes after he was cautioned for urinating on a neighbour's plant pot.

Following his conviction last March, the Crown Prosecution Service said the chance of Eric McKenna not being the source of DNA samples recovered at the two rape scenes was one in a billion.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The CofE accepts that digging up the body could "help settle this matter once and for all"

His wife Moira petitioned the church to allow the exhumation to take place. Her husband has always denied he carried out the street attacks.

Thomas McKenna died in 1993.

A council spokesman said: "Following the Church of England's decision to grant permission for an exhumation, we can confirm this process began with the full co-operation of the family early this morning.

"Our bereavement services team are carrying out the exhumation and subsequent filling-in of the grave.

"We would ask everyone to show respect to all those who lay at rest in St John's Cemetery and their families, throughout this process."

DNA testing

The Diocese of Newcastle said it only gave permission to exhume remains in "exceptional circumstances" and was aware that DNA analysis could help "settle this matter once and for all".

The removal of DNA from exhumed remains must be done under rules laid down by the Human Tissue Authority.

A spokesman said: "In the case of a deceased person, anyone in a qualifying relationship to the deceased can give consent for DNA testing."

Once any DNA is recovered from the remains, police could then investigate if any new evidence emerges.

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