Northern Ireland

'Sex slave' woman 'too scared to leave'

room Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The woman was kept in a squalid room which had no light bulb and no handle on the door

A woman kept prisoner in a Northern Ireland house and repeatedly raped and assaulted for eight years was too afraid to leave when police came to rescue her.

The woman, who has severe learning difficulties, was held by Keith Baker and his wife Caroline at their County Armagh home.

She was found in a squalid room in the so-called house of horrors in 2012.

When she was rescued, she was severely malnourished and had lost almost all her teeth.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The handle was removed from the door to the woman's room

Police believe the woman was trafficked into Northern Ireland by Baker in 2004.

It is understood her husband reported her missing to police in Suffolk where they had been living.

A senior police officer said the repeated attacks on the vulnerable woman was the "most depraved and awful crime" he had ever come across.

The woman's torment was reported to police in 2012 by Mandy Highfield, mother of four of Baker's eight children.

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Media captionMandy Highfield said she had to coax the Bakers' victim to leave the room

Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Ms Highfield said she had to coax the Bakers' victim to leave when the police and social workers came to rescue her because the woman was too frightened to go.

Ms Highfield had lived with Baker, effectively as a second wife, and was the mother of four of his eight children: Caroline Baker was the mother of the other four.

Ms Highfield said Baker exerted complete control over everyone in his household.

"If we'd go out, he'd be as nice as pie and then, when we were on our own, he'd hit me because I'd been talking to people," she said.

"I wasn't allowed to talk to anybody or have friends or even talk to my family."

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The woman was kept in the room which had no light bulb in the ceiling

A tiny room in the house had been turned into a prison cell for the vulnerable woman, she said.

"Keith took the handle off the door. There was no light bulb in the light, no carpet on the floor, no curtains up against the window. It was like a little prison."

Talking about the sex abuse, she said: "How could they treat somebody like that - with a disability like she had?"

"It wasn't fair and I just couldn't handle it so I went to the police and told them. Then the police came down and they took me out of the house and talked to me.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Some of the sexual abuse was filmed

"I told them everything. Then the social worker and the police went upstairs and saw the other woman in the bedroom.

"They took her out, but she didn't want to go because she was scared.

"I said to her: 'You've got to go; you can't live like this anymore.' Then she left with the police and the social worker."

Det Ch Sup George Clarke, head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Public Protection Unit, said his officers were shocked by what they uncovered at the Bakers' home.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption There was a fridge full of food in the house but the victim was seldom given any

"It became very clear to the detectives that it wasn't just a case of physical abuse but that there was a very depraved sexual element to this," he said.

"This woman was raped repeatedly by Baker who was aided and abetted by his wife.

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Media captionThe victim was subjected to an awful life, said Det Ch Sup George Clarke

"It would also appear that these assaults were on occasions recorded and we can only assume that was for the sexual gratification of Baker."

He said it was "almost impossible to estimate or imagine the suffering that she's gone through".

"The abuse and the fear that she was living with must have reached a stage where the grotesque, grotesque treatment and abuse became just her normal life.

"I think that in my time in the police I've never come across a crime that is quite so depraved and awful."

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