Search

Landmark double jeopardy case sees man jailed 14 years after rape using DNA from Hackney burglary arrest

PUBLISHED: 14:49 01 July 2013 | UPDATED: 15:45 01 July 2013

Hazel Backwell

Hazel Backwell

Archant

Baker was originally charged with the offence in October 1998 because his DNA sample had been put on the national database following his arrest for burglary in Hackney that year, for which he was charged and acquitted.

Wendell Wilberforce BakerWendell Wilberforce Baker

A man who brutally attacked and raped a woman in her home has been sentenced to life imprisonment following a landmark double jeopardy case, 14 years after he first stood trial.

Wendell Wilberforce Baker, 56, was found guilty last Tuesday (25 June) at the Old Bailey of the rape of 66-year old Hazel Backwell in her Stratford home in 1997.

Baker was originally charged with the offence in October 1998 because his DNA sample had been put on the national database following his arrest for burglary in Hackney that year, for which he was charged and acquitted.

At the time the law stated DNA could only be retained if someone was convicted of a recordable offence, meaning the burglary sample should have been destroyed.

Because Baker had only been arrested and charged with the rape on the basis of the saliva sample from the burglary, the defence argued that the match should not be disclosed to the jury and the rape trial was discontinued by the judge in June 1999.

However in December 2000 the case was taken to the House of Lords and a right to appeal was granted.

Then in 2001 the law was changed through the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 meaning all genetic samples could be retained on the database indefinitely, even when a suspect was acquitted.

Further legislation regarding the double jeopardy rule became effective in 2005, meaning individuals could be tried twice for the same serious offences.

Officers from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command (HSCC) special casework investigation team picked up the case which fulfilled the double jeopardy criteria in October 2007.

However when they tried to obtain the original case files they found they had not been retained by either the court, the CPS or the House of Lords.

Eventually they managed to obtain the case papers from the original defence solicitors through a court order and Baker was re-arrested for the rape of Hazel Backwell in September 2011.

Hazel Backwell – who Baker locked in a cramped cupboard following her ordeal where she was found by chance by a friend 15 hours later - died aged 72 in 2002, before seeing the change in the law which finally allowed her case to be heard before a jury.

Her children David and Margaret Backwell said in a statement: My mother felt as if she had been raped a second time when Wendell Baker was first acquitted.

“She could not understand what had happened and was left devastated.

“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.”

Baker was ordered to serve a minimum of 10 and a half years in prison on Friday June 28.

Det Ch Insp Christopher Burgess said: “This has been an extremely complex and difficult case to bring before the court and we welcome the lengthy sentence that has been handed down today.

“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.”


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Hackney Gazette. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Hackney Gazette