Man found guilty of raping pensioner in her Stratford home 16 years ago

Wendell Baker

Wendell Baker - Credit: Archant

A 56-year-old man has been jailed for life after being found guilty of raping a pensioner in her bedroom 16 years ago.

Hazel Backwell

Hazel Backwell - Credit: Archant

Wendell Baker was previously found not guilty of attacking 66-year-old Hazel Backwell but went on trial again under the double jeopardy law after a ‘one in a billion’ DNA match was found.

The double jeopardy law allows a person cleared of a serious offence to face retrial in certain circumstances.

Baker, who was unanimously found guilty by jurors after deliberating for just over an hour on Tuesday, refused to come out of the cells to attend his sentencing where Judge Peter Rook said he would serve a minimum of 10 years and six months before being considered for parole.

Ms Backwell, who died in 2002, suffered a “terrifying ordeal” when Baker broke into her home in Litchfield Avenue, Stratford as she slept in January 1997.

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

Ms Backwell was found by chance by neighbour George Walpole the next evening, terrified and thinking she was going to die.

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The attack left her too afraid to continue living alone or go out by herself.

Judge 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.”

He added that Ms Backwell was beaten “black and blue” by Baker.

A statement on behalf of Ms Backwell’s family said the “violent and depraved attack” had ruined her life and she died with a broken heart.

It added: “Today Baker is no longer able to walk the street a free man and will have to face the stark reality of his actions. Justice has definitely been served today.”

Baker was originally arrested in October 1998 on suspicion of rape and later charged but was acquitted.

Detective Chief Inspector 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.”