Man on trial for second time accused of raping Stratford pensioner


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A man cleared of raping a pensioner in her bedroom despite matching DNA evidence has gone on trial again under the double jeopardy law.

Wendell Baker, 56, was previously found not guilty of attacking 66-year-old Hazel Backwell and leaving her trapped in a cupboard at her home in Stratford 16 years ago.

He walked free from court after the judge decided the case could not proceed following legal argument at the start of the trial, the Old Bailey heard today.

But a change in the law in 2005 allows a person cleared of a serious offence to face retrial in certain circumstances.

The case was reviewed in 2007, but much of the evidence had been lost or destroyed, jurors were told.

After the case was reopened in 2009, Baker, from Walthamstow but of no fixed address, was arrested in 2011.

He gave further DNA samples matching that found on swabs taken from Ms Backwell with a probability “in the order of one in a billion”, prosecutors said.

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Opening the case today, prosecutor Rosina Cottage QC said Ms Backwell, who died in 2002, had suffered a “terrifying ordeal” when a man broke into her home as she slept and sexually assaulted her in January 1997.

“Apparently after money, in a terrifying ordeal, he assaulted her, tied her hands behind her back and raped her, “ Ms Cottage said.

“The house was ransacked. He then left her trapped in a cupboard.

“He tied her hands together with flex and then started to hit her,” she added.

“Still with blankets over her head he punched her bare stomach.

“He asked her whether there was anyone else in the house. When she said no, he said he said would kill her if there were.”

She was found the next evening trapped in a small cupboard, the court heard.

Ms Backwell was taken to Newham hospital with a number of injuries consistent with rape and assault, the court heard.

Baker was arrested in October 1998 on suspicion of rape and provided a DNA sample which matched the DNA profile of swabs taken from Ms Backwell, jurors were told.

He had previously provided a DNA sample in January 1998 which also matched samples taken from Ms Backwell, the court heard.

Baker was re-arrested in September 2011 where a full DNA profile was obtained which matched a sample held from Ms Backwell, the prosecutor said.

Baker denies rape.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.