Brutal rapist gets life sentence after double-jeopardy retrial

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A 56-year-old man has been jailed for life after being found guilty of raping a pensioner in her bedroom 16 years ago following a retrial under the double jeopardy law.

Wendell Baker was previously found not guilty of attacking 66-year-old Hazel Backwell but went on trial again after a DNA match was found.

Wendell, who was unanimously found guilty on Tuesday, refused to attend 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 Stratford, east London, as she slept in January 1997.

He tied her hands, beat and raped her, then ransacked her house and left her trapped in a cupboard.

Ms Backwell was found by chance by a neighbour the next evening, thinking she was going to die.

The attack left her too afraid to continue living alone or go out by herself and she “died with a very sad and broken heart”, her family said.

Judge Rook said: “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.”

Ms Backwell’s son, David Backwell, attended court to see his mother’s attacker locked up.

The judge told Baker: “This was a planned offence to steal money. When you could not find any, you decided to punish [Ms Backwell] with a brutal and vicious attack and by raping her.”

He added that Ms Backwell was beaten so “her face was unrecognisable even to her own son who only recognised her by her voice”.

Baker was arrested in October 1998 and provided a DNA sample which matched the DNA profile of swabs taken from Ms Backwell.

But a judge decided the case could not proceed following legal argument at the start a trial in 1999.

A law change in 2005 allowed a person cleared of a serious offence to face retrial, but when the case was reviewed in 2007, it was found evidence had been lost or destroyed.

The case was reopened in 2009 and Baker, from Walthamstow, north east London, 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”, the court heard.

Jamaican-born Baker told the court he had been framed by police. The court heard he has been in and out of prison since the 1970s for burglary, theft and actual bodily harm.