Man goes back to court on rape charge 16 years after he was cleared

Wendell Baker on trial under 2005 law of double jeopardy allowing retrial in certain circumstances.

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The Independent Online

A man cleared of raping a pensioner in her bedroom 16 years ago has gone on trial for a second time after four separate DNA tests linked him to the attack, a court heard today.

Wendell Baker, 56, who is accused of raping a 66-year-old and leaving her trapped in a small cupboard, has gone on trial under 2005 double jeopardy law changes that allow a person to face a retrial where there is new and compelling evidence.

The Old Bailey heard that he was charged but cleared in 1999 of the attack on Hazel Backwell at her home following a legal decision by the trial judge. Police first reviewed the case in 2007 after the change in law - and five years after the victim's death - but much of the evidence had been lost or destroyed.

It resumed the investigation in 2009 and Mr Baker was charged for a second time after stored forensic material and fresh DNA tests meant that there was a one-in-billion chance that the attacker was not Mr Baker, said Rosina Cottage QC for the prosecution.

"The defendant may suggest that the DNA has been deliberately tampered with, or accidentally contaminated in some way, or that the match is simply coincidental,"  Ms Cottage she told a jury of six men and six women. "In short, the prosecution say, however much the defendant denies it, all DNA roads lead to one man, this defendant."

The court heard Miss Backwell, a retired woman who lived alone, was woken up during the night in January 1997 by a man who tied her hands together with flex and covered her head with blankets. He then punched and raped her, the court heard. "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," said Ms Cottage.

The attacker, who was apparently after money, then shoved her into a cleaning cupboard, the court heard. She was found the following morning by police after a friend could not get into the house.

The Old Bailey heard that Mr Baker, of Walthamstow, east London, was arrested in January the following year and his DNA taken which linked him to the scene of the rape.

When he was interviewed, he said he could not give any explanation for how his DNA was found there, the court heard. Further DNA samples were taken after the investigation was resumed in 2009 and 2011 which linked him to the attack, the jury was told.

Mr Baker denies rape. The case continues