Man jailed for rape after 26 years


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The Independent Online

A driving instructor was jailed for eight years today after being found guilty of raping a young woman almost 26 years ago.

Martin Eke, 46, was damned by evidence from the grave after his victim, Jacqueline Spriddell, made a statement to police before her death from renal failure in the early 2000s.

It was not until 2011 that he was charged after cold case detectives reviewing the inquiry obtained a DNA match on a sample he gave police when he was arrested in 2005 for attacking his then partner.

Yesterday jurors took three hours to convict Eke of raping Jacqueline as she walked home alone following a night out with friends in Folkestone, Kent, in October 1986.

Sentencing him at Canterbury Crown Court, Judge Adele Williams said Eke, of Douglas Road, Tonbridge, was responsible for a "cruel, degrading and pitiless" crime.

The judge said: "You have, in my view, been convicted on clear and compelling evidence of the cruel, degrading and pitiless rape of Jacqueline on October 2, 1986.

"On that occasion you came across her as she was walking home from an evening out with friends.

"You laid in wait for her and then pulled her through bushes on to some waste ground.

"You carried her further away from the road and you threatened to beat her to a pulp and threatened to kill her."

After being attacked, Ms Spriddell went home immediately and told her father and stepmother that she had been raped.

The judge added: "She must have been terrified during the assault. She was an especially vulnerable young woman."

Described as popular, Ms Spriddell was slight in build and was suffering from kidney failure, for which she underwent dialysis twice a week, the court heard.

She had also undergone a kidney transplant and lost the sight in her right eye.

Eke was 20 at the time of the attack and living in digs in Folkestone away from his wife.

He fled the town afterwards as police issued a photofit of Ms Spriddell's attacker which closely resembled Eke.

The judge said he had escaped justice for 25 years but that Ms Spriddell was not around to see it.

She went on: "Sadly, it has been too late for Jacqueline Spriddell to see her rapist receive justice but her friends and family are still here to see this."

Dressed in an open-neck white shirt and navy suit, Eke - who has previous convictions for theft and a caution for common assault - showed no emotion as Judge Williams passed sentence.

He will serve half his sentence behind bars and the remainder on licence.

Eke had claimed the sex was consensual when he grabbed Ms Spriddell from behind as she walked past wasteland close to Folkestone West Railway Station.

The family of Ms Spriddell, who was 22 at the time of the attack and died in 2000, said they felt "immense relief" that justice had finally been served.

In a statement issued through Kent Police, they said: "We are very pleased with the result. It comes as an immense relief and at last there is justice for Jacqueline."

Detective Chief Inspector Rob Vinson, from Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate cold case team, said: "Jacqueline was returning home from a night out with friends when Eke decided to subject her to a terrifying and degrading attack.

"She was a slight girl and didn't drink much because of her health problems and this unprovoked attack had a huge impact on her life. Eke must have thought he had got away with it after all these years.

"Advances in DNA technology and new techniques are being applied to unsolved murder and stranger rape crimes on a regular basis now.

"Today's verdict serves as a warning to others not yet caught that you never can tell when we may turn up on the doorstep to arrest them.

"It is tragic that Jacqueline never got to see Eke convicted but the cold case team were determined to get justice on her behalf.

"I would also like to thank Jacqueline's family for the help they have given the investigation. Without their involvement and support we would not have been able to bring this successful prosecution.

"I hope that this verdict and sentence will finally bring the family some comfort and peace after all these years.

"Eke showed no remorse during the trial. In fact he tried to blacken her character during his defence but the jury saw through his lies. He is now behind bars and will be for some time, in a place where he cannot be a danger to anyone else."

Crown Prosecution Service Crown advocate Simon Ringrose said: "In bringing this case to trial we had to rely on legal provisions which allow for witness statements to be read where it is not possible to hear live evidence from them.

"The defence sought to exclude the evidence of the victim but Judge Williams ruled the statement could be read to the jury. In addition to this the prosecution arranged for another witness to give evidence via video link from Australia.

"Although it has taken a long time to reach this point, I hope that this verdict brings some closure to the victim's family and friends. Eke is a dangerous man and the sentence imposed reflects this.

"The CPS and police are committed to bringing such historic cases to justice and ensuring that offenders are punished."