Monday 5 December 2016

Husband and wife confess to rape and sexual abuse of disabled woman

Paul Higgins

Published 20/10/2016 | 20:19

Keith Baker
Keith Baker

A husband and wife confessed to the repeated rape and sexual abuse of a mentally disabled woman over nearly a decade.

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Following lengthy discussions between prosecution and defence lawyers at Craigavon Crown Court, senior QCs representing Keith and Caroline Baker asked for all but two of the charges they face to be put to them again, on Thursday.

Before the case was called, the couple shared kisses, hugs and laughs on the way into court and just before the judge came out.

Wearing a grey and black checked fleece with grey tracksuit bottoms, Keith Baker (60) sat on a mobility scooter outside the dock while his wife, who was wearing an orange overcoat, light coloured scarf and dark trousers, took her place in the dock flanked by a female prison officer.

Looking to his solicitor Peter Murphy for guidance and speaking in a quiet, often barely audible voice, Baker entered guilty pleas to a total of 11 charges, often glancing down at the floor as the counts were read out.

His 54-year-old wife pleaded guilty to seven charges.

The couple, formerly from Drumellen Mews in Craigavon, confessed to the three charges they jointly faced, two of engaging in sexual activity with a mentally disabled person and one of inciting such a person to engage in sexual activity knowing that she had such a disorder and "knowing that because of it she was unlikely to refuse".

Mr Baker admitted a further six counts of oral and vaginal rape of the same woman and a final count of indecently assaulting the woman while Mrs Baker pleaded guilty to three offences of "aiding and abetting, counselling and procuring" her husband to rape their victim and a single count of indecent assault with all of the offences against the predatory couple occurring on various dates between 15 March 2004 and 20 December 2012.

Two counts the couple had also been jointly charged with, alleging they "falsely and injuriously imprisoned" the woman and committed false imprisonment with intent to commit a relevant sexual offence, were not proceeded with but rather "left on the books".

Although none of the facts giving rise to the catalogue of horrific sex crimes were opened in court on Thursday, during earlier hearings and bail applications the prosecution outlined that by "exerting manipulation and control" over their victim, she was kept in squalid conditions for years and was subjected to numerous bouts of rape and abuse by the married couple.

During searches of their former home at Drumellen Mews in Craigavon, which has been described in court as a "house of horrors" and has had the windows and doors repeatedly smashed, cops seized laptop computers, cameras, recording equipment and mobile phones.

While the Bakers have admitted the rape and abuse of this woman, they had initially faced similar accusations to a second complainant.

A previous court heard allegations that having been subjected to more than a decade of rape and abuse, the married woman who went missing from her home in 2004, had only one sound tooth and weighed just six stone after being kept locked in a sparse, unlit bedroom with no inside door handle.

In relation to that woman Keith Baker had faced allegations that he had raped her, aided and abetted her gang rape, voyeurism, had trafficked her within the UK to facilitate a sexual offence and had falsely imprisoned her.

His wife Caroline had also faced numerous sex charges in relation to that alleged victim with all the offences said to have been committed between January 1999 and December 2012.

Speaking at the time those charges were discontinued, a PPS spokesperson said the decision was taken "following a consideration of the available evidence by a senior public prosecutor".

The statement continued that "having taken the advice of independent senior counsel, it was concluded that the test for prosecution was not met to prosecute either of them for any offence involving this second person".

In court on Thursday defence QCs Patrick Lyttle and Martin O'Rourke, acting for Keith and Caroline Baker respectively, confirmed to Judge Patrick Lynch QC that despite the clerk using the "short form" of the various sex charges, they were "perfectly satisfied" the couple understood what they had confessed to.

Releasing the Bakers on continuing bail, Judge Lynch said he would provisionally fix 2 December for their plea and sentence hearing which he said "I imagine will take some time".

Although Mr Baker is technically on bail, he has yet to perfect the conditions set so while his wife walked away from the court, he was taken back to Maghaberry prison.

Judge Lynch reminded the media that a reporting restriction on the image of Mrs Baker still exists but that he will hear submissions on that matter on the day of the sentencing hearing.

Belfast Telegraph

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