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Sunday 19 November 2017

US woman visited house of horrors during abuse years

'I stayed twice with the Bakers and had no idea,' says attorney

Pamela Hein (centre) said Keith Baker's wife Caroline (left) and Mandy Highfield were happy-go-lucky hosts
Pamela Hein (centre) said Keith Baker's wife Caroline (left) and Mandy Highfield were happy-go-lucky hosts

Stephanie Bell

An attorney has spoken about how she spent two weeks inside the house of horrors in Craigavon, Co Armagh, as a guest of Keith Baker, his wife and his mistress. Baker and his wife kept a mentally disabled woman locked up as a sex slave for eight years.

Pamela Hein (57), a grandmother of South Dakota, US, had no idea that Keith and Caroline Baker, who hosted her during two visits to Northern Ireland, were criminals.

Ms Hein spent a week with the family a year before their victim was rescued by police in 2012, and also stayed in their home for 10 days in 2010.

Ms Hein said: "It is just shocking to me. I was a prosecutor and then a defence attorney and I am now a prosecutor again, and I had a lot of clients who were domestic violence victims.

"I also sit on a board to help children who were sexually abused and there are tell-tale signs, and you get a sixth sense about something like that. I had no idea. I am astonished."

Ms Hein got in touch with the Bakers through a website on which people find host families to stay with when travelling. She is a mother of two girls, has five grandchildren, and has also been a foster mother for 12 years.

Adopted at birth, she was told there was a good chance her natural mother was Irish, and after spending years searching for her in the US she decided to extend her search to Ireland in 2010, and got in touch with the Bakers, who were registered as hosts on the website.

She spent a week with them in the house where their victim had been locked up and abused in a filthy room during her first visit in 2010.

She said she was all over the two properties, which Keith Baker had knocked into one to accommodate his extended family with wife Caroline and partner Mandy Highfield, who each had four children by him.

It was Ms Highfield who alerted police in 2012 to the horror of the victim's captivity. She has since described Baker as a violent man who beat her and his wife. Baker was revealed as a monster who kept his victim locked in a filthy room in the property with no heat, light bulb or carpet, with the door handle removed from the inside so she could not escape.

Evidence gathered at the scene showed he and his wife filmed themselves attacking their victim via a camera suspended from the ceiling.

The woman's learning difficulties were so severe that her IQ placed her in the lowest 0.3pc of the population. When she was rescued she was so badly malnourished that most of her teeth had fallen out.

The Bakers' victim was reported missing in England in 2004, when Keith Baker took her to Northern Ireland, the judge said.

Ms Hein added: "There was absolutely no indication that anything kinky was going on in that house. I spent a week in the house the first time and 10 days the second time. I was all over that house and I knew where everyone stayed, and I was in the bedroom next to Mandy's bedroom.

"The boys stayed in one side of the house with Keith and the girls were in the other with Caroline and Mandy.

"I can't imagine where this room could have been. It has shocked me to pieces, as to me there was no indication that there was anything amiss.

"Everyone seemed very happy-go-lucky and joked and laughed and we went on big excursions visiting the Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

"The kids were all great - wonderful, kind-hearted, laughing, joking souls. I hope they can rebound from this. My heart goes out to them.

"It seemed very apparent to me that they loved their dad, and he joked and laughed with them, too."

Claims by Ms Highfield that Baker was violent to her and his wife also shocked the US attorney, who said both women appeared happy during the time she spent with them. She explained: "Keith drove me, Caroline and Mandy to a coastal town for a girly night out at a karaoke and we had a great night."

The fact that both women shared a house with Baker did not appear odd to Ms Hein, who said her understanding was that Mandy and Baker were no longer lovers.

She said: "They stayed in different sides of the house and I was led to believe that Mandy had been in a relationship with Keith at one time but they were no longer in an intimate relationship, and she lived with them because he had fathered her children."

Her visits to Ireland did not help in her search for her birth mum, who she found last year living in West Virginia.

Sunday Independent

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