Rapist to appeal life sentence

Hampshire Chronicle: Hazel Backwell was raped by Wendell Baker after he broke into her home in Stratford, east London (Metropolitan Police/PA) Hazel Backwell was raped by Wendell Baker after he broke into her home in Stratford, east London (Metropolitan Police/PA)

A man jailed for life last year after being convicted of raping a pensioner in her bedroom in 1997 challenges his sentence today.

Wendell Baker was previously found not guilty of attacking 66-year-old Hazel Backwell, but went on trial again under the amended double jeopardy law after a DNA match was found ''in the order of one in a billion''.

He was aged 56 when he was jailed at the Old Bailey last June. Judge Peter Rook said he would serve a minimum of 10 years and six months before he becomes eligible to apply for parole.

His sentence challenge will be heard by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Irwin.

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 behind her back with flex, beat and raped her, then ransacked her house before leaving her bound and trapped in a cupboard.

Ms Backwell was found by chance by neighbour George Walpole the next evening, ''terrified'' and 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 must be the case that but for the fact that it was a Thursday and Mr Walpole passed by, she was likely to have died as a result.

''It seems to me 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.''

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

He had previously provided a DNA sample in January 1998 which also matched samples taken from Ms Backwell.

But he walked free from court after a judge decided the case could not proceed following legal argument at the start of the original trial in 1999.

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

The case was then reopened in 2009 and Baker, from Walthamstow, north east London, but of no fixed address, 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 denied raping Ms Backwell, telling the court he had been framed by police, whom he claimed had hounded him for years.

The court heard he has been in and out of prison since the 1970s for a range of offences including burglary, theft and actual bodily harm.

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