Wendell Baker: ‘Double jeopardy’ rapist release to be reviewed

Wendell Baker
Image caption Wendell Baker was jailed for life in 2013 after attacking 66-year-old Hazel Backwell and locking her in a cupboard

The Justice Secretary has called for the Parole Board to reconsider its decision to free a man who beat and raped a pensioner.

Wendell Baker was given a life sentence in 2013 for attacking 66-year-old Hazel Backwell and locking her in a cupboard.

He was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison, following a second trial allowed under new double jeopardy laws.

Last week the Parole Board said Baker “was suitable for release”.

On Friday, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland asked for the decision “to be reconsidered”.

The Secretary of State can call for a review if they believe there is an arguable case that the Parole Board’s decision is irrational, and not in line with the evidence before them.

The system was introduced after the so-called black-cab rapist John Worboys was found safe to be freed.

The board will now need to decide if the decision can be formally reconsidered.

Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption Hazel Backwell was left too afraid to live alone following the attack

Baker, now 63, beat and raped Mrs Backwell at her home in Stratford, east London, in 1997.

Ms Backwell was found by chance by a neighbour the following evening after Baker locked her in a cupboard.

Baker was found not guilty in 1999 when a judge wrongly ruled his trial could not proceed.

The introduction of the double jeopardy law in 2005 allowed a person cleared of a serious offence to face a retrial in certain circumstances.

A review in 2007 found much of the evidence had been lost or destroyed, and the case was reopened two years later.

Baker, from Walthamstow, north-east London, was arrested in 2011 and gave further DNA samples matching those found on swabs taken from Mrs Backwell.