Rapist jailed for life in 2013 for raping 66-year-old woman under new double jeopardy law is cleared for release from jail by Parole Board
- Wendell Baker, 63, assaulted 66-year-old Hazel Backwell in 1997 in Stratford
- Ms Backwell, who died in 2002, was bound and beaten beyond recognition
- Baker initially walked free but was jailed for life with a minimum of 10 years 2013
- But the Parole Board yesterday cleared the rapist for release at an oral hearing
Wendell Baker, 63, has been cleared for release by the Parole Board
A sex attacker who raped a pensioner in her own bedroom before leaving her tied up in a cupboard has been cleared for release after serving seven years in prison.
Wendell Baker, 63, assaulted 66-year-old Hazel Backwell in 1997 after breaking into her home in Stratford, east London, while she slept.
Ms Backwell, who died in 2002, was bound with flex before being beaten beyond recognition, raped and finally locked up while her attacker ransacked her home.
Baker initially walked free from court but was jailed for life with a minimum of 10 years in 2013 after fresh evidence was unearthed.
But the Parole Board yesterday cleared the rapist for release at an oral hearing, insisting that the decision was taken with ‘great care’ and ‘public safety’ at the forefront of the panel’s minds.
Walthamstow resident Baker’s savage attack cut lasting psychological scars on his victim, who was robbed of happiness in her final years and ‘died with a very sad a broken heart,’ her family said at the time.
Ms Backwell was found by chance by neighbour George Walpole the evening after the rape, ‘terrified’ and thinking she was going to die.
Baker went on trial in 1999, but walked free when the judge threw out DNA evidence.
But he was hauled before court more than a decade later, in 2013, when forensic investigation found a ‘one in a billion’ match.
Ms Backwell, who died in 2002, was bound with flex before being beaten beyond recognition, raped and finally locked up while her attacker ransacked her home
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 Jamaican-born Baker, from Walthamstow, north east London, but of no fixed address, was arrested in 2011.
He was once again brought to trial, under the new double jeopardy laws, and found guilty by a unanimous jury.
The judge ordered Baker spend 10 and a half years behind bars, but this was later reduced by two years, making him eligible for parole last week.
A spokesperson for the Parole Board said: ‘We can confirm that a panel of the Parole Board has directed the release of Wendell Baker following an oral hearing.
‘Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public after release and whether that risk is manageable in the community.
‘The panel will have carefully looked at a whole range of evidence, including details of the original case, and any evidence of behaviour change.
‘We do that with great care and public safety is our number one priority.’
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