House of horrors sex case sentencing adjourned

Keith Baker pictured at court in Craigavon.  Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Keith Baker pictured at court in Craigavon. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A husband and wife who held a mentally disabled woman a virtual hostage in a house of horrors to satisfy their own sexual urges will find out next month what their sentences will be.

Despite many years on the bench and the criminal bar, Craigavon Crown Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC said he was adjourning the case against 61-year-old Keith Baker and his wife Caroline because “its outwith my personal experience” so he wanted to give consideration to all materials and guideline authorities.

The husband and wife pleaded guilty to what prosecuting QC Toby Hedworth described as “a catalogue of grave sexual abusive behaviour towards a woman with severe learning disabilities who was kept at the defendants’ home for a number of years for their, and particular Keith Baker’s, sexual gratification.”

In October last year the couple, formerly from Drumellen Mews in Craigavon, pleaded guilty to the raft of charges against them, Keith Baker to 11 charges and his wife seven.

The Bakers 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.

Mr Baker admitted a further six counts 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 her husband to rape their victim and a single count of indecent assault with all of the offences occurring on various dates between 15 March 2004 and 20 December 2012.

The offences came to light when another woman, known only as Miss X and said to be “somewhere between a victim and defendant,” alerted the authorities that a woman was being held hostage at the Bakers’ home.

Mr Hedworth outlined how both Caroline Baker and Miss X had given birth to four children to Keith Baker and that in the two semi detached houses, “men lived in one half and the women in the other.”

He said when she was rescued the victim, who had been reported missing by her husband in 2004, had only one sound tooth, was “severely emaciated” and had been kept in a bedroom which didn’t have a handle on the inside, had no light bulb, was cold and had no furniture bar a broken wardrobe.

Mr Hedworth said there was an adjoining bathroom with a toilet which he told the court, was “overflowing with excrement.”

During police investigations police seized numerous computers, cameras and storage devices and when they were examined, uncovered video recordings and still images where the woman was engaged in all sorts of sexual activity with Keith Baker, his wife and the woman who alerted the authorities.

To highlight the ongoing aspect of her virtual incarceration, Mr Hedworth said her appearance changed significantly from image to image, firstly well nourished but eventually “extremely thin” and that Keith Baker could be heard telling her as she performed a sex act on him that “she’s learned quite a bit over the years.”

All the time she had been held as a sexual slave, he told the court, she was never registered with a doctor or a dentist and no claim for benefits was ever made in her behalf.

Submitting pleas in mitigation, defence QC Martin O’Rourke urged the judge to take an exceptional course when sentencing Mrs Baker, claiming that she was almost as much as a victim herself as she had been physically and emotionally abused by her husband over the years to such an extent that she suffered from “battered wife syndrome.”

Mr Baker’s defence QC Patrick Little said he had “lost everything” and given his health problems which saw him sitting in a wheelchair at the side of the dock throughout the 90 minute hearing, his time spent in jail will be more onerous than would otherwise be he case.

Judge Lynch said he would sentence on 4 April.