Belfast Telegraph

House of horrors: 'Second wife' finally blew whistle on abuse and debauchery

By Claire O'Boyle

The whistleblower who exposed Keith Baker's vile crimes yesterday revealed the horrifying truth about what really went on in the Craigavon House of Horrors.

Mandy Highfield lived for years with the monster as a de facto second wife, along with the woman he kept captive as a sex slave for eight years, and Caroline Baker, who was sentenced yesterday alongside her husband.

Ms Highfield alerted authorities in December 2012 to the appalling abuse that has this week stunned Northern Ireland.

Revealing the level of terror both she and the Bakers' victim endured, Ms Highfield told how she had to coax the woman, who has severe learning difficulties, to leave the house - even when police and social workers arrived to set her free.

"They took her out, but she didn't want to go because she was scared," said Ms Highfield, who has four children with Baker.

"I said to her: 'You've got to go; you can't live like this anymore'.

"She said: 'Right, okay'. Then she left with the police and the social worker."

In an interview with the BBC, Ms Highfield told how one tiny room had been transformed into a prison cell for the vulnerable victim, who had an IQ of just 58.

"Keith took the handle off the door," she said. "There was no light bulb in the light, no carpet on the floor, no curtains up against the window. It was like a little prison."

Ms Highfield revealed just some of the daily abuse suffered by the Bakers' victim, whose weight plummeted during her years of imprisonment, abuse and neglect.

"He would hit her and things like that, and lock her up," said Ms Highfield. "He would even put her in the shower fully clothed and give her freezing cold showers. She had a mind of a 12-year-old and she didn't understand about not going into somebody else's room, like the children's bedrooms. She'd go in and if she saw sweets or anything she'd take them. He didn't like that, so he'd give her a cold shower."

Ms Highfield, who was raped and abused by Baker, waived her right to anonymity to reveal the truth, adding she had no idea until after reporting Baker's crimes to the authorities that his wife - and her one-time friend - was involved.

"Only when I was in the police station I found out Caroline was sexually assaulting her or helping Keith sexually assault her," she said. "I didn't know anything about Caroline sexually assaulting her. (I was) disgusted. Caroline was like a sister to me and when I found that out, I thought she couldn't do something like that. But obviously she can. That just made me hate her. And hate him as well.

"How could they treat somebody like that, with a disability like she had? It wasn't fair on her and I just couldn't handle it so I went to the police and told them. Then the police came down and they took me out of the house and talked to me. I told them everything and then the social worker and the police went upstairs and saw the other woman in the bedroom with no light and no door handle on the inside and they took her out."

Ms Highfield lived with Baker and their four children, as well as his wife Caroline and their four children, at two adjoining Housing Executive properties in Craigavon.

The walls had been knocked through so the unconventional family could live together, although Craigavon Crown Court heard how boys lived in one half, and girls in the other.

Of her relationship with Baker, she said: "He was okay for the first six or eight years. Then he started getting violent. I had a baby in 1991. I was six months pregnant when he punched me in the stomach and threw me down the stairs and I lost my little boy. I was in labour for 14 hours, he was stillborn. After that it just grew from there. He started getting aggressive from there."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph