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Twisted couple who subjected their disabled victim to years of sexual abuse await sentence

By Paul Higgins

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

Craigavon Crown Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC said at a hearing yesterday that he was adjourning the case against 61-year-old Keith Baker and his wife Caroline because "it's outwith my personal experience" and that 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".

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 that she had such a disorder and "knowing that because of it she was unlikely to refuse".

Mr Baker, who sat with his eyes cast down, continually rubbing his forehead, admitted a further six counts of rape of the same woman and a final count of indecently assaulting the woman. Mrs Baker pleaded guilty to three offences of "aiding and abetting, counselling and procuring" her husband to rape their victim and a single count of indecent assault with all of the offences against the couple occurring on dates between March 15, 2004 and December 20, 2012.

The offences came to light when another woman, known only as Miss X, alerted the authorities that a woman was being held hostage at the Bakers' home.

Mr Hedworth outlined how both Mrs Baker and Miss X had given birth to four children to Keith Baker and that in the two adjoining 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 because "the radiator was never on" and had no furniture bar a broken wardrobe.

"She was removed for her own safety and when asked if she was now happy, she replied 'yes; freedom'," said the lawyer.

During investigations police seized computers, cameras and storage devices and when they were examined, uncovered video recordings and still images where the woman was engaged in sexual activity with Mr 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".

During police questioning Mr Baker initially claimed he had no idea what went on in that half of the house and further claimed that "he had in fact rescued her from an abusive relationship in England".

Although he confirmed he was in a sexual relationship with her, Baker told cops it was consensual and that his victim was the instigator of any sexual trysts.

Mr Hedworth said while Mrs Baker admitted sexual activity she also claimed it had been consensual and that the victim had been the instigator.

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".

During an exchange between the lawyer, the judge and a probation officer, Ms Atkinson from PBNI said while there had been an assessment Mrs Baker posed a danger to the public, that risk would be lessened when she was effectively separated from her husband.

Mr Baker's defence QC, Patrick Little, said he had "lost everything" and given the 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.

He revealed that initially Baker had offered to plead guilty if the charges against his wife were dropped, but when that was "rapidly refused by the prosecution", adding: "He was looking to protect his wife because whatever the disfunctionality of the relationship."

Remanding Mr Baker into custody and releasing his wife on bail, Judge Lynch said he would sentence on April 4.

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