Belfast Telegraph

House of horrors a grim warning that appearances can be very deceptive

By Suzanne Breen

This isn't how we imagine evil. An ordinary looking man in an ordinary house in an ordinary street.

There is nothing that marks out Keith Baker as sinister.

No facial or other features which convey the wickedness in his heart.

Indeed, he looks like a pleasant, friendly man.

You could see yourself having a pint and a bit of craic with him down the pub.

He seems the type of guy you would wish for as a neighbour.

And Drumellan Mews looks no different from thousands of other streets dotted around Ireland and Britain.

The Bakers' home appeared much the same as all the rest.

No clues gave away the house of horrors that lay behind the front door.

I struggle to read what Baker did to the mentally disabled woman he imprisoned there as a sex slave for eight years.

Every report contains a new detail that breaks your heart all over again.

This was the most vulnerable of victims.

She was 45 years old but she acted like a 12-year-old, a witness said.

She was terrified of Baker but he gave her Quality Street sweets when she was "good".

She told detectives that her favourite was "the purple one".

When police found her, she weighed only six stone.

To the outside world, she had been invisible.

She didn't appear on the electoral register and hadn't seen a doctor or dentist since her abduction.

She had only one tooth left in her mouth.

Baker repeatedly raped her and filmed the abuse taking place.

The room in which she spent almost 3,000 days and nights had no light bulb, curtains or bedclothes.

There wasn't even a sheet covering the filthy, stained mattress.

For all that time, she never breathed fresh air, felt the sun on her skin, or even stretched her legs outside.

Dogs in animal shelters enjoy a far more comfortable existence.

And this woman, whose name we don't even know, once had people who loved her.

She had a husband in England who reported her missing many years ago.

We've read of countless similar cases in the United States. Ariel Castro held three young women captive at his home in Ohio. Maybe we previously sought comfort in the fact that this was largely an American phenomenon.

But now we know that such monsters and their houses of horror can be found on our own doorsteps here in Northern Ireland too.

There will be families of missing women all over the country reading about Keith Baker's crimes in a state of absolute panic.

They will be wondering if the daughters and sisters who disappeared without trace months or years ago are being held against their will by a depraved beast in some similar hellhole.

And let us remember that while it was a woman who was the victim, it was another woman who bravely blew the whistle to the authorities, exposing the evil empire Baker presided over.

The eight children he had with two women lived in the house.

They will have been massively scarred by the circumstances of their existence.

The story may be over for us, but for the mentally disabled woman now freed from captivity, the torture will continue.

No matter what help and counselling is made available, nobody can ever recover from a nightmare like this.

While I have no criticism to make of the 15-year jail sentence Baker received yesterday, my own preference would be for him to face not a lengthy stretch in prison, but a firing squad.

This grotesque tale should be a wake-up call to us that all is often not what it seems.

To the outside world, Keith Baker was an upstanding citizen.

He had been in the Salvation Army.

Evil can come wearing the most convincing clothes.

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