Belfast Telegraph

House of Horrors: American lawyer on her three weeks of holidaying and karaoke night with the Bakers

'I had no idea I was staying in the house of horrors'

By Stephanie Bell

An American attorney who spent two weeks inside Craigavon's house of horrors as a guest of Keith Baker and his two "wives" has given an astonishing insight into the life of the depraved couple who kept a mentally disabled woman locked up as a sex slave for eight years.

Pamela Hein (57), a grandmother from South Dakota, had no idea that the couple who hosted her during two visits to Northern Ireland were convicted this week of a litany of heinous crimes.

Ms Hein spent a week with the family just a year before their victim was rescued by police in 2012, and also stayed in their Drumellan Mews home for 10 days in 2010.

Baker proved a master of deception in keeping his victim and crimes hidden for eight years, and even fooled the American lawyer who was stunned when the Belfast Telegraph broke the news that her hosts were now serving sentences for horrific sex crimes.

Ms Hein said: "It is just shocking to me. I was a prosecutor and then a defence attorney and I am now a prosecutor again, and I had a lot of clients who were domestic violence victims.

"I also sit on a board to help children who were sexually abused and there are tell-tale signs, and you get a sixth sense about something like that. I had no idea. I am astonished."

Ms Hein got in touch with the Bakers through a global travellers' website where people find host families to stay with when visiting countries all around the world. She is a mother of two girls and has five grandchildren, and has also been a foster mum for 12 years.

Adopted at birth, she was told there was a good chance her natural mother was Irish, and after spending years searching for her in the US she decided to extend her search to Ireland in 2010, and got in touch with the Bakers, who were registered as hosts on the website.

She spent a week with them in the house where their victim had been locked up and abused in a filthy room during her first visit in 2010.

She said she was all over the two properties, which Keith Baker had knocked into one to accommodate his extended family with wife Caroline and partner Mandy Highfield, who each had four children to him.

It was his partner Mandy Highfield who alerted police to the horror of their victim's captivity in 2012. She has since described Baker as a violent man who regularly beat her and his wife. Baker was revealed as a monster who kept his victim locked in a filthy room in the property with no heat, light bulb or carpet, with the door handle removed from the inside so that she could not escape.

Evidence gathered at the scene showed he and his wife filmed themselves attacking their helpless victim via a camera suspended from the ceiling.

The woman's learning difficulties were so severe her IQ placed her in the lowest 0.3% of the population. When she was rescued she was so badly malnourished that most of her teeth had fallen out.

The Bakers' victim was reported missing in England in 2004, when the judge said Mr Baker took her to Northern Ireland.

Last night Ms Hein was in disbelief that the family she had found "perfect hosts" during her visit had been responsible for such vile crimes.

She said: "There was absolutely no indication that anything kinky was going on in that house. I spent a week in the house the first time and 10 days the second time. I was all over that house and I knew where everyone stayed, and I was in the bedroom next to Mandy's bedroom.

"The boys stayed in one side of the house with Keith and the girls were in the other with Caroline and Mandy.

"I can't imagine where this room could have been. It has shocked me to pieces, as to me there was no indication that there was anything amiss."

While in Northern Ireland to search for her biological mum, Baker and his family showed Ms Hein round some of our best-known tourist spots.

She said she enjoyed great days out with the family and never once suspected that they had such a horrific secret.

She said: "Everyone seemed very happy-go-lucky and joked and laughed and we went on big excursions together visiting the Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

"One time Caroline and some of the kids would come and other times Mandy and some of the kids, as there wasn't a vehicle big enough to take everyone.

"Their oldest daughter and I one day stayed at home to bake because she loved to cook and we baked sugar cookies with recipes I had brought with me from America for all the family.

"The kids were all great kids - wonderful, kind-hearted, laughing, joking souls. I hope they can rebound from this. My heart goes out to them.

"Six of the children were there when I stayed and two others lived away.

"I thought the kids were all well-rounded, fantastic individuals. They liked to joke and tease and, as you can imagine, there was a lot of activity with all of them around.

"The kids were respectful to the adults in the house, but good fun as well.

"It seemed very apparent to me that they loved their dad, and he joked and laughed with them too.

"I am planning a trip back to Ireland in May and I had arranged to meet with Caroline and some of the children."

Claims by Mandy Highfield this week that Baker was violent to her and his wife also shocked the American attorney, who said both women appeared happy during the time she spent with them.

She explained: "Keith drove me, Caroline and Mandy to a coastal town for a girly night out at a karaoke and we had a great night."

The fact that both women shared a house with Baker also did not appear odd to Ms Hein, who said her understanding was that Mandy and Baker were no longer in a relationship.

She said: "They stayed in different sides of the house and I was led to believe that Mandy had been in a relationship with Keith at one time but they were no longer in an intimate relationship, and she lived with them because he had fathered her children."

Ms Hein had no idea that the Belfast Public Record Office was closed for renovation when she first visited, which is why she returned to Northern Ireland in 2011.

During this visit, Baker again played the perfect host, driving his guest to the Public Record Office so that she could research her mother's background.

Her visits to Northern Ireland and the Republic did not, unfortunately, help in her search for her birth mum, who she eventually found last year living in West Virginia.

She now plans a visit back here this summer with her mum and other family members.

She added: "I have kept in touch with the Bakers' children and hope to meet up with them when I visit this year.

"They are lovely kids and were always joking and I had a ball with them when I was there, and I've told them my door is always open."

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