A Craigavon husband and wife have denied subjecting a mentally disabled woman to a catalogue of rape and sex abuse while holding her hostage for almost 10 years in a “house of horrors”.
Caroline Baker (52) wore a navy jacket, green scarf and white blouse while standing in the dock of Craigavon Crown Court on Thursday.
Her husband Keith Baker (57) was in a wheelchair just outside the dock, wearing a grey shirt, brown trousers and slippers and flanked by three prison staff.
The Bakers are jointly charged on five counts including the false imprisonment of their alleged victim on dates between 15 March 2004 and 20 December 2012, holding her prisoner with intent to commit a sexual offence, engaging in sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder, indecent assault and inciting a person with a mental disorder to engage in sexual activity, knowing that she had such a disorder and “knowing that because of it she was unlikely to refuse.”
Speaking with English accent, a clean-shaven Keith Baker, whose address was given as c/o Maghaberry Prison, told the court he was “not guilty” of six further charges of raping the same alleged victim.
His wife, speaking with a local accent, denied three counts of “aiding and abetting, counselling and procuring” her husband to rape the victim between the same dates.
During the proceedings, Caroline Baker stood with her arms down and hands clasped in front of her and her head bowed. Occasionally she appeared to be using a tissue to wipe her eyes and nose.
Keith Baker sat in the wheelchair outside the dock which has no disabled facility and slouched with his arm resting on the arm rest and appeared to be listening intently to the proceedings. There was no interaction between the couple
It has been alleged in previous court hearings that by “exerting manipulation and control” over their victim, she was kept prisoner in squalid conditions for years and was allegedly subjected to numerous bouts of sexual abuse by the married couple.
During searches of their former home at Drumellan Mews in Craigavon, which has been described in court as a “house of horrors” and has had the windows and doors repeatedly smashed, laptop computers, cameras, recording equipment and mobile phones were seized by cops for examination.
The Bakers claim however that any sexual acts were consensual.
Following their denials on Thursday, senior QCs for the defence and prosecution told Judge Patrick Lynch QC there were still applications to be dealt with before the case would come to trial.
Prosecuting QC Toby Hedworth said: “The complexities of this case are such that we would not find a trial date today.”
He suggested a further hearing to assess when and how the trial should take place.
He explained that there was also a need for a registered intermediary and that other medical and psychiatric reports have yet to be sought about how the trial would proceed given the alleged victim’s mental disorder, “it’s not appropriate to seek to find a trial date today,” and agreed that the initial date of 6 October was “not realistic.”
The lawyer indicated that even the trial would take around a month to be heard.
The defence barrister told the court they would be seeking the medical notes of the complainant and that would take time.
The prosecution barrister said there were ‘no known medical records for the complainant’.
Defense Barrister Andrew Moriarty said the number of lever arch files in the case had reached double figures and agreed to an adjournment.
A request from the press to lift a ban on using Mrs Baker’s image and her current address was refused by the Judge Lynch.
Remanding Keith Baker back into custody and releasing his wife on continuing bail, the judge listed the case on 11 September for a review hearing and to discuss how the case will proceed.