1. ITV Report

Rapist jailed for more than 20 years

Eric McKenna, who has been jailed. Credit: Northumbria Police

A double rapist caught using DNA after he urinated in a neighbour's plant pot three decades later has been jailed for 23 years.

The rapes of two lone women walking home in the 1980s had remained unsolved for thirty years until cold case cops matched scientific samples taken from the scenes to scaffolder Eric McKenna.

McKenna had been involved in a neighbour row in 2016, which involved him urinating in one of her garden plant pots and which meant he was cautioned for "a course of conduct which amounted to harassment".

As a result of the caution, the now 60-year-old's DNA was taken and Operation Phoenix detectives, who examine unsolved crimes, linked the sample to the rapes.

Despite the evidence, McKenna, from Newcastle, who had no known brothers, denied two charges of rape and was tried by a jury.

He told the court "the DNA is not mine" during his evidence.

Judge Edward Bindloss sentenced McKenna to a total of 23 years behind bars.

The judge said the attacks were "unusual" and "both violent" and have affected both women for the rest of their lives.

Prosecutor Andrew Espley told Newcastle Crown Court during the trial the offences were "alarming" and told jurors: "We are here because advances in DNA technology have enabled us to show the same man was responsible for carrying out both rapes and that man is this defendant, Eric McKenna."

He added: "There is no evidence whatsoever either of the victims of these rapes is lying, there is no suggestion of consent, their credibility is not an issue.

"The only issue is, are you sure it is him?"

The court heard the first victim was attacked in May 1983, when she was aged 21, and had been at a social club, then a party in Gateshead.

She told police she had been approached by the stranger near the Gateshead side of the High Level Bridge, who put his arm around her neck and his hand over her mouth and claimed to have a knife.

The second attack happened five years later, in March 1988, and had "marked similarities" to the first.

This victim, who was 18, had been walking home from a night out and was approached by a stranger in Newcastle city centre.

The man had offered to show the woman a "short cut" then dragged her into a deserted yard and raped her at knifepoint .

She was hit in the face after she started crying.

Mr Espley told jurors: "The same DNA from the same man was found at both incidents.

McKenna was arrested in April last year and denied both attacks.

He told detectives he got married in 1982 and his daughter was born in May 1983, three days after the first rape was committed.

McKenna said since he had been married he had not had sex with anyone other than his wife.

Mr Espley told jurors: "He said the DNA cold be wrong, we say it can't because it's science.

"It's like saying this glass doesn't hold any water, when it does."

Lee Fish, defending, told jurors: "The defence will not challenge that either of these woman were in fact raped in the 1980s.

"The defendant's case is he was not the man responsible for either of these rapes."

Detective Constable Mick Wilson, of the Northumbria Police Rape Investigation Team, praised the two victims in the case for the "extreme bravery" they have shown.

He said: "This is a very unusual case that stretches back more than 30 years but I am delighted to be stood here today knowing that this man is now behind bars.

"When he was arrested he did not flinch and from that moment he has denied all responsibility and failed to show a glimmer of remorse for his victims," he added.

"His crimes were calculated, planned and were horrific experiences for the two victims involved. I want to commend them for the extreme bravery they have shown throughout the entire ordeal.

"When they first reported their crimes back in the 80s they did not receive the support from the police that they should have done and we have since apologised to them for that."

DC Wilson also said: "The way we treat victims has drastically improved and is continuing to evolve. Every vulnerable victim of crime will be treated with compassion, understanding and will receive the best possible support from our officers.

"This case should give all victims the confidence that if they report an assault to police then we will believe you, support you and use all the techniques available to us to put the person responsible before the court.

"No matter how long ago the offence took place, we will do everything we possibly can to put people like Eric McKenna behind bars."