1. ITV Report

Rape victim's anger over claims attacker's father was the true culprit

Eric McKenna Photo: NCJ Media Syndication
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A woman raped by a Newcastle man has waived her anonymity to say she's angry and insulted at claims his father could be the true culprit.

58-year-old Eric McKenna was jailed for raping two women on Tyneside in the 1980's. McKenna's sister has won permission to have her late father's corpse exhumed, to see if he was the one responsible for the horrific sex attacks for which his son is currently serving a 23 year sentence.

McKenna of Arthurs Hill, Newcastle, was jailed at Newcastle Crown Court in March last year for attacks in 1983 and 1988.

Wendy Forrester was 21 when she was attacked on her way home from a party in May 1983. McKenna covered her face before raping her next to an embankment close to the High Level Bridge in Gateshead.

Wendy Forrester in 1983

'I'd been out for a drink, went to a party, come back. I was walking home and he attacked us from behind, grabbed me by the throat, said he had a knife, pushed us down the embankment and raped us.

– Wendy Forrester

The crimes went unsolved for 35 years, until McKenna came to the attention of police.

Eric McKenna given caution for urinating in neighbours plant pot. DNA swab links him to rapes.
Further DNA analysis leads to Eric McKenna being arrested for two rape offences.
Eric McKenna denies the charges but is found guilty and jailed for 23 years.
Eric McKenna Credit: Northumbria Police

Eric McKenna denied the crimes, and now his sister, Eileen Hutton, has suggested it could have been her father, and not her brother, who attacked the women.

Thomas Edward McKenna died of a heart attack aged 62 in April 1993 and is buried in St John’s cemetery, Elswick, Newcastle.

And Eric McKenna’s wife, Moira, protested her husband's innocence at and after his trial, saying he had never been violent and was "the one person [she] trusted]".

She has now been granted permission by the Church of England to have her late father-in-law’s remains unearthed to see if DNA samples which could prove the innocence of her husband and the guilt of his father.

St John’s cemetery, Elswick, Newcastle.

'Mrs Hutton contacted the petitioner (Moira McKenna) and informed her that she did not believe that her brother had committed the offences of which he had been convicted but that her father might well have been the perpetrator.

She alleged that he was a violent person, particularly towards women and had served terms of imprisonment."

At the trial, the DNA was presented as evidence of Eric McKenna's guilt, and jurors were told the chances of the DNA belonging to someone other than and unrelated to McKenna were 'one in a billion'.

I consider that if there is even a slight, but real, possibility that there has been a serious miscarriage of justice then it is wholly proper that everything be done to ensure that that is not the case.

If, as may well be the case, ultimate DNA analysis establishes that the deceased could not possibly have been the perpetrator then that will put an end to any untoward allegation that he might have been guilty of the offences.

I am entirely satisfied that these circumstances are sufficiently compelling to justify exhumation.

– Euan Duff, Chancellor of the Diocese of Newcastle

This permission has come from the church court, and only extends as far as the body being dug up.

Northumbria Police are yet to confirm what, if anything, officers might do with any evidence that might be unearthed as a result of the exhumation.

Following Eric McKenna's trial last year the Crown Prosecution Service said the chance of him not being a match to the crime scene DNA sample was one in a billion.

  • Wendy Forrester told ITV Tyne Tees she believes the right man is behind bars.