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Violent double rapist is found guilty 30 years later

Double rapist Eric McKenna, pictured, was caught after police took his DNA after he accepted a caution for harassing his neighbour in 2016. The sample was linked to two rapes on Tyneside in the 1980s

A violent double rapist who was snared three decades later when his DNA taken over a neighbour dispute linked him to the shocking street attacks said he was ‘set up’ as jurors convicted him.

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

Married father McKenna had been involved in a neighbour row in 2016 which meant he was cautioned for ‘a course of conduct which amounted to harassment.’

As a result of the caution, the 59-year-old’s DNA was taken and Operation Phoenix detectives, who examine unsolved crimes, linked the sample to the rapes.

The match, which was a ‘billion to one’ chance of it not being McKenna or his close relative, led to his arrest for the rapes, which prosecutors said was the ‘moment he had been dreading’ for 30 years.

Despite the ‘absolute killer 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.

After jurors found him unanimously guilty of both attacks, McKenna said from the dock ‘that was a set up, he misled the jury, the judge.’

Judge Edward Bindloss adjourned sentence until next month and McKenna was remanded in custody.

Lee Fish, defending, said McKenna has been advised he faces a ‘substantial custodial sentence.’

Prosecutor Andrew Espley told Newcastle Crown Court the offences were ‘alarming’ and told jurors: ‘What we say is this case concerns two very similar, violent stranger rapes, carried out on lone women walking home, around here, at night, back in 1983 and 1988.

‘These are very, very serious rapes indeed.

‘We are here because advances in DNA technology have enabled use to show the same man was responsible for carrying out both rapes and that man is this defendant, Eric McKenna.’

McKenna, pictured, was told by Newcastle Crown Court he faces a substantial jail term

McKenna, pictured, was told by Newcastle Crown Court he faces a substantial jail term

The court heard prosecution and defence teams both agreed the rapes did take place as the women described but that the issue in both cases was ‘who did it?’

Mr Espley told jurors: ‘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.

Jurors heard the woman, who was a single mother, suffered ‘appalling’treatment when she reported her ordeal to the police at the time, who kept her waiting up to 15 minutes to be seen, asked if she was gay and advised to ‘go home and forget about it’.

Despite the way she was spoken to, the woman gave a full statement and underwent an intimate examination.

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 attacker, who stole documentation containing the victim’s address, raped the woman, with her head covered in her own t-shirt and jacket, after forcing her to strip naked.

He then gave her money for her bus fare home but warned: ‘If you go to the cops I know who you are and where you drink.’

Mr Espley said the second attack which happened five years later, in March 1988, had ‘marked similarities’ to the first.

The court heard the second 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 after threatening to ‘cut her legs and cut her breasts off’ if he did not do what she said and if she did not ‘enjoy it’.

The court heard, once again, the woman was stripped naked and her own jacket was held over her head while she was raped.

She was hit in the face after she started crying.

The woman was left to collect pieces of her own clothing from the ground before she made her way to a city police station.

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

‘As you will hear later, DNA from the man who attacked both women is the same as Mr McKenna’s.’

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.’

Mr Espley said the evidence in the case will make jurors ‘absolutely certain’ that McKenna is the rapist.

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.’¬†