A rape victim whose attacker escaped justice for more than three decades has spoken of her relief after DNA advances led to his arrest.
Wendy Forrester, 56, was raped in 1983 by a stranger who then went on to attack a second victim, five years later.
Despite officers capturing the suspect’s DNA after the attack, they were unable to find a match and the crime remained unsolved for 33 years.
The breakthrough came in March 2016, when Eric McKenna, 59, was arrested for urinating in a plant pot during a dispute with his neighbour.
Wendy Forrester (pictured left) was raped in 1983 by Eric McKenna (right), who was only caught after he urinated in a neighbour’s plant pot and left behind vital DNA evidence
When officers ran his DNA through their database, they matched it to Ms Forrester’s cold case, giving the police enough evidence to bring charges against McKenna.
The jury would later hear that it was a billion-to-one chance of the DNA not belonging to McKenna.
McKenna, of Arthurs Hill, Newcastle, was later found guilty of two counts of rape and was jailed for 23 years.
The court heard how Ms Forrester, then aged 21, had been at a friend’s house when she decided to grab a taxi home at 2am.
As she approached the taxi rank, a stranger grabbed her from behind and put a hand over her mouth.
Ms Forrester, a full-time carer from Blackpool, said: ‘He told me that he had a knife and that he was going to rob me.
‘He took off my jacket then tied my hands with it. Then he dragged me down to an embankment.
‘At the time, I thought he was going to mug me so I wasn’t too scared. Then he pulled my t-shirt over my face so I couldn’t see, ripped my clothes off and raped me.
In April 2017, Ms Forrester received a surprising call telling her officers had arrested a man, Eric McKenna, whose DNA matched that from the linked rape cases
‘At one point, the t-shirt slipped a little and I could see that my attacker had dark shoulder-length hair.’
Afterwards, the rapist stole Ms Forrester’s family allowance book, a set of keys and some change.
Then he warned her: ‘If you go to the police, I know who you are and where you drink.’
Oddly, he gave her back some money to grab a taxi home, before telling her to count to 100 as he fled the scene.
Afterwards, terrified Ms Forrester flagged a taxi down who took her to a nearby police station where she gave a statement.
McKenna (pictured left) was later found guilty of two counts of rape and was jailed for 23 years (pictured right, Ms Forrester)
She said: ‘After my attack, I had a breakdown.
‘I moved around several times because I was so frightened of him and had nightmares about him coming to get me.
‘I just prayed that one day I’d get justice for what happened.’
Officers realised the two rape cases were linked due to DNA captured at the crime scenes but the National DNA database wasn’t set up until six years later so they couldn’t search for a suspect.
Unfortunately, no one was caught at the time but in 2002, Northumbria Police launched Operation Phoenix, an initiative which reviewed cold cases.
Ms Forrester said: ‘Police told me that my rapist had attacked another lady five years after he attacked me but was still at large.’
But in April 2017, Ms Forrester received a surprising call telling her officers had arrested a man, Eric McKenna, whose DNA matched that from the linked rape cases.
In February 2018, McKenna was found guilty of two counts of rape at Newcastle Crown Court.
Ms Forrester, a full-time carer from Blackpool, is pictured two years after the 1983 attack