[A] double rapist is today behind bars after he urinated in a neighbours plant pot and his DNA linked him to the sexual assaults – 30 years after they were committed.
Eric McKenna, 59, has been jailed for 23 years after he was convicted by a jury last month of two separate stranger rapes in Gateshead and Newcastle in the 1980s.
The first attack took place in April 1983 after the sexual predator targeted a 21-year-old woman as she walked home near to the High Level Bridge in Gateshead.
He pushed her down a grassy bank and raped her before fleeing the scene. The victim reported it to police but detectives were unable to identify the attacker and nobody was ever arrested.
It wasn’t until five years later that McKenna struck again as he targeted an 18-year-old student as she walked through the Manors area of Newcastle in March 1988.
She also reported the rape to police but detectives never connected the two incidents and were unable to identify McKenna as the person responsible.
It wasn’t until 2016 that McKenna emerged as a suspect when he was arrested by neighbourhood officers for urinating in a neighbours plant pots following a dispute.
He was cautioned for a harassment and routine DNA swabs were taken following the incident.
However, when they were processed in the police system they flagged up as exact matches for DNA recovered in the two historic rapes.
McKenna, of Clarewood Court, Newcastle, was arrested by police and “did not flinch” when the offences of rape were put to him. He denied all charges but was convicted by a jury last month
And now he has been jailed for 23 years by a judge at Newcastle Crown Court.
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.
“In the 1980s we did not have the same forensic techniques available that we do now and we have secured a conviction thanks to those developments.
“McKenna thought he had got away with his crimes but a neighbourly dispute and a moment of stupidity has landed him in prison for 23 years.
“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.
“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.
“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.”