In 15 years as a journalist, ChronicleLive reporter Sophie Doughty thought she had heard it all. Then came the story of a woman who waited 35 years for justice…
What was this story about?
A rape victim waited 35 years for her attacker, Eric McKenna to be caught, only to be told after he was jailed that his family would be exhuming his dead dad’s body to see if DNA evidence might prove he was the real attacker.
How did you find out about this story?
I had followed the case since it came to light, and then after news broke of the family’s plans to dig up the body I traced the victim and she agreed to talk.
Can you tell us about what work went on prior to publication?
This has been a long running story for us during which our court reporter covered the trial, I then worked on background with the police, then tracked down the victim who was willing to talk and waive her anonymity.
What was the reaction after publication?
A lot of people have said to me ‘you couldn’t make this up’ or ‘this should be a film’ which shows just how bizarre and unusual the story is.
Why will you remember this story?
After 15 years in local journalism you do sometimes think you have heard it all, but this was one of those times when you realise you never have. The story of a rapist who had lived a double life for three decades was shocking enough, and the way in which he was brought to justice was fascinating, but the fact that it did not end there was so bizarre. The day they went to dig up the body I couldn’t believe it.
Did this story tell you anything about local journalism? If so, what?
While this story attracted national headlines it is the Chronicle that has stayed with it and given the victim an ongoing voice. She thanked us for allowing to tell her side. She was very keen to show that she wasn’t hiding away and she had nothing to be ashamed of and we helped her do that.
Is there any advice you could give a would-be journalist based on this story?
Always stick with a story. A great story will be great whenever you tell it. It took a few weeks to get the victim to speak, but it was worth it when she did. And always keep going with a story. This case has given us at least 10 splashes.