A man who murdered a pregnant woman and three children in Derbyshire will spend the rest of his life behind bars after he was sentenced to a whole life prison term.
Damien Bendall pleaded guilty to murdering his then partner Terri Harris, her 11-year-old daughter Lacey Bennett, her 13-year-old son John Paul Bennett, and Lacey’s 11-year-old friend Connie Gent.
Warning: This article contains details of the killings that some people may find disturbing
He previously denied the murders but changed his pleas when he appeared at Derby Crown Court on Wednesday, where he also admitted raping Lacey.
The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, said the sexual offence was committed “in the grossest breach of trust” as the 11-year-old’s life ebbed away.
He said “just punishment” required that Bendall be kept in prison for the rest of his life in relation to each count of murder, and he also imposed another whole life order for the rape.
Lacey and John Paul were Ms Harris’s children from a previous relationship, and Connie had been at the house in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, for a sleepover.
Connie was only due to stay for one night, but managed to get permission from her mother, fatefully extending her stay by another night – coinciding with the attacks, the court heard.
Bendall, 32, is believed to have gone around the family home looking for his victims individually, and then attacking them in different rooms in order to kill them, the court was told.
He murdered the four victims at the house he shared with Ms Harris, 35, in what prosecutor Louis Mably KC told the court were “brutal, vicious and cruel attacks” on a “defenceless” woman and three children.
Mr Mably said Bendall attacked them with a claw hammer which he used to hit them over the head and on the upper body.
“Their skulls were smashed in” and “it was perfectly clear none of the victims stood a chance,” Mr Mably added.
He continued: “One of the dreadful facts about this case is that during the attacks, the defendant raped 11-year-old Lacey.”
Ms Harris and the three children were found dead in Chandos Crescent on 19 September last year.
After Bendall killed them, he took John Paul’s games console, then went to Sheffield in a taxi, and there he exchanged the device for drugs, said Mr Mably.
Bendall would later tell police he had consumed “three to four bags of cocaine and then blacked out”.
In an interview with officers at Ripley police station after he was arrested, Bendall told them: “I used the hammer.”
He added: “Bet you don’t usually get four murders in Killamarsh do you – well, five (murders), because my missus was having a baby.”
Mr Mably said: “On the night of Saturday September 17, 2021, stretching into the early hours of September 19, the defendant brutally and viciously murdered his then partner, Terri Harris, who is aged 35 – and was in the early stages of pregnancy.
“He also murdered Terri’s two children, by a previous partner, her 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter Lacey, and he murdered Connie Gent, also aged 11.
“She was a friend of Lacey’s who just happened that evening to be staying at Lacey’s house for a sleepover.”
After sentencing, Andrew Baxter from the CPS said: “It is hard to put into words the scale of Damien Bendall’s barbaric and horrifying actions. He went through the house looking for the victims until he had killed them all, raping one of the children in the attack.
“What he did left two families utterly devastated by grief and a community in bewilderment and shock.”
Earlier, Mr Mably told the judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, that prosecutors were seeking a whole life term for Bendall, given the gravity of the offences.
Source : BBC News