‘Sleepover’ killer admits murdering partner, three children and raping girl as she lay dying

Damien Bendall admits murdering Terri Harris and her children Lacey and John Bennett, as well as Lacey’s friend Connie Gent

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 21 December 2022 14:22 GMT
Man Charged With Killamarsh Quadruple Murder
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A quadruple killer has admitted to murdering his pregnant partner, her two children and one of their friends during a sleepover where he also raped one of the dying girls.

Damien Bendallpleaded guilty to the murder of 35-year-old Terri Harris and her children 11-year-old Lacey Bennett and 13-year-old John Paul Bennett, as well as Lacey’s 11-year-old friend Connie Gent, last year.

A court heard how the 32-year-old raped Lacey as she lay dying from head wounds he inflicted with a hammer at the house in Killamarsh near Sheffield.

Prosecutor Louis Mably KC said he carried out “brutal, vicious and cruel attacks on a defenceless woman” and children at the property where he lived with the family, and where Connie was staying for a sleepover at the time.

He told the court “none of the victims stood a chance” during the attack at the house in Chandos Crescent in September last year.

“It does appear each [victim] was attacked in a different room [and] appears he went around the house looking for them, attacking them each in turn, in order to kill them,” the prosecutor said.

The court heard Bendall killed the victims and left their bodies at the house so he could exchange an Xbox for drugs and later buy tobacco.

He phoned 999 to report he had killed four people on 19 September, and told officers who arrived at his house the same.

Bendall had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter but changed his plea to admit murder and the rape of a child under 13, during a hearing at Derby Crown Court on Wednesday.

Connie Gent died in the incident (Derbyshire Police/PA)
Connie Gent died in the incident (Derbyshire Police/PA) (PA Media)

His lawyer said Bendall wanted to receive a full life order “for taking as he did those four young lives away and in such awful circumstances”.

The court heard how text messages painted a picture of an “unharmonious and deteriorating” relationship between Ms Harris and Bendall leading up to the killings. This was perhaps linked to Bendall’s drug use and “patterns of behaviour” showing interest in other women, the prosecution said.

Mr Mably painted a picture of what happened the weekend Ms Harris and the three children were killed. He said Connie went over to her friend Lacey’s house for a sleepover on the Friday, before asking her mother if she could stay a second night.

Lacey Bennett was found dead at the house in Killamarsh
Lacey Bennett was found dead at the house in Killamarsh (Derbyshire Police)

The children spent the Saturday - the day of the attack - selling sweets outside the house to raise money for Cancer Research. The attacks happened just before or after the children went to bed that night.

After killing the mother and three children, Bendall went to Sheffield to exchange an Xbox for drugs in the early hours of Sunday, the prosecutor said.

Lacey Bennett with her brother John Paul Bennett and their mother Terri Harris who along with Lacey’s friend Connie Gent were killed at an address in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, on September 19 2021 (Family/PA)
Lacey Bennett with her brother John Paul Bennett and their mother Terri Harris who along with Lacey’s friend Connie Gent were killed at an address in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, on September 19 2021 (Family/PA) (PA Media)

The court heard an exchange with the taxi driver, who asked how his night had been. The prosecution said Bendall replied: “Yeah not too bad. Bit mad.” When asked what he had been up to, the prosecution said he replied: “Just chilling with the family really.”

Bendall returned to Chandos Crescent from the Xbox exchange shortly after 6am on Sunday and called his mother.

Damien Bendall appeared in court on murder charges and a separate rape charge
Damien Bendall appeared in court on murder charges and a separate rape charge (SWNS)

His mother later called police to tell them her son had suffered a self-inflicted wound, it heard.

Bendall also separately called 999, with this recording played to the court. “I just need to report a crime ... I’ve killed four people,” he said, before telling the call operator that police had turned up.

The murders happened in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh (PA)
The murders happened in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh (PA) (PA Archive)

Bendall could be seen showing officers wounds to his chest in footage shown to court. He then told an officer: “I’ve murdered four people.”

When asked why he killed four people, the court heard Bendall told police: “I don’t know. I blanked out. It was like I was outside my body but looking in.”

Tributes were paid to the victims at Chandos Crescent
Tributes were paid to the victims at Chandos Crescent (PA)

The prosecution read out a statement from Jason Bennett, Lacey and John’s father. “The murder of my two children has destroyed and taken my life away. Life now seems pointless ... Looking towards the future is difficult and painful,” it said.

“I won’t see them grow up. I won’t be given the opportunity to be a grandad. I’m angry their life, their future, has been taken away from them,” his statement said, adding: “As well as taking four lives, he has taken my life too.”

Angela Smith, Ms Harris’ mother, also had her impact statement read to the court. “Bendall has taken everything of me ... I wish he had taken my life and not theirs,” it said.

The murders happened in September last year
The murders happened in September last year (PA)

Bendall’s defence lawyer told the court: “It is the defendant’s instructions that despite his guilty pleas, and any arguments he might be able to advance against a full life order, his instructions are clear that nothing but a full life order is warranted for taking as he did those four young lives away and in such awful circumstances.”

She said Bendall’s actions remained “inexplicable” and “motiveless” and the defendant felt “genuine remorse”.

“The defendant hopes the knowledge he will be serving a full life sentence behind bars for the rest of his life and that every day he is having to confront and live with the demons of his actions, he hopes this will provide some justice to these families,” she added.

Bendall, of Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh, will be sentenced later on Wednesday.

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