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Sleepover Killer: Key dates and missed opportunities leading to murder of three children and pregnant woman

Timeline charts the Probation Service’s ‘unacceptable’ failure to spot threat from Damien Bendall

Liam James
Tuesday 17 January 2023 06:08 GMT
Killamarsh deaths: Damien Bendall tells police he killed four people

A formal review into probation’s handling of quadruple murderer and violent rapist Damien Bendall has laid bare a string of failures and missed opportunities in the months and years leading up to the Killamarsh killings in September 2021.

Bendall, 33, is serving a whole-life sentence for the murders of his pregnant then-partner Terri Harris, 35, her 11-year-old daughter Lacey Bennett, her son John Paul Bennett, 13, and Lacey’s friend Connie Gent, 11, attacking them with a claw hammer at their home in the Derbyshire village. He also admitted to raping Lacey as she lay dying.

The Probation Service had Bendall under supervision from 2011 and had in 2016 described him as “cold and calculated and quite psychopathic”.

Tuesday’s report into the handling of his case found that the services handling of his case was of an “unacceptable standard at every stage.

Bendall’s records showed that an ex-partner had made allegations of domestic abuse against him and a police child sexual exploitation unit had contacted probation about him a year before the attacks.

Intelligence about the risk of “serious sexual harm” the repeat offender could pose to girls was “not explored or recorded sufficiently” to inform checks to help keep children safe, inspectors said.

The report also found that probation workers decided Bendall was suitable to be placed under curfew at Harris’s house just months before he killed her and her children.

Here, The Independent has compiled a timeline of the key dates for Bendall and the Probation Service leading up to to the murders.

2004

7 January: Bendall reprimanded for criminal damage after throwing an egg at a woman’s house aged 13.

2010

20 April: He receives a caution for possession of cocaine.

Bendall as police approached him before his arrest in 2021 (Derbyshire Police/SWNS)

2011

30 June: Bendall is handed his first prison sentence after being jailed for three years for the violent robbery of a lone Asian man.

2012

16 August: He is released on home detention curfew to his mother’s house.

2015

21 August: Bendall is jailed for a further three years after the attempted knifepoint robbery of a newsagent.

Narendra Patel, who fought off Bendall when he tried to rob his shop back in 2015 (Swindon Advertiser/SWNS)

2016

10 May: Bendall commits grievous bodily harm and two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against prison officers after being denied a prison transfer.

25 May: A prison officer records that Bendall‘s ex-partner contacted the prison and disclosed domestic abuse in their relationship.

5 July: The same ex-partner contacts a probation officer disclosing domestic abuse in her relationship with Bendall and seeks guidance on how to obtain a restraining order.

12 July: Bendall‘s ex-partner contacts same probation officer to say more should be done to protect her and that she wants to speak to a manager.

20 December: He is released on licence to an approved premises.

21 December: Bendall recalled to prison for breaching licence after failing to report to approved premises.

Terri Harris with her children Lacey and John Paul, all killed by Bendall (PA)

2017

29 January: Bendall sentenced to 30 months in prison for the attacks on prison officers.

2018

31 October: He is released on licence to an approved premises.

28 November: Bendall recalled to prison due to poor behaviour at the approved premises - including staying out all night, missing curfew and drinking alcohol on site.

2019

27 June: He is refused release in a parole review and refuses to engage with parole process again.

9 August: Bendall release from prison at the end of his sentence, so no post-release probation supervision was possible.

Police outside Harris’s home in Killamarsh after the murders (SWNS)

2020

17 March: Wiltshire Police’s child sexual exploitation team contacts probation to confirm Bendall‘s last known address and say they held evidence of sexual risk of harm to girls.

9 May: Bendall commits arson in Swindon while using cannabis and alcohol.

2021

7 June: A member of the, then National Probation Service’s court team describes a curfew requirement for Bendall to live with Ms Harris and her children as “suitable” after not reading police evidence of sexual risk of harm to girls.

9 June: Bendall handed a 17-month suspended sentence with 175 hours unpaid work, 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days, a six-month alcohol treatment requirement, and a five-month curfew requirement.

6 July: Probation officer’s risk assessment of Bendall says any resumption of alcohol or drugs would increase the risk of serious harm.

Bendall buys cigarettes from a local shop after the murders and before his arrest (Derbyshire Police/SWNS)

2 August: Bendall discloses smoking cannabis and drinking strong alcohol.

13 August: Probation officer contacts children’s services asking whether a referral is suitable due to Bendall‘s cannabis use, but no formal referral is made or recommended.

10 September: Bendall sent initial warning after failing to comply with telephone probation appointment.

19 September: Bendall is arrested in connection with the murders of Terri Harris, Lacey Bennett, John Paul Bennett and Connie Gent.

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