Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

A coroner has slammed “several very stark acts or omissions” by the Probation Service and others that lead to a dangerous killer murdering a pregnant woman and three children.

The families of the victims of monster Damien Bendall doubled-down on the findings saying the “litany” of failures contributed to the murders of their loved ones “must never happen again”.

A coroner found that numerous systemic and individual failings within the organisation played a role in Bendall murdering his pregnant partner, Terri Harris, her children John Paul and Lacey Bennett and Lacey’s friend, Connie Gent, in September 2021.

The families of the victims, who attended throughout the two-week inquests at Chesterfield Coroners’ Court, said following their conclusion that the Probation Service had “continuously failed” to protect women and children from dangerous offenders.

Bendall was given a whole life order in December 2022 for what coroner described as the “brutal and savage” murders of Ms Harris, 35, John Paul, 13, and Lacey and Connie, both aged 11.

At the time of the murders, he was under curfew at Ms Harris’ home in Killamarsh, Derbyshire, but no safeguarding checks were carried out with Ms Harris or her children prior to it commencing or during it.

The inquests also heard that there were multiple missed opportunities in Bendall’s supervision by a number of overworked, stressed and inexperienced probation staff.

Peter Nieto, the senior coroner for Derby and Derbyshire, highlighted multiple systemic failings within the Probation Service over issues including supervision, training and auditing, which accepted 51 individual failings.

Inquests at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court concluded Terri Harris, her children John Paul and Lacey Bennett and Lacey’s friend, Connie Gent, were unlawfully killed, and senior coroner Peter Nieto said that Bendall bore “primary responsibility” for the “brutal and savage” murders.

But Sky News reports Mr Nieto added there were “several very stark acts or omissions” by both the Probation Service and individuals that “accumulatively” contributed to the deaths.

Speaking outside the court today, Oliver Carter, representing Jason Bennett – father of John Paul and Lacey – and Connie’s mother, Kerry Shelton, said the children were “kind and caring” and had been selling sweets to raise money for charity on the day they were killed.

He said: “The hardest thing for them (Jason and Kerry) to accept is how failings by the authorities exposed their children to a serious risk of harm. Jason and Kerry believe that if appropriate measures had been taken, their children would still be alive today.

“They’re adamant that decisive action now needs to be taken to address the issues identified during the course of the inquest.

“It is vital that the Probation Service takes proper action following the Report to Prevent Future Deaths which will be made by the coroner.”

Also reading a statement outside court, Farva Butt, representing Ms Harris’ parents, Angela Smith and Lawrence Harris, said: “The Probation Service failed to protect and keep our family safe. They are now gone. This must never happen again.

“Bendall is a violent and dangerous high-risk offender with a history of domestic abuse and risk to children.

“Despite knowing this, the Probation Service told the courts that it was safe for him to be curfewed to our Terri’s house.

“No-one from the Probation Service spoke to Terri to warn her about the dangers he posed to her and the children. If she had known about how dangerous he was she would never have had any involvement with him.”

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