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Damien Bendall charged with 4 murders in Killamarsh tragedy

A man has been charged in connection with the deaths of a woman and three children in Killamarsh.

The bodies of 35-year-old Terri Harris, her 11-year-old daughter Lacey Bennett and 13-year-old son John Paul Bennett, and Lacey’s friend Connie Gent, also 11, were found at the address.

Damien Bendall of Chandos Crescent, Killamarsh, has been charged with four counts of murder.

The 31-year-old will appear at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court this morning.

Home video footage of Lacey’s 9th birthday were reminders of loving memories the brother and sister shared with their father, Jason Bennet.

The news broke on Sunday when he learnt his daughter and son along with a friend of theirs and their mother were murdered in their home.

Jason turned up to the home after learning the news and was photographed outside the property in tears.

The father has said he is “heartbroken” and “shattered” during emotional scenes at the site of the tragedy.

The man collapsed in tears as he laid flowers at the police cordon around the property in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh, near Sheffield.

He stayed at the scene for more than half an hour, clearly distraught and being comforted by a friend or relative.

Asked about his feelings as left, he said: “Heartbroken; million pieces; shattered.”

Derbyshire Police said they were called to the house at around 7.25am on Sunday and found the bodies of four people.

A murder inquiry has been launched, and one man is in custody.

It is understood three of those who died were children – two siblings and a friend.

The fourth person was a woman.

On Monday morning, Chandos Crescent remained sealed off with a number of police officers patrolling the street and many police vehicles parked in the surrounding streets.

The house is semi-detached, of a prefabricated design, with a large playing field on one side, which was also cordoned off.

There was a blue police tent in the front garden and forensics officer were conducting inquiries.

Neighbours and family of Terri Harris today claimed she had said she was expecting another child before she was killed.

Ms Harris, 35, and her two children Lacey Bennett, 11, and John Paul Bennett, 13, were found dead alongside Connie Gent, 11, on Sunday morning.

It is understood that her boyfriend Damien Bendall, 31, was taken to hospital with self-inflicted wounds before being arrested by police over the four bodies in the house in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh, Derbyshire.

Derbyshire Police said a 31-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder at the scene and remains in custody, with officers not having any prior contact with those involved.

The authorities had only been called to the scene at 7.30am amid concerns for a man – understood to be the now-arrested suspect – before finding the four victims.

Murder squad detectives are also probing activity at the property at 9.45pm the night before as questions remained over what sparked the killings.

Hundreds of mourners headed to Baker Park, a children’s play area behind Chandos Crescent, at 6.30pm for an emotional vigil to the victims.

Yesterday Mr Bennett released video tributes to his two children, calling John Paul his ‘mini me’ while sharing footage of him on a playground roundabout.

Both children were football fans and Lacey was a West Ham supporter while John loved Sheffield Wednesday. She added: ‘Lacey was a pink girl, very sparkly. John was into his computers.

‘They were the most well-mannered kids you would want to meet. Always please and thank you, if you ever bought them a present, the first thing they would do is go on Facebook and thank you.’

Meanwhile Charlie Gent paid tribute to his daughter Connie last night, saying: ‘Parents, spend as much time with your kids as you possibly can.

‘If you’re a parent and arguing please don’t stop that child from seeing the other parent.

You never know what’s round the corner.

‘I’ve learnt the hard way like most things in life and it’s too late and I don’t want anyone to ever go through what I am going through right now.

North East Derbyshire MP Lee Rowley described the deaths as ‘terrible and hugely tragic’.

Posting on Twitter, he wrote: ‘Our condolences to the family and our thoughts are with them.

‘Killamarsh is such a lovely, close knit and warm community and I know that many residents will be shocked and worried by the news. I’ve no doubt that the village will pull together at this difficult time.’

Chief Constable Rachel Swann said: ‘At 7.26am yesterday the force was called in relation to concerns for the safety of a man in Killamarsh.

‘Four minutes later, when officers arrived at the house in Chandos Crescent, they found the bodies of 35-year-old Terri Harris, her two children, 11-year-old daughter Lacey Bennett and 13-year-old son John Paul Bennett, and Lacey’s friend Connie Gent, also 11, from Sheffield.

‘The families of Terri, Lacey, John Paul and Connie have all been informed and my thoughts, along with all at Derbyshire Constabulary, are with them at this most tragic of times.

Terri Harris 35

‘This has been an understandably shocking event that has deeply affected the local community in Killamarsh, as well as Connie’s family and friends in Sheffield, and our thoughts are also with them.

‘I would also like to state my thanks to those officers who arrived at the scene with such speed as well as colleagues from the East Midlands Ambulance Service who attended the incident.

‘All acting with immense professionalism in such a difficult situation. While understandably worrying and upsetting this is believed to be an isolated incident in which those involved were known to one another and nobody else is being sought in connection with the deaths.

‘The force did not have any prior contact with those involved. The man officers arrested at the scene, a 31-year-old from Killamarsh, remains in police custody on suspicion of the murders of Terri, Lacey, John Paul and Connie.

‘A team of detectives have been working through the night to understand the circumstances that led to their deaths and I would urge anyone with any information to come forward.

‘Of particular interest is anyone who was in the Chandos Crescent area between 9.30pm on Saturday evening and 7.30am the following day and who may have information that would be helpful to the investigation.’

Detective Chief Inspector Rob Routledge, who is leading the investigation team, added: ‘We would really like to hear from anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the early hours of this morning, or has any information which they think could help with our inquiries.

Around 300 people, including many children, gathered for a vigil in a park a few hundred metres from where four people were found dead in Killamarsh, near Sheffield.

Lacey Benett, 11 and John Paul Bennett, 13, were found with their mother, Terri Harris, 35, at the property on Sunday.

Connie Gent, 11, who is believed to have been over for a sleepover with her friend Lacey also died.

Many brought flowers, teddy bears, balloons reading “RIP” and lit candles, while some were in tears as the pastor of Killamarsh Church on the Street, David Taylor, led them in a prayer.

Mr Taylor said: “What do you say at time like this? It’s so difficult.”

The pastor said: “I can’t give you any answers. I don’t have the answers.

But each one of you is here to remember four people who are no longer with us.

“And it is a day that we’ll all remember because this doesn’t happen in Killamarsh. But it has”.

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