Damien Bendall was Terri Harris’s boyfriend now he is to stand trial accused of murdering the mother and three children.
Shockingly it was heard in court today he has also been charged with raping the daughter of his girlfriend , who was 11 called Lacey Bennett. He was previously charged with killing her and her brother, John Paul Bennett, 13, their mother, Terri Harris, 35, and Lacey’s friend, Connie Gent, 11. The victims were discovered at a house in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, on 19 September. The murder charges allege Bendall killed all four over the course of the weekend “sleepover” on a day between Friday 17 September and Monday 20 September. Bendall was due before Nottingham crown court on Friday for a plea hearing, but failed to appear and the case was adjourned to 4 January at the crown court in Derby.
An inquest opening at Chesterfield coroner’s court previously heard the four died as a result of a “violent attack”. A spokesperson for Derbyshire constabulary said the provisional cause of death for the four victims had been identified as “blunt force trauma”. The coroner’s court also heard how a relative of Bendall had phoned police to say the defendant had sustained a self-inflicted stab wound. In a statement, the CPS said: “The Crown Prosecution Service has authorised a further charge for Damien Bendall, 31, after reviewing a file of evidence from Derbyshire police. He has now been charged with rape of a girl under 13. “The additional charge was today confirmed to the court at a hearing held at Nottingham crown court. All are reminded that criminal proceedings against the defendant are active and that he has the right to a fair trial.
“It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.” Family members said Connie was at a sleepover at the home of her best friend, Lacey, when they were killed. Speaking shortly after their deaths, Jason Bennett, the father of John Paul and Lacey, said: “Life will never be the same again. Families have been left broken by the awful loss of John, Lacey, Terri and Connie.” He described John Paul as “loving, fiery, funny and passionate, with the most beautiful caring heart you could find” and said Lacey was his “TikTok queen, creating dance after dance”. Giving evidence, Detective Inspector Graham Prince, of Derbyshire Constabulary, said: “At 7.26am on October 19, Derbyshire Constabulary was contacted by Dorset Police after they received a telephone call about the safety of Damien Bendall.
“The call to Dorset Police was made by a relative of Bendall’s – he indicated he had suffered a self-inflicted stab wound. “Derbyshire officers were dispatched to Chandos Crescent at around 7.39am and were met by Bendall – he said he had stabbed himself. “Following a conversation between Bendall and officers, officers entered a property and located the bodies (of Terri, Lacey, John Paul and Connie). “A short time later, paramedics arrived at the scene and they confirmed that all four were deceased. “Bendall was arrested on suspicion of the murders of all four people. “He was taken to hospital (for his self-inflicted stab wound)
Area coroner Peter Nieto was told officers were met by Bendall at the address and, following a further conversation with the suspect, entered the house where they found the bodies of the four victims. Ms Harris’s parents, Angela Smith and Lawrence Harris, also issued a statement in honour of their daughter. In it they described Ms Harris as “our world, our everything”, adding: “From the day she was born she was our princess and remained so until she was cruelly taken from us.” They said she had “made many friends throughout her short life and remained loyal to all of them” and described her as “an amazing mum” whose “babies were her world”.
They revealed that Terri Harris was a care worker and said she “would go above and beyond for the people she cared for.” Her parents added: “Terri was a fanatical West Ham fan and stayed loyal to them from a very young age. She was her mums rock throughout her illnesses and was absolutely idolised by all her grandparents. Terri idolised them back in return.” Kerry Shelton, mother of Connie Gent, described her daughter’s “amazing imagination” and said she was a girl who “was always ready to put on a show, especially at Christmas when she would write plays to act out with her brothers and sisters.” She added: “At birthdays, Halloween or at any given chance Connie would be organising, making or baking. She always made things so special.”
The day before she was killed Connie and her friend Lacey had been selling sweets for a cancer charity from a make-shift stall near Chandos Crescent. Connie’s devastated father, Charles Gent, said that the pain of her death was “indescribable”. “I wake up every morning hoping this has all been a terrible nightmare, but it’s not,” he said, “It’s the unbearable reality that my little girl has gone.” Connie, he said, “had the ability to keep everyone smiling” and “if someone was down, she could instantly make them feel ok.” Jason Bennett also spoke of his son John Paul as “absolutely my mini me”. He said: “Behind his tough exterior he was the most loving son you could wish for. His love for his mum was amazing. He just wanted everyone to be happy.”