The man responsible for the murder of three children and a woman at a house in Killamarsh has been told that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Today (21 December) Damien Bendall finally admitted murdering Terri Harris, 35, her children, 13-year-old John-Paul Bennett and 11-year-old Lacey Bennett, and Lacey’s close friend 11-year-old Connie Gent.
During today’s hearing at Derby Crown Court, the 32-year-old also pleaded guilty to raping Lacey.
Terri’s body, and the bodies of the children, were found at a house on Chandos Crescent by police who had been called to the address at 7.26am on Sunday 19 September 2021.
Bendall was outside the house, and he calmly told the two officers that they would find four bodies inside and he was quickly arrested at the scene.
Bendall had formed a relationship with Terri during previous months leading up to her murder, and they lived together at Chandos Crescent with John-Paul and Lacey.
Connie had been staying at the address for a sleepover with her friend overnight between Saturday 18 September and Sunday 19 September 2021.
Today, after previously pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Terri, John-Paul, Lacey and Connie, he admitted his guilt to the four murders and rape, and was handed a total of five whole life sentences by Justice Mr Nigel Sweeney KC.
Detective Inspector Mark Shaw who helped lead the investigation said: “The level of force and violence which was used in these attacks show they were carried out with one intention, and that was to take the lives of Terri, John-Paul, Lacey and Connie.
“They had all, by the nature of their relationship, come to trust Bendall and he took the opportunity to shatter that trust and carry out the horrendous acts. The force and weapon he used would have meant they were very quickly left incapacitated.
“It is also impossible to comprehend the nature of the further attack on Lacey for all those involved. The families of each victim have had to endure more than 15 months of unimaginable distress and anxiety, but at least today they will have some reassurance that Bendall will not be able to cause more harm.
“As an investigation team we have nothing but admiration for the way in which the families have conducted themselves, from helping the team with our enquiries through to having to relive the events through the court process. I personally would like to thank them for that.”
DI Shaw added: “The investigation was carried out by officers and staff from Derbyshire Constabulary, the East Midlands Major Crime Unit, and a large number of other specialist forensic staff and officers, the Crown Prosecution Service and counsel.
“My thanks go out to every single person involved in this operation both in the way they have diligently sought to gather the evidence and conducted themselves when faced with some of the most harrowing circumstances we have seen. Whilst we, as officers and staff members in law enforcement expect to face difficulties, no one should have to deal with such tragedy.”
“Families wish for privacy to manage the aftermath and come to terms with today’s events and hearing.”
Lord Justice Nigel Sweeney, sentencing Damien Bendall, said: “It is accepted that the seriousness of your offences is so exceptionally high the court must make a whole-life order. I agree.
“You began a relationship with Terri Harris in April 2020. During the course of that you were abusive and controlling. You took various drugs and were violent and unstable. On the evening of Saturday 18 September while with Terri and the three children you were under the influence of cocaine and cannabis.
“You carried out a brutal and vicious attack on a defenceless woman and three children during which you went around the house attacking them, hitting them multiple times about the head and upper body with a claw hammer.”