Whole life imprisonment order for Killamarsh family murders
A drug user living in Killamarsh in Derbyshire has been given a whole life sentence for the murder of a family and a young girl staying with them on a sleepover.
Damien Bendall, a man with a violent past and string of previous criminal convictions, killed Terri Harris (35), her two children John-Paul and Lacey Bennett (13 and 11 respectively) and Lacey’s friend, Connie Gent (11) on the night of 18 September 2021. That night he also raped Lacey Bennett.
After he had killed the victims, Bendall took a taxi to Sheffield to exchange John-Paul’s games console for more drugs. On the then 31-year-old’s return to Killamarsh, He contacted his mother, which resulted in the police attending the house just after 7.30am the following day. He disclosed to the officers attending the scene that he had killed four people.
Bendall was charged with murder in September 2021 and a further charge of rape added to the indictment that November after forensic evidence was received. Today, 21 December, he pleaded guilty at Derby Crown Court to all charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life tariff.
Bendall had been in a relationship with Ms Harris for some months, and she was in the early stages of pregnancy. He had followed the family to live in Killamarsh when they moved from Sheffield. He continued to use drugs during their relationship, manipulating Ms Harris into funding his habit and supporting his lifestyle, which became increasingly unstable as time progressed.
Andrew Baxter from the CPS said: “It is hard to put into words the scale of Damien Bendall’s barbaric and horrifying actions. He went through the house looking for the victims until he had killed them all, raping one of the children in the attack. What he did left two families utterly devastated by grief and a community in bewilderment and shock.
“I offer my heartfelt sympathies to the families of Terri, John-Paul and Lacey and Connie, who have suffered an unimaginable ordeal, and who still have waited patiently and with great dignity to see justice done. My thoughts are with them.
“I would also like to thank my dedicated legal team who worked tirelessly on the case to ensure this offender won’t harm anyone else.”
Building the case:
The CPS has been prepared for trial from an early stage. There was no doubt that Damien Bendall was responsible for the deaths of the victims. He admitted that he had killed them when officers first came to the address. The issue for trial was whether he had been in control of his actions when he carried out the killings.
Bendall’s defence put forward theories that his judgement was psychologically impaired. He later claimed his actions were influenced by a brain injury sustained some years ago. Extensive neurological tests did not show this to be the case. Throughout the process, the CPS instructed its own medical experts to assess whether the arguments had merit, which they did not.
When all medical angles had been exhausted, the evidence that he had murdered all four victims with no impairment to his actions was overwhelming and Bendall admitted all charges.
During the sentencing hearing, the CPS made representations that, due to the seriousness of this offending, a whole life tariff was not merely justified, but was necessary in this case.
Notes to editors
- Andrew Baxter is a Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor at CPS East Midlands.