Inquest concludes ‘stark’ failures by probation service led to death of family

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Kirsten Heaven represented the parents of Terri Harris, and the grandparents of Lacey Bennett and John Paul Bennett, instructed by Farva Butt at Taylor Rose.

Paul Clark represented the mother of Connie Gent and the father of Lacey Bennett and John Paul Bennett, instructed by Oliver Carter at Irwin Mitchell.

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Damien Bendall murdered Terri Harris, 35, and her children, John Paul Bennett, 13, and Lacey Bennett, 11; and Lacey’s friend Connie Gent, 11, in Killamarsh, Derbyshire, while on licence in September 2021.

An inquest into their deaths by Peter Nieto, senior coroner for Derbyshire, concluded at Chesterfield Coroner's Court that several serious systemic failures (as well as individual failures) on behalf of the Probation Service contributed to the murders. 

"In my judgment, there are several very stark omissions and also a very large number of individual acts or omissions that accumulatively contributed to the deaths."

"My conclusion is unlawful killing, contributed to by acts or omissions by the designated state agency for offending management in the course of Damien Bendall’s offender supervision and management.”

The Coroner has indicated that he will issue 'Reports to Prevent Future Deaths’, and that the bereaved families have made submissions to him that these should cover, among other things, domestic abuse checks, inadequate domestic abuse guidance, and child safeguarding failures.

See press coverage: BBC News, IndependentITV News, the Guardian.

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