Killamarsh deaths: Connie Gent's father pays tribute to 'shining star'

Connie Gent's father paid tribute to his "shining star", ITV News Midlands Correspondent Ben Chapman reports

The father of an 11-year-old girl found dead in a house along with her best friend has paid tribute to his "shining star".

The body of Connie Gent was discovered at a property in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, on Sunday morning.

Also in the property in Chandos Crescent were the bodies of Lacey Bennett, 11, John Paul Bennett, 13, and their mother Terri Harris, 35.

Derbyshire Police said the bodies were found after police responded to a call about concerns for the safety of a man at the property at 7.26am.

Clockwise from top left: Connie Gent, John Paul and Lacey Bennett, and Terri Harris.

On Wednesday, a 31-year-old man appeared in court charged with the murder of the four victims.

Damien Bendall, of Chandos Crescent, was remanded in custody after appearing at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court, by video link to the county’s Ripley police headquarters.

In a statement issued to ITV News in tribute to his daughter, Connie's father, Charlie Gent, said he feared he had let his daughter down.

"Connie was such a special and sweet little girl," Mr Gent said. "She was my little sidekick. She was my rock, my shining star, my angel. I feel like I was her hero, and I let her down. "Connie liked her music and she loved to sing. She also loved TikTok. She touched everyone she met.

"Lacey was her best friend. All she ever did was talk about her, when she came to stay at mine.

"We used to argue about silly things, like who would have the last chocolate. She was grateful for everything and she didn’t expect anything.

"She was one of the nicest girls you would ever meet. The hardest thing is I’m not going to get to hold her again."

Connie Gent, 11, was staying over at her friend's house for a sleepover when the tragedy happened

Bendall, who appeared via video link on Wednesday sitting on a chair wearing a grey sweater and jogging bottoms, spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address.

He was ordered to appear at Derby Crown Court on Friday by Deputy District Judge Gary Garland.

Father Jason Bennett and his two children, John Paul and Lacey.

Jason Bennett, John Paul and Lacey's father, paid tribute to the victims on Facebook: "Life will never be the same. My angels.

"Absolutely broken my heart into a million pieces."

The children's grandparents Trevor and Debbie Bennett also said they were "heartbroken" as they struggled to hold back tears at the site of the tragedy on Tuesday.

"We're just devastated", they said, stood outside the house where the bodies were found.

"They were the most well-mannered children you would ever meet.

"They always remembered their manners, always please and thank you."

'Why? Why take the kids? We're just heartbroken,' The children's grandparents said as they fought back tears

Ms Bennett said John Paul wanted to be an engineer and Lacey “was just a girly-girl”.

As well as paying tribute to the children, Ms Bennett, Jason Bennett's mother, spoke of her "worries" for her son.

“I know we’ve lost somebody but he’s lost even more," she said.

Around 300 people gathered for a vigil in a park near the family's home on Monday evening.

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.”

Members of the public attend a vigil near to the scene in Chandos Crescent, Killamarsh Credit: PA

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".

Outwood Academy City in Sheffield released a statement on Tuesday saying it was "devastated" at the loss of three of its students.

The statement read: "Our hearts are broken after this weekend's tragic news, and we would like to offer our deepest sympathies and condolences on behalf of everyone at Outwood Academy City to the families of those affected.

John-Paul and Lacey's mother Terri Harris, 35, was also found dead at the home

"The children had bright futures ahead of them but sadly none of us will get to see this. The school community will remember them fondly."

The school continued: "Our school community is shocked and we are all grieving together. Specialist support is available in school for anyone who needs it and we are thankful to the support we have received from the Police, Sheffield City Council and the wider community.

"We are working closely with Woodhouse West Primary who have been equally as affected by this tragic event and wish to thank them for their support.

"We will remember John Paul, Lacey and Connie fondly and the significant contributions they made to Outwood Academy City in their time with us.

"Our community is hurting right now, but as we often say, we are a family at Outwood Academy City and we will be doing everything that we can to support our students, staff and families during this traumatic time."