Man appears in court charged with murder of mother and three children in Killamarsh

Tributes left at the scene of the tragedy in Killamarsh, Derbyshire Credit: PA

A 31-year-old man has has appeared in court charged with the murder of a mother and three children in Killamarsh, Derbyshire.

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.

The bodies of John Paul Bennett, 13, Lacey Bennett, 11, their mother Terri Harris, 35, and Lacey's friend Connie Gent, 11, were discovered at a property in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, on Sunday morning.

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.

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

Grandmother Diane Bennett, Jason Bennett's mother, also paid tribute to the children: “They were beautiful, well-mannered, did anything for anybody.

“But at the moment it’s my son I’m worried about. I know we’ve lost somebody but he’s lost even more.”

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

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

Connie’s father Charlie Gent paid tribute to his daughter, writing a Facebook post which read: “Parents – spend as much time with your kids as you possibly can.

“If you’re a parent and arguing, please don’t stop that child from seeing the other parent.

“You never know what’s round the corner… I’ve learnt the hard way, like most things in life, and it’s too late.”

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."