Apology won’t bring my daughter back, says father of Killamarsh victim

Connie Gent's father spoke with ITV News Midland Correspondent Ben Chapman about the pain of not being able to bring back his daughter

The father of an 11-year-old girl murdered while on a sleepover says he feels angry and let down after a report exposed multiple failures by probation services responsible for monitoring her killer. Connie Gent was among four people brutally murdered by Damien Bendall in Killamarsh, Derbyshire, in September 2021. The Chief Probation Officer has apologised to the families after an independent review found the probation service failed “at every stage” to assess and manage Bendall’s risk.

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

Connie’s father Charlie Gent, speaking exclusively to ITV News, described the handling of Bendall’s case as a “calamity”. Of the apology he said: “Nothing will be enough. You can’t bring Connie back. The damage has been done. The way forward now is to prevent it happening to anybody else.” Connie had been staying over with her friend, Lacey Bennett, 11, who was raped by Bendall. Bendall murdered the two girls along with Lacey’s brother, 13-year-old John Paul, and their mother, Terri Harris. Ms Harris, who was pregnant, was Bendall’s partner. He had been allowed to stay at the house under curfew after being convicted of arson, despite a violent past.

Charlie Gent condemned the serious probation failings that took place over quadruple killer Damien Bendall

Probation officers had failed to take into account previous concerns about domestic abuse and Bendall’s danger to young girls. “When you look back at his record,” Mr Gent said, “He’s been inside on numerous occasions for different things. There should have been way more checks. “It’s a massive let down. The whole system is broken. If they’d just done a basic PNC [police national computer] check, maybe they’d still all be here. It could easily have been prevented. “Four people have died. It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s completely destroyed families.”

The chief inspector of probation, Justin Russell, said he continues to have “deep concerns” about the way the Probation Service assesses and manages the risk of harm. His report identifies “common issues” of inexperienced staff and overworked managers. “How many other people have slipped through the net?” said Mr Gent. “How many more mistakes have they made?” In a statement, the Prisons and Probation Minister, Damian Hinds said: "The extra funding of £155 million a year we have put into the Probation Service is being used to recruit thousands more frontline staff and to ensure domestic abuse and child safeguarding checks are always carried out before any offender is given a curfew. "The Probation Service has also improved information sharing with police and councils, so no family is put at such significant risk again."

It was one of the biggest news stories of our time - and it's still not over. So what did Boris Johnson know about Downing Street’s notorious parties? With fresh revelations from our Number 10 sources, in their own words, listen to the inside story...