Grandmother of Killamarsh victims was ‘scared’ of quadruple killer

'I told her I was scared for her, but I didn't think this, obviously, no one would ever think this': Angie Smith, grandmother and mother to three of the Killamarsh victims, speaks to ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman

Words by Ben Chapman, Jade Liversidge and Natasha Devan

The grandmother of two children murdered in the Killamarsh tragedy says she was scared by her daughter’s boyfriend for months before he killed them.

Speaking exclusively to ITV News, Angie Smith says she believes her daughter was being controlled and domestically abused by Damien Bendall, and tried to convince her to leave him.

She’s campaigning for it to be easier for family members to get information on partners they suspect of domestic abuse.

Bendall was given a whole life prison sentence in December for murdering his partner, Terri Harris, and her children John Bennett, 13, and Lacey Bennett, 11, at their home in Killamarsh, Derbyshire, in September 2021.

He also raped Lacey and murdered her friend, Connie Gent.

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

Angie told ITV News she watched her daughter change after beginning a relationship with Bendall in the spring of 2020.

“I told her I was scared for her, that maybe I’d get a phone call one day saying he’d beaten her up," she said.

“She seemed to watch everything she said around him. He was trying to stop her from coming to see us. Her friends were messaging me saying 'we don’t hear from her any more'.

“My girl wasn’t my girl any more. He was controlling her.”

Terri knew Bendall had previously been to prison, but Angie says her daughter was convinced he had changed his ways and loved her and the children.

But she believes Terri would have left if she had known the full extent of his violent past, and that he had previously been accused of domestic abuse by a former partner.

Last week, a damning report found that probation officers had this information but failed "at every stage" to properly assess his risk to the family.

'We're just a normal family.' Angie says that if a tragedy like this can happen to her family, it can happen to anyone. Credit: ITV News

He had previous convictions for robbery and attacking a prison officer.

He was allowed to continue living with them even after an arson conviction three months before he killed them. Terri had not been consulted.

Angie said: “What if she was just waiting for that one moment to say, ‘No, this person isn’t who I thought he was?’ But that never came.”

“It’s disgusting. So many lives wrecked just because someone couldn’t do their job properly.”

Paying tribute to her family, Angie described Lacey as a “little ray of sunshine” who loved dancing and performing.

She said her grandson John was a “real mummy’s boy.”

“Terri loved those kids. She thought the world of her children and wouldn’t have put them at risk.”

Angie says in the weeks before they were killed, she considered applying to the police to find out if Bendall had a history of domestic abuse, under Claire’s Law’ which gives people the right to ask for relevant information.

But she decided not to because she was worried Terri would receive it, and Bendall might find out.

She’s started a campaign called Terri’s Fight to help victims of domestic abuse and has started a petition to make it easier for family members to receive information about partners they have concerns about.

Damien Bendall will spend the rest of his life in prison. Credit: Derbyshire Constabulary

“We can’t have anyone just downloading people’s pasts,” she said. “But someone that was really concerned, like a sister or daughter, if they could get the information. And also if people have committed crimes that are violent, that should be there as well.”

She hopes that by highlighting what happened to Terri, John and Lacey, she can help other women and relatives to spot the danger signs.

“We’re just a normal family. If it can happen to us, it can happen to anybody.

“My daughter was the eightieth person to be killed in 2021 by a violent partner. We can’t keep losing that amount of women every year to domestic violence.

“This is our love for her. And if we can extend that and help anybody else to get out of an abusive relationship, then we’ve achieved something out of this mess.”

If you need support, the following domestic violence services are available:

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