Killamarsh murders: Damien Bendall given whole life sentence for murdering mother and three children

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

A man who admitted murdering his pregnant partner and three children at a home in Killamarsh, near Sheffield last year, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Appearing at Derby Crown Court on Wednesday 21 December, Damien Bendall pleaded guilty to murdering 11-year-old Lacey Bennett, her brother John Paul Bennett, 13, their mother Terri Harris, 35, and friend Connie Gent, 11. The 32-year-old also pleaded guilty to raping 11-year-old Lacey.

He had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but denied their murders, and denied rape.

After the harrowing and distressing details of their deaths were played out in court on Wednesday, Damien Bendall was handed a whole life order by the judge, meaning he will never be released from prison.

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

The four victims were discovered dead at a house in Chandos Crescent, Killamarsh, North Derbyshire, on 19 September 2021.

Louis Mably KC, prosecuting, told the court of how each victim was attacked with a claw hammer, in different rooms of the house. Terri was in the early stages of pregnancy at the time of the attack.

Mr Mably described the attacks as "brutal, vicious and cruel", saying: "It appears the defendant went around the house looking for them and attacking them each in turn."

The court was played the recording from when Damien Bendall dialled 999 on 19 September last year to report that he had "murdered 4 people."

WARNING: Body cam footage show moments after police arrive. No footage from inside the house is shown, but some viewers may find the footage distressing.

The court was also shown CCTV and body cam footage as police arrived and spoke to Bendall at the house he shared with Terri Harris and her two children in Chandos Crescent. 

It was followed by a sound recording of officers as they went from room to room, finding the bodies of his victims.

One officer could be heard saying: "Head wound. Massive head wound. They’re gone. They’re all gone."

Police at the scene of the murders in Chandos Crescent, Killamarsh. Credit: ITV Calendar

In a police interview after his arrest, Damien Bendall told officers at Ripley police station: "The whole house is covered in claret. I used the hammer. I didn't realise what I did until I walked into my room and saw my missus and my daughter."

Connie had been staying over at the house the night before the attack and had asked permission from her mother to spend a second night (Saturday 18 September) sleeping over at her friend, Lacey's.

The court was later shown video footage of a cake sale which Connie and Lacey were hosting earlier that day to raise money for Cancer Research.

Tributes were laid in the days following the attacks in September 2021.

What also emerged was that having brutally killed Ms Harris and the children, Bendall "took John's Xbox, ordered a taxi, went to Sheffield", where he then exchanged the console "for drugs", Mr Malby said.

Bendall would later tell police he had consumed "three to four bags of cocaine and then blacked out".

"This gives an indication of the sheer callous depravity of the defendant's conduct that night," said Mr Mably.

Mr Mably KC told Mr Justice Sweeney the Crown would be seeking a whole life term for Bendall, given the gravity of the offences.

He said: "In view of all this, the prosecution's submission as to sentence is that the seriousness of the offending is so exceptionally high, it falls into the category of case that calls for the imposition of a whole life order, rather than a minimum term."

Vanessa Marshall KC said her client, who has maintained having no memory of the event, agreed he should be handed a whole life order.

She said: "His actions that night remain largely inexplicable and motiveless." She added that he had been "happy" about Ms Harris' pregnancy, which would have been Bendall's first child.

The attacks took place in September 2021 Credit: ITV Calendar

Detective Inspector Mark Shaw who helped lead the investigation for Derbyshire Constabulary, said: "The level of force and violence which was used in these attacks show they were carried out with one intention, and that was to take the lives of Terri, John-Paul, Lacey and Connie.

"They had all, by the nature of their relationship, come to trust Bendall and he took the opportunity to shatter that trust and carry out the horrendous acts. The force and weapon he used would have meant they were very quickly left them incapacitated.

"It is also impossible to comprehend the nature of the further attack on Lacey for all those involved. The families of each victim have had to endure more 15 months of unimaginable distress and anxiety, but at least today they will have some reassurance that Bendall will not be able to cause more harm."