Four dead at sleepover in judicial investigation ‘violent attack’

A mother, her two children and a friend who were found dead during a sleepover have all been killed in a “violent attack,” a coroner has determined.

The bodies of Connie, her friend Lacey Bennett, also 11, Lacey’s 13-year-old brother John Paul Bennett, and the mother of the siblings Terri Harris, 35, were discovered on September 19 at a property at Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh, Derbyshire. .

Damien Bendall, 31 – Mrs Harris’ boyfriend – has since been charged with all four of their murders.

Chesterfield Coroners Court learned today that Bendall’s relative had called Dorset police to say the defendant had suffered a self-inflicted stab wound.

Police officers notified a Derbyshire Police colleague who was sent to Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh, the inquest was told.

Mother Terri Harris (pictured), her two children and a friend who were found dead during a sleepover, all died as a result of a “violent assault,” a coroner’s court has found.

John Paul Bennett, age 13

Lacey Bennett, 11

The bodies of Lacey Bennett, 11, and Lacey’s 13-year-old brother John Paul Bennett, were found on September 19 at a property in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh, Derbyshire. A coroner found out today that they had been killed in a violent attack

Connie Gent (11) was the night before she was found dead with girlfriend Lacey, John and Terri Harris at a sleepover

Connie Gent (11) was found dead at a sleepover the night before, along with girlfriend Lacey, John and Terri Harris

Upon arrival, the officers were met by Bendall and discovered the four bodies as they entered the house.

Coroner Peter Nieto said the court was waiting for full autopsy reports but said they died after a “violent assault.”

Detective Inspector Graham Prince told the court: ‘At 07:26 a.m. on 19 September, Derbyshire Constabulary was contacted by Dorset Police after they received a phone call regarding Damien Bendall’s safety.

“The call to Dorset Police was made by a relative of Bendall’s. Officers from Derbyshire were dispatched to Chandos Crescent at around 7:39am and were met by Bendall.

“After a conversation between Bendall and officers, officers entered a building and found the bodies (of Terri, Lacey, John Paul and Connie).

“Shortly later paramedics arrived and confirmed that all four had died.”

Boyfriend Damien Bendall, 31, has been charged with four murders at Sunday's Derbyshire sleepover

Boyfriend Damien Bendall, 31, has been charged with four murders at Sunday’s Derbyshire sleepover

An artist's impression of Bendall as he first appeared in court this morning about the four murders this weekend

An artist’s impression of Bendall as he first appeared in court this morning about the four murders this weekend

He confirmed that Bendall was subsequently arrested on suspicion of murdering all four people and taken to hospital before going to the police station.

On Wednesday, Bendall appeared via video link at the Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court.

He spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address at a short four-minute hearing and made no plea.

The parents paid emotional tribute to the children when a vigil was held to remember them on Monday.

The three children and the parent were found dead in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, but across the county boundary in Derbyshire.

The three children and the parent were found dead in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, but across the county boundary in Derbyshire.

Charlie Gent said ‘my little girl is gone’ and ‘I don’t want anyone to ever go through what I’m going through’ after the loss of his daughter Connie.

The devastated father said he “cannot express in words or even feel or react” when asked about the attack that killed his daughter.

Meanwhile, Jason Bennett collapsed in tears as he laid flowers for his children Lacey and John Paul on the property.

Mr Bennett stayed at the scene for more than half an hour on Monday and said he was “heartbroken”; million pieces; shattered’.

Hundreds of mourners headed to Baker Park, a children's playground behind Chandos Crescent, at 6:30pm last night

Hundreds of mourners headed to Baker Park, a children’s playground behind Chandos Crescent, at 6:30pm last night

Mr Bennett, the father of two children found dead next to their best friend and mother, in the house

Mr Bennett, the father of two children found dead next to their best friend and mother, in the house

Derbyshire Police said a 31-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of murder on the spot, with officers having no prior contact with those involved.

Authorities had not been called to the scene until 7:30 a.m. out of concern for a man – believed to be the now-arrested suspect – before finding the four victims.

The homicide squad detectives are also investigating activities at the property as of 9:45 p.m. the night before — with any witnesses who heard or saw anything — while questions remained about what might have led to the killings.

Hundreds of mourners headed to Baker Park, a children’s playground behind Chandos Crescent, at 6:30 p.m. Monday night for an emotional wake for the victims.

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