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Local News

Damien Bendall: ‘Very stark’ Probation Service failures contributed to ‘savage’ murders of mother and three children, coroner rules | UK News


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A series of “very stark” failures by the Probation Service contributed to the murders of a mother and three children by Damien Bendall, a coroner has concluded.

Bendall, 33, is serving a whole life sentence for murdering his 35-year-old girlfriend Terri Harris, her children, John Paul Bennett, 13, and Lacey Bennett, 11, and Lacey’s friend, 11-year-old Connie Gent, in September 2021.

They were attacked with a claw hammer in Killamarsh, Derbyshire, and Bendall also admitted to raping Lacey.

Inquests at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court concluded they were unlawfully killed, and senior coroner Peter Nieto said that while Bendall bore “primary responsibility” for the “brutal and savage” murders, there were “several very stark acts or omissions” by both the Probation Service and individuals that “accumulatively” contributed to the deaths.

Mr Nieto said: “In my judgment, there are several very stark omissions and also a very large number of individual acts or omissions that accumulatively contributed to the deaths.

He added: “My conclusion is unlawful killing, contributed to by acts or omissions by the designated state agency for offending management in the course of Damien Bendall’s offender supervision and management.”

The Probation Service accepted 51 separate failings at the inquests, which examined how Bendall, who had a history of serious and violent offences dating back to 2004, was classed as posing a low risk of serious harm to partners and children.

Bendall’s history and allegations of domestic abuse against a former partner and inappropriate contact with a young girl in care were missed due to a “failure to demonstrate sufficient professional curiosity”, Mr Nieto said.

“That was an important piece of information to be prominently recorded in the probation report.

“If it had been, it appears to me inconceivable that Damien Bendall would not have been considered to be high risk to children.”

A damning report published in January said the Probation Service’s handling of him was of an “unacceptable standard” at every stage and “critical opportunities” to correct errors were missed before he murdered his victims.

He had been on probation serving a suspended prison sentence for arson.

Bendall gave Ms Harris’s address for his curfew order and was living with her and her children despite previous convictions for violent crime and allegations of domestic abuse made by a former partner.

The inquests heard from members of staff at the Probation Service based in Swindon and Chesterfield, which both dealt with Bendall in relation to previous offences, who said they struggled with high workloads and stress.

The chief probation officer for England and Wales Kim Thornden-Edwards said the service was facing “significant” challenges when it was dealing with Bendall but that major changes continue to be made to prevent a similar “tragic” incident from happening again.

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Written by: lwrradio

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