The grandmother of two children murdered by her daughter’s boyfriend in Killamarsh has called for information on potentially dangerous partners to be more easily accessible for worried relatives.
Angie Smith has said she had been “scared” for her daughter, Terri Harris, who she believed was being controlled and domestically abused by Damien Bendall, before he fatally attacked her and three children with a claw hammer at their Derbyshire home in September 2021.
Bendall, 33, is now serving a whole-life order for the murders of Ms Harris, 35, her daughter Lacey Bennett, 11, her son John Paul Bennett, 13, and Lacey’s friend Connie Gent, 11. He also admitted raping Lacey.
Ms Smith said she had tried to convince her daughter to escape from Bendall due to his “controlling” behaviour – and believes she might have left him of her own volition if she had known the extent of his violent past.
Speaking with ITV News, Ms Smith said: “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 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.”
Ms Smith added that she considered applying to police to find out whether Bendall had a history of domestic abuse under current laws, but she was worried that her daughter would receive it and that Bendall would find out.
She has since launched a campaign, called Terri’s Fight, calling for relatives to be able to more easily access information on partners they are concerned about.
Paying tribute to her family, Ms Smith described Lacey as a “little ray of sunshine” who loved dancing and performing, and her grandson John as a “real mummy’s boy”.
This comes after a watchdog report highlighted how the Probation Service’s handling of Bendall was of an “unacceptable standard” at every stage and “critical opportunities” to correct errors were missed.
Ms Smith described this as “disgusting”, adding: “So many lives wrecked just because someone couldn’t do their job properly.”
The report, written by the chief inspector of probation, Justin Russell, said Bendall, who had previous convictions for robbery and attacking a prison officer, was wrongly categorised as a low-risk offender.
His ex-partner had also made allegations of domestic abuse against him and police had contacted probation a year before the attacks amid concern about his association with a 16-year-old girl who was in foster care.
The intelligence about the risk of “serious sexual harm” he could pose to girls was “not explored or recorded sufficiently” to inform checks to help keep children safe, according to the findings.
Two members of staff faced disciplinary action over the case.