The grieving father of a schoolgirl, 11, murdered in a devastating attack that saw a mother, her son and her daughter also killed said tonight: ‘My little girl has gone.’
Connie Gent was found dead yesterday morning in a Derbyshire house after going to a sleepover with her best friend Lacey, also 11, on Saturday.
Alongside them were Lacey’s brother John Paul, 13, and her mother Terri Harris, with a 31-year-old man arrested at the property on suspicion of all four murders.
Paying tribute to her this evening, Connie’s heartbroken father Charlie said: ‘Parents, spend as much time with your kids as you possibly can.
‘If you’re a parent and arguing please don’t stop that child from seeing the other parent.
‘You never know what’s round the corner. I’ve learnt the hard way like most things in life and it’s too late and I don’t want anyone to ever go through what I am going through right now.
‘My little girl has gone, I can’t even put into words or even how to feel or react right now. I shouldn’t even be writing this, now I have to live with the fact I was helpless to protect her as I always promised and she’s gone.
‘Fly safe baby girl I love you with all my heart and always will. Going to miss you like crazy.’
It came as questions remained over what could have sparked the appalling tragedy, with police urging witnesses from the night before their deaths to come forward.
The authorities had no prior contact with anyone involved and had only been called to the scene after a call over concerns for a man – understood to be the now-arrested suspect.
Officers arrived at the house at 7.30am yesterday morning to find Ms Harris and the three children dead. They arrested the 31-year-old at the scene.
Murder squad detectives are also probing activity at the property at 9.45pm the night previous, with any witnesses who heard or saw anything sought.
In video tributes released earlier today by John and Lacey’s father Jason Bennett, the young boy is called his ‘mini me’ in footage of him enjoying himself on a playground roundabout.
He said: ‘My heart and soul of my life. You brought me laughter everyday. A classic you this one.
‘I wish I could have been there and saved you to stop all the pain suffered and told you everything will be ok. But now I’ve suffered the worst thing any parent could go through.’
Also posted was a video of Lacey walking through woodland, with her described as the ‘apple of my eye’.
Mr Bennett added: ‘Watching you grow into a beautiful and caring young lady has made my life. There should have been many many more years watching my flower grow and grow but for now.
‘One day we will meet. Only my kids can mend this broken heart. Xxx’.
Police launched the murder investigation after emergency teams were called to the house in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh.
Detectives said the case was being treated as ‘isolated’ and that they were not looking for anyone else in connection with it.
Mr Bennett told reporters today gathered near the scene of the incident: ‘I can’t believe I’ll never see them again. I just want to hug them and kiss them. I’m heartbroken.’
He wrote earlier on Facebook: ‘I need my babies back. Life will never be the same. My angels. Won’t be long till I’m touching your cheeks, holding you close and kissing your beautiful faces. Only you two can fix me’.
In another post, he said: ‘Absolutely heartbroken my heart into a million pieces. I didn’t protect my beautiful babies enough and now they have been suddenly taken away from me.
‘I’m writing this as I’m lost and broken on a four-hour drive back home having just received heart-breaking news that my beautiful boy John and beautiful daughter Lacey have been taken away from me.’
The road in Killamarsh was cordoned off early yesterday and multiple police vehicles remained at the scene through Sunday and today with a police tent erected in a front garden.
Connie Gent, 11, was at a sleepover the night before she was found dead alongside friend Lacey, John and Terri Harris
Jason Bennett, the father of the two children who were found in the house, paid tribute to them in a number of online posts
Mr Bennett also shared a video of his daughter Lacey walking through woodlands, calling her the ‘apple of his eye’
John is affectionately called Mr Bennett’s ‘mini me’ in footage of him enjoying himself and Lacey on a playground roundabout
John, 13, and Lacey, 11, found in the house alongside their mother Terri Harris in the property on Sunday morning by police
Two children John (left), 13, and Lacey, 11 (right) were found dead in the house alongside Ms Harris and Connie Gent, 11
The devastated father of two children found dead alongside their best friend and mother at a semi-detached house
Debbie and Trevor Bennett, the grandparents of two of the victims, speaking to the media at the scene in Chandos Crescent
Emergency services at the scene in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh, near Sheffield
Jason Bennett, father of two murdered children, leaves a note at the scene of the suspected murder in Killamarsh
Jason Bennett, understood to be the father of the two children who were found in the house, paid tribute to them in a number of harrowing posts on social media last night. It is thought his two children are John, 13, and Lacey, 11, and that he was being supported by two friends today
The heartbroken grandparents of John and Lacey paid tribute to the ‘well mannered’ and ‘beautiful’ youngsters.
Debbie and Trevor Bennett arrived at the scene in Killamarsh to lay flowers in memory of the children and Lacey’s best friend, who also died in the horror.
They described John and Lacey as the ‘most polite kids you’ll ever meet’ and revealed their father had to drive home from his holiday in Devon after finding out the tragic news.
Mrs Bennett said: ‘We found out about tea time yesterday. Their dad was on holiday in Devon and he had to drive home last night knowing he had lost his children.
‘He is absolutely heartbroken. He’ll be blaming himself, there will be the ‘what ifs’. I don’t know how he will come through this.’
Mrs Bennett said both children were football fans and Lacey was a West Ham supporter while John loved Sheffield Wednesday. She added: ‘Lacey was a pink girl, very sparkly. John was into his computers.
‘They were the most well-mannered kids you would want to meet. Always please and thank you, if you ever bought them a present, the first thing they would do is go on Facebook and thank you.’
North East Derbyshire MP Lee Rowley described the deaths as ‘terrible and hugely tragic’. Posting on Twitter, he wrote: ‘Our condolences to the family and our thoughts are with them.
‘Killamarsh is such a lovely, close knit and warm community and I know that many residents will be shocked and worried by the news. I’ve no doubt that the village will pull together at this difficult time.’
Floral tributes at the scene in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, where four people were found dead
A soft toy is left among floral tributes at the scene in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, where four people were found dead at a house on Sunday
The scene in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh, near Sheffield, where four people were found dead at a house on Sunday
John, 13, and Lacey, 11, found in the house alongside their mother Terri Harris. Left, their father Jason Bennett
Jason Bennett, the father of the two children who were found in the house, paid tribute to them in a number of harrowing posts on social media
Image of Terri Harris, the mother of John, 13, and Lacey, 11, found in the house in Derbyshire on Sunday
The devastated father of two children found dead alongside their best friend and mother at a semi-detached house in Derbyshire yesterday morning wept as he laid flowers outside the property today
His two children John (left), 13, and Lacey, 11 (right) were found dead at the scene with their mother and best friend Lacey
Mr Bennett told reporters gathered near the scene of the incident: ‘I can’t believe I’ll never see them again. I just want to hug them and kiss them. I’m heartbroken’ (pictured, his daughter)
He wrote on Facebook last night: ‘I need my babies back. Life will never be the same. My angels. Won’t be long till I’m touching your cheeks, holding you close and kissing your beautiful faces. Only you two can fix me’ (pictured, his son)
An officer in a forensic suit at the scene in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh
A man has been arrested in connection with the deaths, the Metropolitan Police confirmed
A man leaves flowers at the scene in Chandos Crescent in Killamarsh
The street has now been cordoned off and multiple police vehicles remain at the scene
People living close to the semi-detached house have said the community will be ‘devastated’. Close family of the victims have been informed and are being supported by specially trained officers.
One man living close by told the PA news agency: ‘I’m shocked. I think people will be devastated.’
The man, who has lived in his home for just over a year, said he believed the family who live in the house at the centre of the investigation had been there for five or six months.
He said he was alerted by police on Sunday morning and thought: ‘God, what’s happened here?’
One local told Yorkshire Live: ‘It’s a bit of a shock, it’s usually quiet round here so you don’t usually see police, not like this anyway.
‘It’s usually quiet here, but police said ”don’t worry” to us but we don’t know anything.’
And another resident added: ‘You don’t really want to see all this on your doorstep.’
Detective Chief Inspector Rob Routledge, who is leading the investigation team, said: ‘We would really like to hear from anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the early hours of this morning, or has any information which they think could help with our inquiries.
‘No matter how small you think that information may be, please do get in touch with us.
‘It is understandably a worrying time for the community, and we would like to thank them for their patience and understanding at this time.
‘It was important to us that close relatives of those involved were informed before we could give further details about incident.
‘Residents will continue to see a large police presence in the area, and patrols are being carried out for reassurance. If you do have any concerns, please don’t hesitate to speak to them.’
Anyone with information is asked to contact the police quoting the reference 302-190921.