“The children had bright futures ahead of them but sadly none of us will get to see this”
A few days before their lives were tragically taken away, Lacey and John Paul Bennett were sat in their front garden raising money for charity.
Brother, 13, and sister, 11, used to like chasing each other in front of their house on the weekends. But one week on, their usual play area in Killamarsh, Derbyshire, is covered in forensic tents and police cordons.
A growing mass of tributes has been laid for mother Terri Harris, her two children, and Lacey’s friend from school, who were all found dead at home on Sunday morning.
Standing quietly by the pile of teddy bears, flowers and other tributes on Chandos Crescent, Zoe and Stephen Midgely paid their respects to their former neighbour, Ms Harris, 35, and the three young children killed with her.
Mr and Mrs Midgely were just two of a stream of mourners, friends and family members, who came to the scene near Sheffield on Tuesday.
“The kids were so polite,” Mrs Midgley remembered. “The Saturday before it happened they were sat outside selling things for a cancer charity and for them to do that, and then have this happen.”
Speaking about 11-year-old Connie Gent, she said: “You can’t imagine what that family is feeling after letting her stay. You send your children to sleep overs but you don’t think anything like that is going to happen.”
One card, left among the many tributes by a family member, read: “Connie, I can’t believe you’re gone. It doesn’t seem real. You made us all so so proud of you. We love you millions. Fly high gorgeous. Love from your big cousin Jordan and family.”
Her heartbroken father, Charlie Gent, spoke of his pain late on Monday, saying: “Parents, spend as much time with your kids as you possibly can…You never know what’s round the corner.”
He added: “My little girl has gone… Fly safe, baby girl. I love you with all my heart and always will.”
A 31-year-old suspect has been taken into custody by police in relation to the incident and they are not looking for anyone else.
Speaking at the scene, Lacey and John Paul’s grandmother, Dianne Bennett, 63, told The Independent that she wants justice for her family.
Referring to the perpetrator, she said: “I’ll be going to the trial and I’ll be looking him in the eyes.”
She added: “I worry about all my grand kids when they get older. I’m just worrying about Jason. He’s a lovely lad, so jolly, but you can’t help break ups can you.”
Jason Bennet, dad to Lacey and John Paul, was separated from Terri Harris and said he was “broken” by what had happened.
Ms Harris was living with her boyfriend and the two children in Chandos Crescent, having only moved to the area within the last few months.
Paul Rutherford, who lives next to where the family’s tributes have been laid, said: “The kids usually play in the street on a Sunday morning and that morning I didn’t see them around. To be honest I thought they might have been on holiday, it was so quiet.”
One neighbour, who lived next door to Ms Harris, told The Independent that he heard “muffled shouting” in the house on Saturday evening. He said: “It just sounded like a normal argument, something that wouldn’t really turn into anything. Something like that had happened one or twice before, but not very often.”
He said he thought the suspect was taken into an ambulance from the scene.
Police confirmed on Tuesday that the 31-year-old suspect had been briefly taken to hospital to be treated for self-inflicted minor injuries.
Ian Judson, a local community worker, lives a street away from the incident. He said: “I work with people who have mental health and social isolation issues in the local area and it is a shock.”
He added: “We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Sometimes people cry out for help and they don’t get answered. Or sometimes people don’t know how to do it, who to reach out for. We’ve lost what whole community spirit, it is coming back, but it’s too late for a lot of people.”
The children’s school, Outwood Academy City in Sheffield, also paid tribute to their pupils in a statement. They described Lacey and Connie as making “a positive impact on everyone they came into contact with” and John as a “popular and polite young man, well-liked by staff and with a close-knit group of friends.”
Adding: “The children had bright futures ahead of them but sadly none of us will get to see this.”
Killamarsh councillor, Alex Dale, mourned the “tremendously tragic loss”, adding: “The whole community is in grief but from what I’ve seen they are coming together very well. They are doing their best in extremely difficult circumstances.”