A couple who preyed upon a vulnerable woman before killing her and claiming her benefits have been sentenced to life in prison for her murder, even though her body has never been found.
Lisa Bennett was last seen at a chemist in the Selly Oak area of Birmingham on 9 May 2013. The 39-year-old was a recovering drug addict who was trying to turn her life around. Every day she would visit the chemist to take vital medication, which medical experts say she relied upon.
On 22 May 2013 Lisa’s mother reported her missing after she suspected that someone was pretending to be Lisa in text messages that were being sent from her daughter’s mobile number.
A missing person’s investigation was launched and as part of their enquiries, detectives discovered that Lisa’s benefits were being paid into a bank account held by Kathleen Salmond of Stratford Road, Sparkhill.
Subsequent enquiries made with the Department of Work and Pensions revealed that Salmond had called the DWP twice in May 2013, after Lisa had gone missing, and changed the bank account to enable her to receive Lisa’s benefits.
It transpired that 40-year-old Salmond and her boyfriend Kevin Flanagan, aged 39, had befriended Lisa and allowed her to stay at their address when she had become homeless; it was during this time that Lisa disappeared.
When Salmond was questioned about the benefits, she claimed that Lisa was still alive. She told officers that she had an arrangement with Lisa that the money would be picked up by Lisa’s new boyfriend. However no trace of a boyfriend was ever found and detectives believe Salmond and Flanagan made him up.
With no proof of life, a murder investigation was launched and the spotlight soon turned on the couple.
As part of the investigation, an examination of phone records from Lisa’s number was carried out and showed that her number was still being used months after her disappearance.
Text messages were sent to her mum from her number and were being activated in a number of phones including a green Alcatel phone linked to both Flanagan and Salmond. The data showed that phones used to activate Lisa’s sim card were also immediately used to activate Flanagan and Salmond’s sim cards.
In 2014 following an earlier press appeal with Lisa’s family, Flanagan’s brother contacted police. He told officers that his brother Kevin had confessed that he and Kathleen had drowned Lisa in the bath and dumped her body in a communal wheelie bin at the back of their flat.
He also told police that his brother had been in possession of three phones, including a green Alcatel phone when Kevin had confessed the murder to him.
Earlier this year Flanagan and Salmond were both charged with murder, fraud and preventing a lawful burial. At an interim hearing prior to the trial, Flanagan pleaded guilty to fraud and preventing the lawful burial/disposal of a body.
On Wednesday (11 December) at Birmingham Crown Court, Salmond and Flanagan were both found guilty of murder.
Salmond was also found guilty of preventing a lawful burial and fraud.
Today Kathleen Salmond and Kevin Flanagan were sentenced to life in prison. Salmond will serve a minimum of 27 years in prison and Flangan will serve 32 years in prison.
Lisa's mum Janet Bennett paid this tribute to her daughter: “Firstly may I thank the Appeals Unit with all my heart for enabling me to finally bring this case to court, I am eternally grateful to all the barristers involved for all of their hard work.
“Secondly I wish to thank Andrew Griffiths who was my MP for helping me and my family when no-one else would listen.
“Not a day goes by without me thinking of Lisa and I find myself at times talking to her, this is what kept me going. There are lots of people who loved Lisa and knew her for who she really was a kind, caring, loving and generous person who went down the wrong track.
“Lisa was vulnerable and trusted the wrong people who quite clearly took advantage of her.
“They have robbed me of the right to lay my daughter to rest, a place to go and visit, talk to her and grieve.
“I am sure she is in a better place now and happy with no more pain. I rejoice in the fact that I have now got justice for Lisa and perhaps can finally move on with life.”
Detective Chief Inspector Jim Munro, said: “Flanagan and Salmond preyed on a vulnerable woman who was trying to turn her life around, they abused the trust she put in them.
“We believe they were motivated by greed and the money they could get from Lisa’s benefits. They have still shown no remorse for what they have done.
“Lisa’s mum has fought hard for justice over the last six years and her family have endured years of not knowing what happened to her. Sadly they will never be able to put her to rest.
“I hope now they can find some comfort knowing that the pair responsible for her murder have been brought to justice."