Jailed sex offender branded ‘danger to children’ dies aged 80

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Peter Bennett
Peter Bennett was confronted on his doorstep in a live broadcast by the Stop group (Photo: Stop)

A PROLIFIC sex offender from Somerford has died four months after being put behind bars.

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Peter Bennett, who was 80, had been in Winchester Prison when he fell ill and later died at the city’s Royal Hampshire County Hospital on 15th March, the opening of an inquest heard.

Hampshire Coroner’s Court was told the post-mortem examination found the cause of death to be sepsis, cellulitis and prostate cancer.

The hearing was adjourned and a full inquest is to be held on 3rd August.

As reported in the A&T, the pensioner, of Edward Road, was sent down for five years and 10 months in early December last year at Bournemouth Crown Court by Judge Alastair Malcolm – who branded him an “adept groomer”.

The judge decided to jail him, despite being told Bennett had cancer, because he noted the defendant had committed sex offences stretching back more than five decades and already been ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life.

His latest offence involved him chatting to what he thought was a 12-year-old girl online and encouraging her to have sexual contact with her pet dog and a horse.

But unknown to Bennett, he was actually talking to a paedophile hunter from the vigilante group Stop – which subsequently called in another vigilante group to challenge him on his doorstep.

When that happened the group posted a video of the encounter on Facebook – which was seen more than 100,000 times.

Bennett was arrested and police also uncovered extreme porn on devices he owned.

Bournemouth Crown Court
Bennett was sent to prison last December at a sentencing hearing at Bournemouth Crown Court

He was charged with attempting to incite or cause a girl under the age of 13 to engage in sexualised activity, attempting to communicate with a child in sexualised terms and possessing extreme pornography.

Bennett pleaded guilty to all three matters when he appeared before Judge Malcolm.

At his sentencing, prosecutor Sadie Rizzo said Bennett’s offending began in 1963 when he indecently assaulted a female under 14, which resulted in Bennett being locked up.

He reoffended against a female under 16 eight years later and was found in possession of obscene articles, but escaped with a suspended sentence.

The defendant’s most serious offence, Ms Rizzo outlined, was an incident in 1972 when he grabbed an 18-year-old girl, drove her to a secluded spot and got her to perform sexual acts – another offence which landed him in prison.

Peter Bennett

Bennett also had convictions for indecent exposure in 1969 and in the 1980s, and in 2006 appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court after he was found to have made and distributed more than 340 indecent images of children – 68 of which were at the most serious level.

Judge Malcolm said they were “serious offences” that were exacerbated by the fact he had a “long history of offending against children who are underage”.

Judge Malcom also told Bennett: “You have been a danger to children under 16 for very many years; your first offence was in the 1960s and you have targeted children decade by decade since that time.

“As far as you were concerned there was a 12-year-old and you were getting sexual gratification by grooming her and trying to get her to commit offences of bestiality.

“You are quite clearly an adept groomer,” the judge added.

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