Lisa Bennett, 39 (pictured), was killed before her body was then dumped in a wheelie bin outside the flat in Weoley Castle, Birmingham
A couple who drowned their housemate in the bath so they could fraudulently claim nearly £5,000 of her benefits have today been jailed for life.
Kevin Flanagan, 39, and Kathleen Salmond, 40, murdered 39-year-old Lisa Bennett before dumping her body in a wheelie bin outside their flat in the Weoley Castle area of Birmingham.
Her corpse was then unwittingly taken away by bin men and incinerated with other waste at a council disposal plant.
Lisa’s body was never found but Flanagan and Salmond were charged with murder after they were caught pocketing £230 a week from her benefits.
The pair managed to net a total of £4,979 while pretending that their victim was still alive.
And, in what a judge described as an act of ‘breathtaking cruelty’, they sent Lisa’s mother text messages from her phone to trick her into believing that all was well.
Flanagan and Salmond were convicted of murder following a four-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday.
Salmond was also unanimously found guilty of preventing lawful burial and fraud which were two charges Flanagan had previously admitted.
Both were jailed for life today.
Kathleen Salmond and Kevin Flanagan were convicted of murder following a four week trial at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday and both were today jailed for life
Flanagan will now serve a minimum of 32 years for murder.
He will also serve four years and ten months for preventing a lawful burial as well as eight months for fraud in sentences that will run concurrently.
Salmond will spend at least 27 years behind bars for Lisa’s death.
She will also serve six years for preventing a lawful burial and ten months for fraud concurrently.
Sentencing the pair, Mrs Justice Sue Carr said: ‘They both engaged in a sophisticated web of lies to pretend Lisa was alive.
‘With breathtaking cruelty they sent texts to Lisa’s contacts, in particular her mother, suggesting that she was still alive.
‘This was joint enterprise involving violence and exploitative deception and it had tragic consequences.
‘Both Salmond and Flanagan have refused and waived their right to attend today.
‘Neither has the courage to face the court or the full consequence of their actions in public or in particular the courage to face Lisa’s family.’
The court was told how the couple murdered Lisa in the Birmingham home on or about May 9, 2013.
The couple cooked a meal for Lisa, originally from Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, at the flat before telling her that it was her ‘last dinner’.
They then drowned her in the bath and disposed of her body before calling the Department for Work and Pensions to have their victim’s benefit payments transferred into their bank account.
Flanagan’s brother eventually told police that his sibling had confessed to carrying out the crime and the pair were arrested in February 2014 – nine months after the murder.
Lisa Bennett (pictured), who was living in the Selly Oak area of Birmingham but was originally from Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was reported missing by her mother in May 2013
Prosecutor Simon Denison QC had previously told the court: ‘It is an almost inhuman thing is it not, to treat a human body as a piece of rubbish to be thrown away.
‘These two defendants together benefited from her death, together murdered Lisa Bennett so that they could benefit as they did, and together disposed of her body.’
After the case, 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.
Kathleen Salmond (pictured arriving at court during the trial) will spend at least 27 years behind bars for Lisa’s death. She will also serve six years for preventing a lawful burial and ten months for fraud concurrently
‘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.’
David Parsons, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘Kevin Flanagan and Kathleen Salmond have received lengthy jail sentences for the brutal and senseless murder of a vulnerable woman.
‘Flanagan will be 71 years and Salmond will be 67 years before they can be considered for release.
Kevin Flanagan (pictured arriving at court during the trial) will serve a minimum of 32 years for murder. He will also serve four years and ten months for preventing a lawful burial as well as eight months for fraud
‘They befriended Lisa Bennett and then callously cut her life short causing immeasurable pain for those who loved her.
‘Lisa’s parents were deprived of the opportunity to bury their daughter and say goodbye.
‘Today, they have received life sentences for their crimes and while this can never bring Lisa back, I hope today’s sentencing brings some small comfort to Lisa’s parents who have suffered immensely due to Flanagan and Salmond’s cruelty.’
Lisa’s mother Janet Bennett paid tribute to her daughter in a statement released by police.
She said: ‘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.’