John Douglas Bennett
Sex attacks on ten women in 16 years, starting when he was 15. Attempted murder of his last victim in 1986 after abducting and raping her. She was saved only by a freak accident. Bennett has come up for parole since 1993!
From Christchurch Press article 17th February 2001
This serial sex attacker began attacking women - 10 in 16 years - when he was 15 and ended, for now, with the bizarre 1986 abduction, rape, and attempted murder of a Christchurch woman who was forced to dig her own grave. The woman was saved from death only when her unconscious, naked, bound and gagged body was thrown clear from the boot of Bennett's car in a freak accident. The woman worked at the same shop as another victim who Bennett had abducted and attempted to rape in 1974.
From Christchurch Press article 29th December 1997
Abducted and severely beaten, a Christchurch woman was made to dig her own grave. Twelve years later, Lolett Newman has a message of survival. She talks to Vivienne Oakley. Falling from the boot of a car, unconscious, naked, bound, and gagged, probably saved Lolett Newman's life.
After being abducted at knifepoint from a Christchurch sex shop she was so badly injured by her kidnapper that her own husband could not identify her in hospital. Ironically, the car accident alerted the police to her plight and she survived to tell the tale. Her message of survival for others is that while you never get over it, you learn to live with it. There are days now, nearly 12 years on, when she does not think about her attacker. The days, weeks, and years may have rolled by since Lolett Newman was abducted from the shop where she worked, but the scars still linger, both on her body and soul.
She has been determined, however, for her family, marriage, and sanity not to become additional victims of the crime. She was taken at knifepoint from a central Christchurch sex shop, where she had had a part-time job for a week. The man who abducted her had been released from prison only five weeks before, and Lolett Newman was to be his 10th female victim in 16 years. John Douglas Bennett was 31 when he attacked Lolett. Now aged 43, he is still in jail. After pleading guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual violation, attempted murder, abduction, and theft, he was sentenced to the indefinite prison term of preventive detention. After serving seven years of his sentence he was entitled to go before the Parole Board. He has that right each succeeding year, but so far parole has been denied. Lolett Newman has never been told of his whereabouts, of his parole hearings, or if he will ever be released.
Following Bennett's sentencing, the then Minister of Justice, Geoffrey Palmer, said he might never get out. Bennett's lawyer submitted at the sentence hearing that society had failed Bennett, and the responsibility for his crimes was not all his. Lolett Newman, and her husband, Kelvin, believe that one day someone will decide that Bennett can be released. They also believe there will be another victim, but this time she will be killed. They are unsure how they will cope if Bennett is released. Lolett says it is something she will have to deal with at the time. The couple had been married just five years when she was abducted. Lolett Newman had been a factory worker until the birth of the couple's first child. When he was a toddler she decided to go back to work, but she wanted something better than a factory job.
When the part-time job in the sex shop was advertised, she and friends treated it as a bit of a joke. She applied for the job and discovered the hours of work were highly suited to a working mum. ''People associated that type of shop with prostitution, but I was a normal mum trying to do something to make a better life for my family. ''I never intended to stay there.'' What she did intend was to use the job to gain some experience and then move on. On Wednesday March 5, 1986, she was due to work her first full day because another staff member was sick. Bennett turned up as she opened the shop. After finding car keys he forced her to drive her husband's car to Birdlings Flat. There he made her help dig what she thought was her own grave. She was forced to remove her clothing and jewellery. He hung her from a water tank, kicked her feet from under her, and she lost consciousness. Her next recollection was waking up in hospital.
What transpired in between can only be reconstructed, based on the injuries she received. They included a cut to the back of her neck, a cut to the back of one knee, and deep grazing. Lolett and Kelvin believe Bennett tried to dismember her unconscious body. Kelvin believes Bennett was repulsed by what he was doing and could not look his victim in the face so he cut her while she was face down. Unsuccessful, he put her in the boot of the car and drove off, some believe to dump Lolett Newman in a river or obscure place where she would not be found. On Birches Road , near Lincoln , a rear tyre on the car blew out. It was a tyre that had had a slow leak, but rather than getting it repaired Kelvin had been reinflating it every couple of weeks. The car rolled several times, the boot popped open, and Lolett's unconscious, naked body, flew clear of the car. A member of the public witnessed the accident and called the emergency services.
Lolett Newman's father-in-law and husband's boss were the first taken to her hospital room to identify her. Neither could because of the extent of her injuries. Kelvin was also unsure that it was her. The extent of her injuries left him so shocked he had to be physically carried from the room by two police officers. "I said to one of the cops `how could anyone have done this to her'. He (Bennett) never entered my thoughts at that time beyond that. I was just thinking how are we going to get through this." "After getting over the shock of it happening, there was a feeling of 'why didn't I stop this from happening'. "Kelvin says the crime totally destroyed his perception of what his role was as a male. "Depending on the way you're brought up you think of yourself as the breadwinner, the protector of your family. "All of a sudden my role as the protector was taken away. I felt I had let her down because I did not stop this from happening. "Eventually you have to get to the point where you accept there was nothing you could have done."
He says their relationship changed and adapted to the situation, but both clearly acknowledge that communication was the key to that. "When Lolett came home from hospital I thought 'Do I get into bed with her or go into a separate room. What do I do?' There's no-one to tell you things like that.
"In the end I asked her. I had to learn that what may have been acceptable behaviour before, may not be now. "Early on the couple acknowledged that their lives had changed and there was no going back to "normality". Both experienced a grieving process for what had been lost. Kelvin says he used to blame everything that went wrong in their relationship on Bennett, until one day Lolett pointed out that they could not keep doing that. Lolett Newman says talking has been the biggest factor in keeping their marriage together and them both sane. She has no problem openly discussing what happened to her and says that has been the best thing for her to do.
"Some of our friends had a bigger problem discussing it than I did. I think that was because they did not know what to say. I think it's easier now for them." Lolett says she'll never get over what happened to her, but has learned to live with it. "It's always there. There's the odd day now when it doesn't come into my mind." She went back to Birdlings Flat about a month after the crime as part of a healing process. "When it was happening and even afterwards it all felt like a big dream. I had to go back to really see where we were." She says she has been determined that Bennett would not get the better of her; that he would not continue to destroy her life. Vivid are Lolett's memories of the kindness of others afterwards. Cards, letters, and flowers were sent by complete strangers around the country. Lolett wishes now that she had replied to all those people, but she was not up to it at the time. On her first trip to town, with her eyes completely red because of the assault, she decided to buy a pair of sunglasses.
"People were looking at Kelvin, and I joked that they thought he'd been beating me up. We went into a shop to buy some sunglasses. When I told the guy who I was he gave them to me for free. "People who asked me what had happened I didn't have a problem with. The ones that made me angry were those whispering behind my back." Lolett jokes that she's made of tough stuff, but the petite blonde has always relied on her sense of humour to get her through. She was cracking jokes in hospital only 24 hours after the attack, leaving people unsure how to react. There have been some scars which time and jokes will not heal. There are physical scars on her neck, legs, and face. There was a discussion about the possibility of plastic surgery for the one on her face, straight after the assault, but that meant a return trip to hospital, which she could not cope with. Most of the physical scars are not obvious and Lolett says she does not notice them any more.
The more lasting scars are the emotional and personality changes. Lolett could never work in a shop again or in any situation where she was left alone. She is fearful of going out at night, even though the crime occurred during the day. And she worries about being overprotective of her children, especially her daughter, as they approach their teenage years. She used to have "a very real problem" around the anniversary date of the crime. That problem manifested itself in depression, she says. Kelvin says the word "depression" doesn't begin to cover it. It was an emotional roller-coaster.
There have been positive milestones along the way, such as having their second child. Lolett says that after the abduction she wondered why anyone would want to bring a child into the world. She referred to her second child as the "light at the end of the tunnel" because the pregnancy signified that she wanted to go on with life and her family.
Other milestones included Kelvin's return to work, Lolett's return to factory work when her daughter was aged five, and moving house. All were positive steps forward for the family, Kelvin, and Lolett. The message they want to reiterate is that victims can get on with their lives. For this suburban Christchurch couple, talking to each other was the key factor. "Discussion was all important, but I also started writing down the things I could not say."
Writing down the emotions and issues made it easier for both to talk, and talking kept them together. When Lolett Newman was abducted, there were no victim support agencies in Christchurch . Now there are two, one of which is funded by the courts
Date of Birth
Multiple rapes, abduction, attempted murder up to March 1986
Has attacked ten women since he was 15
Sentenced to preventive detention (7 years non parole at that time) before August 1987
Was released January 2007, recalled July 2007
Parole declined March 2009
Last known hearing February 2010
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OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
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