Couple who drowned homeless woman in a bath and dumped her body in a bin jailed for life

Kevin Flanagan, 39, and his girlfriend Kathleen Salmond, 40, killed Lisa Bennett, far right, before dumping her body in a wheelie bin in 2013. (SWNS)

A couple who conspired to drown their housemate in a bath before fraudulently claiming her benefits have been jailed for life.

Kevin Flanagan, 39, and Kathleen Salmond, 40, murdered vulnerable Lisa Bennett, 39, before dumping her body in a wheelie bin outside their flat in Birmingham in 2013.

Her corpse was then unwittingly taken away by bin men and incinerated with other waste at a council disposal plant. Her body has never been found.

Prosecutors said that the pair "callously cut her life short" and even sent Lisa's mother messages off her phone in a bid to trick her into thinking her daughter was alive.

Flanagan and Salmond were charged with murder after they were caught pocketing Lisa's £12,000-a-year benefits.

They were claiming £230 a week to spend on drugs and managed to net a total of £4,979, the court heard.

Salmond, 40, was jailed for a minimum of 27 years while Flanagan, 39, will serve at least 32 after both were found guilty, following a four week trial at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday.

Vulnerable Lisa Bennett went missing in May 2013. (SWNS)

Salmond was also unanimously found guilty of preventing lawful burial and fraud - two charges which Flanagan had previously admitted.

Sentencing, 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.

Salmond, here outside court, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years. (SWNS)

"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."

Flanagan of Kings Norton, Birmingham, was also handed four years and ten months for preventing a lawful burial and eight months for fraud - to run concurrently.

Salmond of Hodge Hill, Birmingham, will serve six years for preventing a lawful burial and ten months for fraud concurrently.

The court was told how the couple murdered Lisa in the Weoley Castle area of Birmingham on or about May 9, 2013.

Kevin Flanagan, 39, and netted £4,979 in benefits while maintaining the pretence their victim was still alive.

They cooked her a meal in the flat before telling Lisa, originally from Burton-upon-Trent, it was her "last dinner" and drowned her in the bath.

They called up the DWP to have their victim's benefit payments sent into their bank account.

Flanagan's brother told police his sibling had confessed to carrying out the crime.

The pair were arrested in February 2014 - nine months after the murder.

Prosecutor Simon Denison QC had 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.

"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."

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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.

“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.”