A couple have been convicted of murdering a homeless woman, who they drowned in their bath before claiming her benefits.
Kevin Flanagan was charged, alongside his girlfriend Kathleen Salmond, with killing Lisa Bennett after Flanagan’s own brother told police his sibling had confessed to carrying out the crime.
Salmond, who appeared at trial via video link from a bed, was also found guilty of benefit fraud between May 8 and 31 2013 and preventing 39-year-old Miss Bennett’s burial – charges Flanagan previously admitted.
Flanagan, of Redbrook Covert, Kings Norton, Birmingham, and Salmond, 40, of Farnhurst Road, Hodge Hill, Birmingham, were convicted on Wednesday after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court.
Jurors heard how the victim was told she would be eating her “last dinner” while afterwards her body was “callously” dumped in a wheelie bin, in 2013.
The remains were then “incinerated” at a community waste facility, prosecuting barrister Simon Denison QC told the jury of nine men and three women
No trace of Miss Bennett’s body has been found.
Salmond, who is now largely confined to a bed or wheelchair, and Flanagan carried out the killing at their flat in Weirbrook Close in Weoley Castle, Birmingham, on or around May 9 2013.
The jury heard how the defendants then “reaped the benefit of Lisa’s disappearance”, after Salmond phoned the Department for Work and Pensions, pretending to be Miss Bennett, and arranging for £230 benefit to be paid into her own account.
Flanagan also used the victim’s phone to text her mother “to make her believe that nothing had happened and Lisa was alive”, prosecutors said.
When questioned over the disappearance, the couple “calmly” told police Miss Bennett was “alive and well” and that she had asked them to transfer her benefits into Salmond’s account.
The pair also claimed a fictitious boyfriend of Miss Bennett’s, who they named Ian, was collecting the cash each week.
Jurors were told Miss Bennett was a drug and alcohol addict, and last seen collecting her prescribed heroin substitute from a pharmacy.
Under cross-examination from Salmond’s barrister, Flanagan insisted he told his brother Miss Bennett “died from an overdose”.
But jurors convicted 39-year-old Flanagan, and his co-accused, after a trial lasting just over three weeks.
As he was found guilty, Flanagan, who had numerous previous convictions going back more than 20 years for theft, robbery, shoplifting, did not react.
Salmond, who has a history of offending going back to 2010 with convictions for assault and battery, did not appear to move in her bed as the verdicts were returned.
Opening the case against the defendants, Mr Denison said: “Lisa died in their flat, on or around May 9 2013. Her body has never been found. She has no grave.
“The prosecution case is that the defendants murdered her, and then callously disposed of her body in the communal bins opposite their flat, where it lay undiscovered before the bins were emptied and the contents were taken to the council waste disposal facility a few days later.
“There, her body was incinerated with the community’s waste.
“What they did, we suggest, was carry out a plan – to kill her, to conceal her body so it wouldn’t be found, to lie and lie and lie in pretending that she was alive, and to take her money for themselves.
“It is an almost-inhuman thing to do, is it not, to treat not just a human body but the body of someone they knew, as a piece of rubbish to be thrown away.”
The couple’s crimes were only uncovered when Flanagan’s brother came forward in 2014, after seeing a televised public appeal for information about Miss Bennett.
Mr Denison said: “When he saw the TV appeal he realised what his brother had told him was true, and seeing Lisa’s mother not knowing what had happened to her daughter – when he did know – had affected him to the extent that he had to come forward, even though he said he loved his brother.”
The pair will be sentenced on Friday.