Murder of Breck Bednar
Breck Bednar (17 March 1999 – 17 February 2014) was a 14-year-old English boy who was murdered by 18-year-old Lewis Daynes. Bednar knew Daynes only through online gaming and had never met him in person until he visited Daynes's flat in Rosebery Road in Grays, Essex, England.
Bednar was a student at St Bede's School in Redhill in Surrey, and a member of the Air Training Corps 135 Squadron also in Redhill. He attended St John the Evangelist church in Caterham. His mother described him as relaxed and warm-hearted, with many friends with whom he played games online after school, and passionate about computing.
Bednar's parents, Barry Bednar and Lorin LaFave, were born in the United States. The family moved to England from the United States seventeen years before the murder. Barry Bednar, 49, is an oil trader and shipping consultant, described by some sources as a millionaire. Lorin LaFave, 48, is a teaching assistant. The Daily Mail reported that the couple had divorced in 2006 and that Lorin LaFave was living as a single mother with the four children in their family home in Surrey. The London Evening Standard reported that the family lives with their three children – Breck's younger siblings Carly, Chloe and Sebastian – in a family home in Caterham.
Circumstances of death
It was reported that Bednar's mother, Lorin LaFave, "limited his access to electronics, installed parental controls and forbade him from using the same server as a boy she had grown suspicious of." She recalled, "His personality was changing and his ideology was changing and he was starting to refuse to attend church with us. I felt like it was because of the negative influence of this person." According to the Daily Mail, Bednar had been introduced to the 'exclusive' six-person online gaming club at a church youth group. Bednar's mother described Lewis Daynes as controlling the group, with the power to expel members, owning and controlling an Internet chat channel on which members would communicate by voice. She told the Daily Mail that Daynes had told her son improbable stories, such as donating $2.5 million in bitcoin to Syrian rebels, and had told members they did not need to finish school because he would arrange £100,000 computer technology jobs for them.
In December 2013, a relative of Bednar placed a call to Surrey Police expressing concerns around online grooming. LaFave said she warned British police that her son was in danger. Nonetheless, it was reported, "The teenagers had been playing games online for several months, despite LaFave's efforts to put an end to their relationship."
Bednar travelled by taxi to Daynes' flat. On the day of his death, LaFave's former husband, with whom he had been expected to spend the weekend, sent a text message to tell her that the boy had not arrived. A few hours later his siblings, 12-year-old triplets, began to receive messages that their brother had been killed, describing photos of Bednar that had been posted to social media, which were soon confirmed by the police. The photos, showing Bednar's body, were posted to other members of the six-person online gaming group. Word spread, leading to a friend's text message to one of the triplets, "Is it true about your brother? If it's true, it's so sad." At the same time, police were telling Bednar's parents the news that their son had been murdered.
Police and paramedics were called to the flat where Bednar was found with stab wounds to his neck, but were unable to prevent him from dying at the scene.
According to BBC News, "Lewis Daynes, 19, of Rosebery Road, Grays, was due to stand trial at Chelmsford Crown Court on a charge of murder but admitted the offence" before the jury was sworn. Sentencing by Mrs Justice Cox was scheduled for 12 January 2015. Daynes, an unemployed computer engineer, was believed to have met Bednar while playing online video games. The Daily Telegraph described Daynes as a 'baby-faced killer' who looked 'much younger than his 19 years'. Daynes was reported by the Daily Mirror to have grown up as an only child, and after his parents split when he was 16 he lived alone in a flat owned by his grandparents; his neighbours described him as 'reclusive'.
Prosecutor Richard Whittam, QC, told the court, "The prosecution case was that at the time of his murder Breck was aged 14. The law makes specific provision for the murder of a child involving sexual or sadistic motivation. The prosecution have advanced the case on that basis and anticipate doing that again on the date of sentence."
Simon Mayo, QC, mitigating, said Daynes had Asperger syndrome which "affects his ability to make sound judgments." Mayo also argued that there was not enough evidence to prove that the murder had been premeditated.
Daynes was given a life sentence with a minimum 25-year term. Crown Prosecutor Jenny Hopkins said: "Our case was that Lewis Daynes, even though he was only 18 when he committed Breck's murder, was a controlling and manipulative individual who carefully planned this crime. [...] The degree of planning and manipulation by Daynes is shocking and when you consider the young ages of perpetrator and victim, it stands out as one of the most cruel, violent and unusual cases we have dealt with."
Bednar's family established The Breck Foundation to raise awareness of online dangers and promote responsible use of the Internet. His mother was quoted by the BBC: "I want Breck's tragedy to open the eyes of everyone to recognise the dangers of online predators. It is a very real danger today. We all need to look after each other." His mother asked his favourite band, Coldplay, to help raise awareness of online dangers. She told ABC News, "People think it only happens to anti-social kids, but it's just not true."
Ms LaFave has called for "more help from the government for online safety", saying that she had expected more feedback from Surrey Police and adding, "I also wasn't recommended to contact CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre), which I found out – when it was too late – is a really great agency that would help parents."
After Daynes' plea in court, Assistant Chief Constable Gavin Stephens said the handling of Bednar's case by Surrey Police had been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC): "Following Breck's death we carried out a review of practices in our call handling centre and implemented changes to improve the way information is handled and shared. Due to the prior contact the case was referred to the IPCC. They have since decided to conduct an independent investigation into the actions taken by Surrey Police following this communication."
According to ABC News, the family was "filing a lawsuit against Essex and Surrey police over the handling of the case." In March 2016, the family accepted a settlement in which Surrey Police apologised for their mishandling of the case, and paid an undisclosed sum in compensation.
On 26 January 2016, BBC Three broadcast a drama-documentary about the murder entitled Murder Games: The Life and Death of Breck Bednar. It was alleged, in January 2016, that Daynes had been blogging from prison.
In March 2018, in the U.S., the story was depicted on the Investigation Discovery channel in the 'Dangerous Games' episode of the Web of Lies series.
In 2015, Bednar's murder was featured in the US series Stalkers Who Kill in the episode titled "Babyface Killer".
- "Breck Bednar stabbing: Lewis Daynes admits boy's murder". BBC. 25 November 2014.
- Josh Halliday (25 November 2014). "Teenage computer engineer pleads guilty to murdering Breck Bednar, 14". The Guardian.
- Louise Dewast (2 December 2014). "Mom Will 'Never Be the Same' After Son's Murder by Online Gaming Partner". ABC News.
- Kiran Randhawa (25 November 2014). "Computer engineer admits killing oil trader's 14-year-old son who he met online". Evening Standard.
- Martin Evans (30 November 2014). "Baby-faced killer posted pictures of Breck Bednar's body on the Internet". The Telegraph.
- Martin Evans (25 November 2014). "Breck Bednar murder: computer engineer admits killing oil millionaire's son". The Daily Telegraph.
- "Breck Bednar murder: Body photos 'circulated by killer'". BBC News. 1 December 2014.
- Lizzie Dearden. "Breck Bednar: Murderer Lewis Daynes sentenced to life in prison". The Independent.
- The Guardian (12 January 2015). Teenager who killed Breck Bednar in ‘sadistic’ attack jailed for life.
- "Breck Bednar Memorial Fund".
- Aisha Gani (13 March 2016). "Police pay out to parents of boy murdered after online grooming". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
- Jessica Elgot (27 January 2016). "Breck Bednar's mother says killer has blogged from prison". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
- "Open Letter from Lewis Daynes". 26 January 2016.