The grieving parents of a young man who was murdered by his girlfriend have spoken out about their family's heartbreak for the first time.
Kasey Anderson, 24, was brutally stabbed in the heart by his girlfriend Natalie Bennett, who was more than twice his age.
His death followed a sickening campaign of domestic abuse during which Kasey suffered bruises and black eyes.
His father, Graham Anderson, and stepmother, Jackie Morrey, 39, tried everything to rescue him from her clutches, even warning Kasey that she would eventually kill him.
Their fears were tragically realised when Bennett, 47, knifed him in the heart, just a week before his 25th birthday in March last year.
Kasey Anderson was just weeks away from his 25th birthday when he was stabbed in the heart by his older lover, Natalie Bennett
Graham, 61, from Liverpool, said: 'Kasey was a really lovely lad, happy and kind-hearted. He loved fishing and playing football and he was in Everton's academy.
'But when he met Bennett, he completely changed. She took the light out of his eyes. He came home with black eyes and bruises but the more we begged him to leave her, the more she got her claws in.
'If there is anyone out there, fighting a battle with domestic abuse, man or woman, speak out and get help. Don't leave it too late. Speaking up is not a weakness, it is the biggest strength you can show. Please don't let your families go through what we are going through.'
Kasey, the eldest of four children, with younger siblings Molly, Connor and James, was born in April 1998 and raised by Graham and Jackie, with help from his aunt, Denise.
He was a talented footballer, playing for Everton FC throughout his teenage years, with his picture on billboards at the club.
Graham said: 'He was a typical boy, he liked football and fishing, and he loved playing out. He had so many friends. As they got older, he'd drink lemonade on nights out, and his mates all teased him.
'He had one Kopparberg on Jackie's birthday, and it made him feel sick. That was just how he was, clean-living and full of fun. He brought us so much joy.'
Aged 18, Kasey's two-year relationship with his childhood sweetheart ended.
Natalie Bennett was found guilty of murdering Casey at Liverpool Crown Court after he died from stab injuries
Kasey, from Liverpool, was described as 'kind-hearted' by his father Graham, but when he met Bennett, he began to come home with bruises and cuts on his body
Graham continued: 'He was vulnerable, after the split, and it was then that Natalie Bennett saw her chance. She was well-known all over our estate.
'When we found out he was seeing her, we were mortified. She was streetwise and manipulative, and Kasey was really kind-hearted and trusting.
'We pleaded with him to finish it, but she'd tell him we didn't love him, and we didn't want him to be happy. We felt we were pushing him further towards her. We didn't know what to do for the best.
'We tried tough love, telling him we wouldn't support him if he kept seeing her. But she twisted that round to her advantage.
'I even went to see her and begged her to leave him alone and find someone her own age, but she wouldn't listen.
'Kasey started coming home with black eyes, bruises and scratches. He told us he'd slipped or fallen off his bike. Once he said he'd walked into a door.
'We knew she was hurting him, but we couldn't get him to admit it. He didn't recognise at all that he was being domestically abused.
A memorial site to Kasey which was built by his family following his murder
Kasey's parents have urged other people who are victims of domestic violence to seek help before it's too late
Kasey's parents said they begged their son to leave Bennett but every time they tried, she 'dug her claws deeper'
'His sister, Molly, pleaded with him to end it, she actually warned Kasey that Bennett would kill him. His friends said the same. But gradually, she alienated him from everyone who loved him.
'He was living with her, on and off, and would come home with injuries after she'd attacked him.
'And it wasn't just the physical injuries; his character completely changed. He was unhappy, he didn't want to play football or go fishing. He didn't like seeing anyone. He was drinking and taking drugs with her, which was so unlike him.
'He couldn't say no to her. She stole his soul.'
Kasey pictured as a young boy. The 24-year-old's parents claimed his sister Molly pleaded with him to leave Bennett for fears she would kill him
In March last year, Kasey got a new job, working for a delivery firm. He spent a few days with his family and seemed much better.
But in the evening of March 11, Graham received a call from police to say Kasey had been stabbed through the heart at Bennett's home.
The family raced to hospital, where Kasey was put in an induced coma following surgery to repair his heart.
Graham says: 'It looked hopeful at first. We spent two weeks by his bedside, all his friends came, his sister and brothers. He was close to my nephew, Paddy, also. So many people came to wish him well.'
Kasey was rushed to hospital after suffering stab wounds to the heart and was put into an induced coma
Kasey's life support was withdrawn after doctors tried to wake him from the coma and he suffered seizures
But each time doctors tried to wake Kasey he suffered seizures. A brain scan showed there was no hope of recovery, and his life support was withdrawn.
Graham says: 'He was expected to pass soon after his life support was switched off, but he lasted 35 hours. The doctors said he was so young and healthy and was fighting to stay alive. We didn't leave him for a moment.
'Our hearts were broken.'
Kasey passed away on March 31, just one week before his 25th birthday. There was over a thousand people at his funeral, with people lining the streets and local shops shut as a mark of respect.
Natalie Bennett stood trial in November 2023 at Liverpool Crown Court. She denied murdering Kasey and instead tried to pin the blame on him, variously complaining he had attacked her, he was a drug dealer and he had arrived at her home already injured.
She even told 999 operators she had no idea how he had come by his injuries.
But footage clearly showed Bennett failing to help as he lay dying on her path. She even aimed a further blow with the knife at his head.
Ring doorbell footage recovered from a neighbour's house showed Bennett 'holding a knife to the head of the distraught and injured Mr Anderson' with her right hand and 'using it either to strike Kasey Anderson in the head or at the very least hold it close to his head'.
Bennett showed no reaction as she was handed a life imprisonment with a minimum term of 18 years behind bars but put her thumb up to her dad in the public gallery as she was led down to the cells.
Sentencing, Judge Denis Watson KC said: 'Your relationship with him began some five years ago, when he was about 19 or 20 and you were 42. It was a volatile relationship, and his family watched with increasing despair as he changed from happy go lucky to someone who drank, took drugs and whose mental health deteriorated.
'His family saw him with injuries and black eyes on many occasions. His family were convinced, correctly in my view, that you were responsible.
'I am sure that you were violent to him on a regular basis. Your influence over him was substantial.
He was besotted with you. He always forgave you.
'You and he had a prolonged argument. The precise details will only be known to him and you.
'You picked up a screwdriver which you thrust at him, then a knife which you used to cause slash wounds to his ear, back and left arm and to stab him in the chest and lower left leg. You continued to be aggressive, making a sharp stabbing motion towards him close to his head - you called him a rat.
'The value of a human life and the value of Kasey's life can never be measured by the length of the sentence passed. I have read all of the victim statements, they were without exception moving tributes to a much loved son, family member and friend.
'This was a situation in which you grossly overreacted during the course of an argument. Self-defence was completely rejected as entirely unconvincing.
'I'm sure that you attacked him, that he tried to defend himself. That made you so angry that you picked up the screwdriver, and then the knife.
'No sentence I can pass can restore Kasey's life. His friends and family will always mourn his death - your actions have caused the waste of a human life.'
Graham says: 'We were disappointed by the sentence. Whatever she serves, she'll still have years left to rebuild her life.'
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