The Essex Murder Case
On February 16, 2014, 14-year-old Breck Bednar left his home for the last time. He was on his way to the home of 18-year-old Lewis Dayne after they had struck up a friendship whilst playing computer games online. The two had been communicating for some time, however Dayne had made implicit instructions for Breck to lie to his family, and to say he was visiting a friend his own age. Breck arrived in a pre-paid taxi to Daynes flat, and whilst the events of the next few hours are unknown, that following morning the police were called to the flat by Daynes who told the dispatcher that his friend has died in a struggle. Detectives would learn there were much more sinister circumstances surrounding the young boys death.
Breck Bednar was a teen-aged student at St Bede’s School in Redhill, Surrey. Described by his family as “kind and gifted”, he was an active member of the Air Training Corps 135 Squadron which was stationed in Redhill, and was a regular in attendance at the St John the Evangelist church in Caterham where the family resided. The family moved to England from the United States in 2000 and by 2006 his parents had divorced. Breck lived with his mother, 48-year-old Lorin LaFave, a teaching assistant and his three younger siblings, 12-year-old triplets Carly, Chloe and Sebastian.
His mother Lorin was born in the United States and his father, 49-year-old Barry Bednar worked as an oil trader and shipping consultant and was believed to be a self-made millionaire. Breck had struggled to make friends at school and would often enjoy playing online computer games where he formed several friendships, one of which was with Lewis Daynes. Daynes was several years older and also from a broken home. He was 16-years-old when his parents divorced and he subsequently moved into a flat in Essex which was owned by his grandmother.
Daynes began an online group which soon became an exclusive six-person gaming club which Bednar was introduced to at a church youth group. He had control over the server the group used and had the power to expel members if he wished, and also oversaw an Internet chatroom in which the members would communicate through voice activated headphones using the software “Teamspeak”. Daynes would often boast to the members on his server, including Breck, that he could offer them computer technology jobs earning as much as £100,000 a year so they wouldn’t need to finish school.
He also told them he had donated $2.5 million in bitcoin to Syrian rebels fighting the Government forces of Bashar al-Asad. Soon Breck’s mother believed Daynes was having a negative influence on her son, because his personality was changing along with his ideologies and he started refusing to attend church services. In December 2013 one of Breck’s relatives contacted Essex Police to express concerns about online grooming.
His mother, Lorin had told Police that her son was involved with an online group and she believed he was in danger. She had attempted to end the online relationship between Breck and Daynes but was unable to control everything her son was doing. As such she limited his access to electronic devices and added parental controls to lessen his exposure to Daynes. Despite his mothers suspicions, Breck remained in contact with Daynes who soon made arrangements for the two to meet.
On February 16, 2014, Breck left his mother’s home and travelled by taxi to Daynes flat at Rosebery Road, Grays, Essex. He had told his mother he would be staying with his father Barry, whilst his father was told he would be staying with friends. However when Breck’s mother contacted his father to ensure he arrived there safely, she was told he hadn’t arrived. Several hours later Breck’s siblings began to receive messages about their brother’s death. Photos of Breck had been posted on social media that depicted his body, and which had also been shared on the six-person gaming group Daynes controlled. Soon the children were receiving messages from friends which read, “Is it true about your brother? If it’s true, it’s so sad.”
It was around this time that police had arrived at the Bednar family home to tell Breck’s parents about his death. It is unknown exactly what transpired at Daynes home, between the hours of Breck’s arrival at his flat on Sunday evening and 11:00am on Monday morning, when Daynes called the emergency services number;
Operator – “Essex Police Emergency…”
Daynes – “Hi there… ummm… OK, uhhh…. hello, ummm… I need police and a forensics team to my address please.”
Operator – “What do you mean?… what’s happened?”
Daynes – “My friend and I, got into an altercation, and… I’m the only one who came out alive.”
Operator – “Are you telling me you’ve killed somebody?”
Daynes – “yes, I am”
Operator – “Right and who am i speaking to?”
Daynes – “My name is Lewis Daynes, I’m 18-years-old and I live at Greylands, Rosebery Road, Grays, Essex, Romeo, Mike, 175, Yankee, Hotel.”
Operator – “Right OK… and what’s actually happened?”
Daynes – “My friend… came to stay the night with me yesterday feeling very down, feeling suicidal and I woke up this morning he was in a mess, I tried to calm him down, I hugged him and said that I was there for him. He grabbed… he shrugged me off…”
Operator – “Can you bare with me a second, don’t tell me anymore OK… you’re telling me he’s definitely dead?”
Daynes – “Yes, i’m telling you he’s definitely dead”.
When officers arrived at Daynes address, they found Breck unresponsive and Paramedics declared him dead at the scene. He was bound with duct tape and had stab wounds to his neck. Daynes was arrested and taken into custody on suspicion of murder. When officers searched the flat, they found Daynes had submerged several electronic devices in water in his bathroom. These included his phone, hard drives and USB devices which were taken as evidence. They also found a bin bag which contained Breck’s clothes. During the subsequent investigation, police found that Daynes had been in contact with Breck prior to his death, and had sent him messages on how to successfully lie to his parents so he could stay at his flat. Detectives also learned that prior to the murder, Daynes had bought duct tape, condoms and syringes online.
A post-mortem examination found that Breck had died after his throat was slashed with a knife and there was evidence of sexual activity prior to his death. Daynes denied being responsible for Breck’s death, telling investigators that Breck had become suicidal and Daynes had attempted to take a penknife from him, which resulted in Breck’s death during the struggle.
The electronic devices taken from Daynes flat were found to be encrypted, and officers were unable to access the information contained within and Daynes refused to give officers the passwords. It was during the investigation that previous incidents were discovered in which Daynes had been accused of sexual crimes. In 2011 he was arrested for the attempted rape of another young boy almost three years before he murdered Breck Bednar. He faced five charges, including attempted rape and two of engaging a person in sexual activity without consent.
Both Daynes and the alleged assault victim were 15-years-old at the time of the incident and although this offence and although these offences were reported to Essex Police and were investigated, officers decided not to take any further action. These crimes were now re-investigated as part of the Breck Bednar murder. He was arraigned to stand trial at Chelmsford Crown Court on a charge of murder, however he admitted the offence before the jury was sworn in.
He would tell officers during interview that he had attempted to stop Breck from attacking with a penknife, and during the struggle he had stabbed Breck in the back of the neck, near the brain stem, after which he cut his victims throat. At the time Daynes was described in the media as a “baby-faced killer”, who looked much younger than his 19 years. He was known as reclusive by his neighbours, who rarely saw him venture outside, because he spent most of his time playing online computer games.
At his sentencing hearing which was scheduled for January 12, 2015 by Mrs Justice Cox, the court was told by Daynes lawyer that he suffered from Asperger’s syndrome and as such its affected his ability to make sound judgements. He also argued there was not enough evidence to prove that the murder had been premeditated. Daynes was given a life sentence for the murder of Breck Bednar and would serve a minimum 25 year term. He was described by the prosecution as “a controlling and manipulative individual who carefully planned this crime”.
Prosecutor Jenny Hopkins also commented that, “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.” Detective Chief Inspector Anne Cameron commented that, “he wanted to be in control all the time he was in custody”. She also said he was a very insular person, and that “the only people that could give us a lot of information about him were his gaming friends, the one’s he manipulated online.”
Breck’s mother Lorin LaFave expressed her dissatisfaction with Surrey Police’s handling of the case and an internal investigation was launched with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which conducted a review of certain practices and how shared information is handled. In March 2016, the Bednar’s filed a lawsuit against Essex and Surrey Police over their handling of the case, and accepted an undisclosed settlement in compensation. The Bednar family then set-up the Breck Foundation, which aimed to raise awareness of the the dangers of online predators, with the intention of advocating a responsible use of the internet.
Since his incarceration, it is believed Daynes had made contact with the Bednar Family from prison, sending several messages to Breck’s sister Chloe on the messaging app snapchat in February 2018. One read, “I know where your brother is buried, I’m going to smash his tombstone…”. Kent were believed to be investigating the incident, however the family believe nothing can be done because the messages were posted through a US company.