Hush-hush secret that the King and a Preston daughter kept quiet at Buckingham Palace

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He knew and she knew . . . but King Charles and Zoe Bennett still had to keep it a closely-guarded secret when they met at Buckingham Palace last week.

The inspirational daughter of a Preston murder victim, Zoe had already been told she was in the King's Birthday Honours List to be published three days later.

But she was commanded not to say a word to anyone - not even His Majesty - and so she stuck to the rules during a brief chat on Wednesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the Windrush Generation.

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"I couldn't say a word about it, not even to the King - and it was his list," said Zoe after finally being able to go public with her British Empire Medal "for services to charity and inspiring disadvantaged people."

Zoe Bennett who was awarded the BEM by King Charles.Zoe Bennett who was awarded the BEM by King Charles.
Zoe Bennett who was awarded the BEM by King Charles.

"I couldn't be prouder. It means so much. But it's not really for me, it's my dad's award because he inspired me to be who I am."

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Brave Zoe's emotional homecoming

Errol Bennett, a leading light in the West Indian community in Preston, was brutally murdered during a holiday back in Jamaica in December 2011. The machete killer was his own nephew Clifton - Zoe's cousin - and she fought for three years to get justice for her dad.

Clifton was sentenced to 40 years for the killing and then Zoe had to fight another long battle to get an inquest here in Preston.

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Zoe with dad Errol Snr (left) and brother Errol Jnr.Zoe with dad Errol Snr (left) and brother Errol Jnr.
Zoe with dad Errol Snr (left) and brother Errol Jnr.

Almost 12 years on from the horrific crime Zoe has transformed her life, moved away from the Preston area and turned tragedy into a force for good, using the awful experience of what she went through to help others who have been similarly affected by a personal crisis.

She runs a company called Training Personified in the Midlands which delivers corporate training. She is also a motivational speaker - under the name of The Motivational Queen. She even has her own jewellery line with necklaces saying 'Believe In Yourself' and bracelets which say 'Never Give Up.'

"This is all down to Dad and what happened to our family 12 years ago," said Zoe who was voted the West Midlands' Influential Business Woman of the Year in 2016. "That's why this award is his award, not mine.

"I couldn't believe it when I got the letter saying I was being honoured with a British Empire Medal. It was a surreal kind of thing. I was told to keep it confidential and I did just that, because it was for him not me.

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Zoe with her mum Lynette.Zoe with her mum Lynette.
Zoe with her mum Lynette.

"Twelve years on from that awful incident so many good things have happened and so many people have been helped. It has created something phenomenal.

"When I met King Charles at Buckingham Palace last week for Windrush 75 we had a chat. He asked me what I had been doing and he was really impressed. But I couldn't mention the honour.

"The BEM is for charity and for inspiring disadvantaged people. That's the important bit for me. We have helped so many people since this all began - thousands - and I want everyone to have a chance in life, no matter what background they are from."