Award for Brave Zoe Bennett: '˜Helping people is what dad would have wanted'

Zoe Bennett's life was turned upside down when her dad was brutally murdered. She tells BRIAN ELLIS how she turned the tragedy into a force for good as she gets ready to pick up an icon award half way around the world.

Monday, 1st May 2017, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:33 pm
Zoe Bennett, daughter of murdered Preston businessman Errol Bennett

Zoe Bennett struggled to put her life back together after the devastation of her father’s murder.

Now the mother-of-three from Preston is to be feted at a global conference in India for the way she fought her way back from adversity to dedicate her life to helping others in similar distress.

Zoe will be flying out to New Delhi later this week to address the annual Women Economic Forum and pick up a special award called “Iconic Women Creating a Better World for All.”

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It is, she admits, a massive moment in her life.

“I’m just overwhelmed,” she said. “I honestly never expected this. What a tremendous honour.”

Zoe, who now lives in the Midlands, has turned an awful negative into a real positive in the five-and-a-half years since dad Errol was brutally murdered by his own nephew during a winter break in his homeland of Jamaica. She has become a motivational speaker and now heads a company called Training Personified doing corporate training and coaching people how to fight back from a personal crisis.

Last year she was voted Woman of the Year in the Midlands and now lectures under the title “The Motivational Queen” both at home and abroad. Only recently she returned to Preston to give a keynote speech at a business networking event.

Errol Bennett (left), murdered in Jamaica, photographed at home in Preston with daughter Zoe and son Errol Jnr.

But the WEF17 New Delhi conference, which starts next Monday, is her biggest stage yet where she will talk about her fight to get justice for the brutal murder of her dad.

The forum will attract leaders and achievers from more than 100 countries to India.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Zoe. “It’s a huge event and it’s such a privilege for me to be asked to attend. I can’t actually believe they want me to go out there and be part of it.”

Zoe’s story is as sad as it is inspiring. Her life was turned upside down in December 2011 when news reached the Bennett family in Britain that Ribbleton upholsterer Errol had been hacked to death in his holiday villa on the Caribbean island.

She flew out to identify her dad’s body and the memory of that still haunts her today. And for the next three years she fought to get justice for Errol and bring her own cousin to court where he was eventually sentenced to 40 years in prison. It also took another year to get an inquest back in Preston to wrap up the formalities and allow the family to finally get closure.

While she now spends most of her time in the Midlands, she made an emotional return to Preston in February to make a keynote speech at a business networking event in the city.

In the audience were members of her own family and alo old friends of her dad.

Talking about her new life as a motivational speaker she revealed that even though it seems to work with her auduences, she struggles to feel the benefit herself after the trauma of her dad’s murder.

Errol Bennett (left), murdered in Jamaica, photographed at home in Preston with daughter Zoe and son Errol Jnr.

“I get people coming up to me and calling me inspirational and wanting to hug me,” she said.

“I work with people who are having real difficulties and I try to teach them how to get their mojo back. But I don’t feel any of that positivity myself.

“I feel that what I’m doing to help others is a duty. It’s just what Dad would have wanted me to do.

“When I started the motivational speaking I was struggling at first because I had been in such a whirlwind that I hadn’t had a minute just to take in that my dad had been murdered.

“I had never had the time to be left alone to grieve. And while I was helping people, giving them my time, I wasn’t getting that in return. But that’s OK because I realise I am a vehicle, it’s just one of those things that I have to do.

“I was totally surprised by the reception I got from people. I never dreamed in a million years I would be standing up talking to people and helping them. It was never my plan, but that’s the journey it has taken me on.”

In New Delhi more than 2,000 leaders and achievers from more than 100 countries will gather for the annual women’s forum.