Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.
P&J Investigations

‘The cruelty of what has happened is overwhelming’: Friends pay tribute to murdered mum Bennylyn

Bennylyn Burke was a much-loved friend, daughter, sister and mother before she was cruelly taken away from those who loved her. reports.
Dale Haslam
A bride and her bridesmaids grouped together
Bennylyn Burke on her wedding day in Samar, the Philippines, with Marjorie Lebatigue, centre right and her two other bridesmaids in 2018. Image: Supplied.

Throughout her life, Bennylyn Burke always had a wide group of friends.

Socialising and playing an active role in the community is a central pillar of Filipino society and the devoted mum loved to spend time with her friends.

Bennylyn had a conventional upbringing in the Philippines – some 6,700 miles from Dundee – and was popular in school.

But things started to change towards the end of her high-school years.

Meeting online

While her pals worked towards their ambition of university, Bennylyn was left behind, as she wasn’t able to finish high school and go onto further education due to family commitments.

Though Bennylyn had support from family, she wasn’t able to see her friends as often, as they focused on work and studying.

Bennylyn’s closest friend at the time was Marjorie Lebatigue.

The pair grew up together and celebrated their teenage rights of passage: birthdays, leaving school and family occasions.

Marjorie spoke of the time Bennylyn told her she had met an English man online – Lexington Burke, now 65.

Lexington Burke
Lexington Burke. Image: DC Thomson

Marjorie said: “They spoke online initially and then he visited her in the Philippines, which is the norm.”

Marjorie was referring to the pattern of western men seeking a partner and turning to dating sites like Filipino Cupid to find a south-east Asian woman, believing it will be easier than conventional dating.

This is because Filipina women can often be charmed by men who promise them lifelong financial security.

Marjorie said Bennylyn and Mr Burke met in Manilla around 2015 and hit it off.

“Bennylyn got pregnant with Jellica with Lexington. And then they got engaged to marry.”

Bennylyn Burke on her wedding day in Samar, the Philippines, with Marjorie Lebatigue, centre right and her two other bridesmaids in 2018. Image: Supplied.

Moving to Bristol

Despite her reservations, Marjorie was happy for her friend, especially after Bennylyn gave birth to her daughter Jellica.

Bennylyn and Mr Burke announced they were moving to Bristol in August 2019, so Marjorie arranged a send-off – a Filipino tradition known as “despidida”, meaning “farewell party”.

Bennylyn Burke, third from left, at her farewell party with friends, including Marjorie Lebotique, furthest right. Image: Supplied.

Four of her closest friends met for a meal at a restaurant, laughing and joking at old times and dreaming of a bright future.

Marjorie said: “We had despidida before Bennylyn’s flight to the UK.

“It was a happy occasion and we all wished her all well.”

After Bennylyn started her new life in the UK, Marjorie started to hear from her less.

She took that as a sign that everything was working out well, and knew Bennylyn would have regular video calls with her sister Shela.

After moving to Bristol, Bennylyn put Jellica at the centre of everything.

They went on family days out to scores of locations, including Buckingham Palace, Gloucester Cathedral and a petting zoo.

Bennylyn would take Jellica to play out in Bristol too and they struck up friendships with other children, while Bennylyn made friends with their parents.

Brandon Hill Park in Bristol.
Brandon Hill Park in Bristol. Image: Shutterstock.

Their favourite spot was Brandon Hill Park in Bristol, with its 105ft tower offering panoramic views of the city and countryside. They would hold family picnics there.

But then everything changed.

In November 2020, Bennylyn suddenly moved out of the family home she shared with Mr Burke and moved to a different part of Bristol after she accused Mr Burke of domestic violence – an allegation he rejects.

However, they did stay in touch so they could arrange for Jellica to see her dad on weekends.

When Mr Burke heard nothing from Bennylyn on February 19 when he was supposed to be seeing Jellica, he became concerned – and that concern later grew when social services contacted him to say they had not seen her either.

Then came the worst news possible.

‘I will never forget them’

Councillor Ian Boulton, who was among those who had introduced Bennylyn to life in Bristol as her ward councillor, said that when he heard Bennylyn and Jellica had been murdered, it knocked him for six.

Ian Boulton, councillor for the Staple Hill area of South Gloucestershire
Ian Boulton, councillor for the Staple Hill area of South Gloucestershire. Image: Supplied.

Writing in a Facebook community group he added: “I’m sure that there are other members of this group who also knew them, who must be feeling equally shocked.”

One of those was Bennylyn’s friend Ana Jayme, who said: “I am still struggling to understand what has happened and I think about her and poor Jellica every day.

“The cruelty of what has happened is overwhelming.

“Two such beautiful lives snatched away far too soon. I will never forget them and they will always remain in my heart.”

‘We have lost a good friend’

Such was the outpouring of grief in Bristol, Bennylyn’s friends held a memorial event in April 2021 – fittingly held at Brandon Hill Park, on the grass below Cabot Tower.

Those who attended fixed white balloons to a tree, accompanied with a message that read: ‘You are loved, you are missed, you are remembered’.

Vigil held in Bristol for Bennylyn Burke. Image: PA

Guests placed a red blanket on the ground and adorned it with photographs of Bennylyn and Jellica along with a teddy bear and signs in her memory.

Among them was Lyn Vowle, who had known Bennylyn since she first moved to Bristol from the Philippines.

She said: “She was a loving mum, a beautiful woman and a good friend. She will be sadly missed.”

There was also a tribute from another of Bennylyn’s friends Lyn Desoyo, who acknowledged the impact the horrific double murder had had on the Dundee community, where it happened.

She said: “I’m very grateful for the messages of support we have received from those in Dundee.

“As a mother myself this has affected me. I can’t imagine what they have been through.

“We have lost a good friend.”