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P&J Investigations

Exclusive: Bennylyn’s family wrote to judge demanding longest possible sentence for Aberdeen University graduate who killed pair

reports.
Dale Haslam
Bennylyn Burke's father and sister Shela and Benedicto, left, and Bennylyn with daughter Jellica. Image: Kenny Smith / DC Thomson
Bennylyn Burke's father and sister Shela and Benedicto, left, and Bennylyn with daughter Jellica. Image: Kenny Smith / DC Thomson

The family of Bennylyn Burke and her daughter Jellica have revealed how they wrote to trial judge Lord Beckett demanding the longest possible sentence for killer Andrew Innes.

In an exclusive interview with The Press and Journal, Benedicto and Shela Aquino revealed they had made a written plea to the judge at Edinburgh High Court in a bid to get the maximum sentence for the Aberdeen University graduate.

Computer science alumni Innes, 52, murdered Bennylyn Burke, 25, and her daughter Jellica, two, and buried their bodies underneath his kitchen floor in Troon Avenue, Dundee, in February 2021.

Innes studied at the university in the early 1990s and married his partner Rokyo Nagashimi at Kings Chapel within the university grounds in August 2002.

Only university staff and graduates are allowed to get married there.

However, the marriage broke down and Innes preyed on Bennylyn Burke – luring her from her Bristol home to Dundee during a Covid-19 lockdown.

Benedicto, who is Bennylyn’s dad and Jellica’s grandfather, said he had no idea what to expect Scotland to be like before travelling here – but is grateful for all the support his family have received.

‘Evil and crazy’

He said: “Before I travelled here, before we got this justice, I was thinking ‘are all Scottish men as evil or as crazy as this man?’.

“But through the support of Police Scotland, social workers, embassies and the press – we have realised that all everyone except this man has sought to do is do right by us and that has gone someway to restoring our faith.

Bennylyn and Jellica Burke.

“We will return home to the Philippines, to our family, knowing some kind of justice has been done.”

Shela, who is Bennylyn’s sister and Jellica’s auntie, added: “I’m not saying we are really happy with the sentence, but we are satisfied.

“We believe Bennylyn and Jellica were victims of a terrible crime committed by a horrible man, a monster.

“We requested to the judge that he receive the most severe punishment and we believe he got that.”

‘Not ready to forgive’

The family come from a deeply religious culture where Christianity is the dominant faith and the concept of forgiveness is important.

However, both Shela and Benedicto said they are not yet ready to forgive the man who murdered their loved ones.

Shela said: “Christianity is important in our culture and forgiveness is important as part of our faith.

“I think I will forgive him in time for these terrible things that have (been) done.

Andrew Innes at the High Court in Edinburgh. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

“Right after the sentence, I told the judge that ‘I don’t pity him, because I am a Christian’.

“But because of the horrific nature of everything this man has done, the forgiveness will come in time.”

Two years in limbo

Benedicto added: “I cannot forgive him – definitely not now. It might happen in future but I don’t know.”

Police staff, social workers and charities including Kanlungan have been supporting Bennylyn’s relatives in the two years since the horrific crime took place.

However, they said the toughest part of the family’s visit to Scotland has been hearing new details of what happened at Innes’s house.

‘I was crying when I heard that’

Shela said: “We’ve had almost two years in limbo, waiting for the legal process to begin.

“There was a lot of things we knew about the case, but an awful lot we didn’t know.

Benedicto and Shela Aquino. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

“We didn’t know that Innes had claimed to have given Bennylyn and Jellica ‘a Christian burial’ – that was such a hurtful thing to claim in accordance with our faith.

“Above all, what hurt most was hearing such alarming evidence in the court about these horrible sexual offences committed against Jellica.”

Benedicto said: “The most shocking part for me was to hear that this monster had given a sexually transmitted disease to one of his victims. I was crying when I heard that.

“I was in so much disbelief that how can this man do all these horrible things to children?

“The evidence we heard during the case was traumatising.”

More awareness needed

The pair have backed a campaign run by Kanlungan to raise awareness of the dangers some Western men can pose to South East Asian women on dating websites.

Innes specifically used a website called Filipino Cupid and manipulated the website’s search process to only return women with young children.

Shela said: “There needs to be a deeper understanding and awareness of the risks some Western men pose to women from the Philippines and South-East Asia.

“Dating websites in particular need to do more background checks and not rely on men who use these websites and apps to be honest when they sign up.”

Benedicto said: “There absolutely must be better background checks and much more information provided to Filipino women before they first make contact with men in the UK and Europe.”

‘Bennylyn was a wonderful woman’

Bennylyn Burke. Image: Supplied

Shela and Benedicto are to fly back to the Philippines in the coming days.

“It’s highly possible that we will get closure and move on after this hearing, but it is impossible for us to forget the memories that we have had from Bennylyn and Jellica,” said Shela.

She added: “Bennylyn was a wonderful woman who moved to the UK in search of a better life and she was taken advantage of by this man.”

Benedicto said: “We’re all very grateful to the people who have supported us over the last two years, including Kanlungan, and Migrante Philippines and the jurors.

“Finally this day we have justice. The people of Scotland have offered great hospitality, and we are grateful to the press for exposing Innes’s crimes.”