A SERIAL domestic offender will spend his twelfth Christmas behind bars after pleading guilty to punching his partner in the face as many as 18 times in a prolonged attack which left her fearful for her life.
Steven Bennett, 41, of Seneca Road Thornton Heath, was jailed for 30 months today, at Croydon Crown Court after he admitted causing the girl, who is now 20, actual bodily harm in the living room of his flat.
"I was praying that I'd make it out alive with all my limbs. I thought that he was going to kill me," his victim told police after the attack.
Prosecutor Brian Stork told the court that on July 10 this year, Bennett had become angry with his victim, who he had been seeing for several weeks, after she forgot her Oyster card and he wanted to go out.
"The defendant threw one of her black high heel shoes at her, leaving her with two bruises on her chest, he said.
"He then threw a broken lighter which struck her on the forehead and threw her black and white handbag at her which hit her on the body.
"The defendant got up from a computer chair right next to the sofa and started hitting her. He hit her repeatedly in the face, she says 18 times.
"He accepts that he did punch her in the face and that he was wearing a ring when he struck those blows, but he said it was more like three times than 18.
"But he does accept that he caused all the injuries that she suffered, there's no doubt it was a prolonged attack in the defendant's flat. She was very frightened and felt dazed as a result.
Mr Stork also said Bennett had made threats as she lay crying after the attack.
"At one point she was crying and he told her to stop. He threatened her and members of her family."
At that point, Mr Stork said, Bennett's demeanour "completely changed", he put an arm around his victim, trying to hug and kiss her.
He also took a towel to "mop up blood from her bleeding eyebrow". As well as the cut, the attack had left her with damage to her top and bottom lip and loosened some of her teeth.
She later left the house, returning to her home after Bennett had fallen asleep. On seeing her condition, her mother called the police, Mr Stork said.
Beth Crocker, defending, said of her client: "He hasn't spent a Christmas outside of custody in the last 11 years."
Bennett admitted he had problems with anger and violence when drinking alcohol, she added, though he had been working to address those while on remand at HM Prison Thameside. He told police he had a drink on the night of the attack, but was not drunk.
The court heard how Bennett had a lengthy string of more than 60 convictions, the majority of which for similar offences, including another attack in 2009 when he threw a lighter at and punched a young female partner.
Addressing the discrepancy between Bennett and the victim's account of the number of punches thrown, Judge Daniel Flahive said:
"Whatever is the position it's clear that there were a number of blows on her when she was in a vulnerable position. At the time she thought that you were going to kill her. Your response was to simply make threats to her and her family."
The Advertiser reported in July that a police officer was hit by a ricochet when an armed colleague shot dead a pitbull-type dog outside Bennett's home as they went to arrest him on July 10.