THE Priest-in-Charge of a church in Turkey whose former parish secretary, Jan Bennett, was raped and murdered last week said that the news of her death had devastated his tight-knit congregation.
Mrs Bennett, aged 67, was killed in Malomir, in Bulgaria, where she and her disabled husband had recently moved. Previously, they had lived for several years in Didim, on the Aegean coast of Turkey, where they were members of a small expat Anglican church, St Mary’s. They had planned to maintain their links with the church.
The Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Maurice Ryan, said on Monday: “It hit us very badly. She had only gone to Bulgaria two or three months before, to set up house for the summer. It was very shocking.”
The Bulgarian police have arrested a man who has been reportedly connected to the crime through DNA testing.
Mr Ryan said that Mrs Bennett had been the parish secretary at St Mary’s for the past three years. “She was a very good and godly lady. She will be a very hard person to replace in many ways — she had a stroke a few years ago, and, despite the need to look after her husband, she always had time for everyone. She had a lot of friends here in the expat community.”
A memorial service for Mrs Bennett has been arranged to take place on Sunday at an Alevi religious house. The Alevis are a religious minority in Turkey who have built strong links with the Christian church in Didim, Mr Ryan explained.
“They have been very good to us over the last three years, and we have used their building for our services. They have helped us to organise the memorial service.”
In a blog post, the Suffragan Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd David Hamid, said that the involvement of the Alevis demonstrated the high esteem in which Mrs Bennett was held in Didim.
“We pray with St Mary’s, with Jan’s husband, and with all her family and friends, for the repose of Jan’s soul,” he wrote.
Many people in Didim have left memorial messages to Mrs Bennett, a local English-language newspaper, Didim Voices, reported. A restaurant owner, Karin Dalbak, wrote: “You were a one-off. Such a kind person who cared about everyone, and all the animals, too. I will miss your funny comments, your kind words, and your never-ending enthusiasm and joy. The world is a poorer place without you, Jan.”