Vera Bennett was one of
the original regular characters in Prisoner. She was a lead character, an
officer and also the Deputy Governor, although soon after the series began
Jim Fletcher took over as Deputy Governor.
Early on there were only two main officers in the series, Vera and Meg.
Vera was the 'nasty' officer, less so than Joan Ferguson however as she
lacked Joan's strength and courage.
Vera was a stern and austere woman who invariably wore her hair pulled
back into a severe bun. Vera frequently referred to the women as 'animals'
and did a lot of shouting. She was quite sadistic and loved tormenting the
prisoners. Early on her main target was Franky Doyle. Franky however gets
revenge of sorts by devising Vera's nickname, "Vinegar Tits".
In the early episodes Vera goes out of her devious way to stir up trouble
so she can then stand back in glee to watch the resultant conflagrations.
Some early examples of this is where she pressures Governor Erica Davidson
to release Franky Doyle from solitary before the allotted day and then
purposely releases Franky just in time to turn up to Bea Smith's farewell
party (2). When Bea then returns to Wentworth in (3), it is Vera who
convinces Erica to put Bea straight back with the women rather than the
usual 24 hours in solitary. When the expected trouble with Franky erupts
Vera is positively ecstatic!
Vera's only real friend is Meg but Vera's personality is prickly at best
and there was nonetheless a lot of hostility between them. Vera was
(mostly) a strict follower and enforcer of the prison rules and as a
result also had many an argument with Governor Erica Davidson over Erica's
perceived 'softness'. Vera, of course, has also been known to slyly bend
the prison rules when they don't quite serve her purposes although this is
Ultimately, however, Vera is fairly harmless and the inmates and other
officers come to view her as a bit of a joke, understanding that her 'bark
is worse than her bite'.
While Vera can be tough and assertive in Wentworth, her home life is sadly
bleak and unhappy. Vera lives with her mother who torments Vera just the
way Vera torments the prisoners. Vera is completely dominated by her
mother. Vera was very lonely, and was incapable of any sort of
relationship with a man, so she is stuck at home with her mother. The
mother dies early on in the series and at times Vera takes to heavy
drinking to mask her loneliness and self-hatred. [We find out in episode
(55) that Peter Clements describes Vera in his thesis as a
"socio-sexual neurotic fulfilling frustrated needs"...!]
Vera had a thing against prisoners being mothers. Vera was very anti
Pat O'Connell, and rather viciously conspired to ruin Rosie Hudson's
chances of gaining custody of her child. Vera convinced Rosie that if she
seemed apathetic they would give the child back, when in fact the opposite
was true and the child was taken away when authorities could see that
Rosie didn't seem to care.
In the episodes immediately after her mother's death, Vera embarks upon
two disastrous affairs:- first with the vice squad officer Graham Lang,
who is only interested in Vera for the access she can give him to Marilyn
Mason, and second with George Lucas, who Vera meets at a party given by
Anne Yates. Although George turns out to be connected to the supply of
drugs into Wentworth, Vera believes he loves her and when he is about to
be exposed as a criminal, she informs on him to the police but lets him
tie her up so that it seems that she knew nothing of his criminal
One night Vera goes home and gets drunk. When she is called back to work
she agrees even though she is drunk (Vera drinks straight Scotch if anyone
is interested). She then misplaces her keys while on the night shift and
Bea, Judy, Chrissie, and Mouse steal the keys and proceed to get their
revenge on Vera...
Another night sees Vera getting dolled up for a night on the town only to
lose courage and instead spend a drunken night of self-loathing in front
of the mirror. Interestingly, Vera is a very attractive woman outside her
There are a couple of times when Vera does finally manage a relationship
with a man and Vera softens considerably during these periods. Sadly for
Vera she usually gets involved with the wrong sort of people and the
relationship never lasts. She even conducts a flirtation with evil officer
Vera also became smitten with teacher David Andrews even though she
initially disapproved of a male teacher in Wentworth. They went shopping
together and Vera turned nice during this period, though when David
mentioned a woman Vera assumed it was a girlfriend. An embarrassed Vera
rostered herself to Maternity and was not seen for some episodes. When she
returned the Evelyn Randall quarantine drama was beginning and Vera was
back to being sour.
In late 1981 Vera became romantically involved with colleague Terry
Harrison (Brian Hannan). Vera had cooled down and become a much nicer
person and more even tempered officer around this time. Terry was
purported to actually be involved with the underworld although he
completely denied this. In the end it turned out to be true when Terry was
shot outside Wentworth and died in Vera's arms! Soon after this Vera got
the job of Governor of Barnhurst and disappeared from the series.
Vera had become more popular with her colleagues by this time and they
held a small farewell party for her in the Governor's office. Vera
however, insisted on completing her shift and then quietly and sadly
slipped away from the prison to the sounds of the happy party going on in
Fiona Spence appeared in Prisoner from (1) to (224).
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