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 uncommon.
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 neurotis fulfilling frustrated needs"...!]
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 whe 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 involvement...
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 prison guise.
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 Jock Stewart.
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 the background...
Fiona Spence appeared in Prisoner from (1) to (224).
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