Colin Reeves murder sentence: what did ex-soldier do to Jennifer and Stephen Chapple in Norton Fitzwarren?

Colin Reeves has been given a life sentence for stabbing Stephen and Jennifer Chapple

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An Afghanistan veteran who stabbed a “beautiful” and “loved” couple in their home while their children slept upstairs following a row over parking has been jailed for at least 38 years over of their murders.

Colin Reeves was handed a life sentence for knifing his neighbours Stephen and Jennifer Chapple six times each at their house in Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton in Somerset, on the evening of 21 November last year.

He had denied murder, claiming the offence was one of manslaughter with diminished responsibility due to his diagnosis of depression.

Reeves had been involved in a long-running dispute with the couple over designated parking.

Colin Reeves was found guilty of murdering Jennifer and Stephen Chapple (pictured top left) at their home.Colin Reeves was found guilty of murdering Jennifer and Stephen Chapple (pictured top left) at their home.
Colin Reeves was found guilty of murdering Jennifer and Stephen Chapple (pictured top left) at their home.

What have the family of the couple said?

Mrs Chapple’s mother, Ann Clayton, said in a victim impact statement: “For a mother to lose a child is something that causes never-ending pain, knowing there will forever be a darkness inside you, a light switched off that can never be replaced.”

She described her daughter as “an exuberant, caring, beautiful light in the world”.

After the verdict, the couple’s family had said in a statement: ‘’No verdict will bring back our beautiful Jennifer and Stephen.

‘’If anything, these past ten days have prolonged us finding out how Jennifer and Stephen spent their final moments.“The support of our friends and family has been what has got us through the past seven months.

‘’The support we have received from Jennifer and Stephen’s friends shows how loved they both were.”

What did the judge say?

Jailing Reeves for life with a minimum term of 38 years, Mr Justice Garnham said the killings had “torn the heart out of two perfectly normal, decent families”.

“You left (Mr and Mrs Chapple) on the floor bleeding to death, and all of the time their two children were asleep upstairs,” the judge said.

“Your murderous behaviour left them orphans. They were put to bed that night by their parents and they would never see them again. The harm you did those two innocent children is incalculable.”

What happened in Norton Fitzwarren?

The 35-year-old former Royal Engineer used the ceremonial dagger given to him when he left the Army to kill the couple.

He was caught on a security camera climbing the fence separating his garden from the victims’ garden, and entering through the back door.

A few seconds later Mrs Chapple can be heard screaming in terror, with Reeves shouting “die you f****** die”.

Mrs Chapple, 33, did not even have a chance to stand up from the sofa to defend herself while Mr Chapple, 36, was found close to the rear door.

Reeves called the police to tell them what he had done, but later denied murder and instead pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Colin Reeves being checked into custody following his arrest.Colin Reeves being checked into custody following his arrest.
Colin Reeves being checked into custody following his arrest.

What was said during the trial?

On Friday, a jury at Bristol Crown Court found him guilty of murder after five hours and 21 minutes of deliberations.

The court heard the Chapples and Reeves previously had a good relationship but it had deteriorated when Mrs Chapple learned to drive and bought a second car.

Rows over parking spaces escalated to the point that both Reeves’ wife Kayley and Mrs Chapple had told their friends they were anxious about bumping into each other on the school run.

Ten days before the killings, Reeves was caught on a door bell camera approaching Mrs Chapple outside her house following an earlier exchange between her and Mrs Reeves.

He accuses Mrs Chapple of “f***ing gobbing off you cheeky little bitch”.

The Reeves had also been having trouble in their own marriage, and less than an hour before he stabbed the Chapples, Mrs Reeves had asked her husband for a trial separation.

After the killings, Reeves was recorded in the background of the 999 call telling someone, believed to be his mother Lynn, “I couldn’t let her (or them) torment Kayley any more”.

Reeves said he had little memory of the incident but recalled sitting on the stairs in tears after the conversation with his wife.

He claimed he did not remember taking his dagger out of the picture frame in which it was usually displayed.

The defendant, who had previously recounted his fear of CCTV cameras and being under surveillance, said the next thing he recalled was a bright light coming on, and trying to get down on his front.

“I felt as though I had been seen or compromised, white light was a trigger when I was a soldier, when a light goes on or somebody sets off a flare, when that white light goes up something is going to happen,” Reeves said.

Asked what else he remembered, the defendant said: “I had a feeling like it was me or them.”

Adam Feest QC, prosecuting, asked: “When your wife said you needed to have a separation, did you at least, in part, blame Jennifer because she had tormented (your wife)?” the prosecutor asked.

Mr Feest added: “I can’t let her or them ‘torment Kayley’ – I want to suggest that this is an accurate expression of why you went around to your neighbours that night. I’m going to suggest that’s the truth.”

Police at the scene in Norton Fitzwarren.Police at the scene in Norton Fitzwarren.
Police at the scene in Norton Fitzwarren.

Did Reeves have PTSD?

At the police station he appeared confused and gave his name as “Lance Corporal Reeves, sir” and his service number.

Two forensic psychiatrists concluded Reeves was not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis, but diagnosed him with moderate and mild depression respectively.

Both said he could be suffering from “dissociative amnesia” – a condition common in perpetrators of domestic homicide when they are unable to process what they have done.

Dr John Sandford, for the prosecution, said: “This is nothing to do with depression – it’s a reaction to a traumatic act, something that is usually a reaction to something you’ve done rather than something done to you.”

Stephen and Jennifer Chapple on their wedding day.Stephen and Jennifer Chapple on their wedding day.
Stephen and Jennifer Chapple on their wedding day.

What did the CPS say?

A representative for the Crown Prosecution Service described the killings as “a brutal and deliberate attack”.

Joanna Clark said in a statement after the verdicts were returned:“Reeves sought to avoid responsibility for murder by claiming his actions were the result of PTSD linked to his previous army service.

“Two psychiatrists agreed that although Reeves suffered from mild to moderate depression this was not sufficient to be considered abnormal mental functioning that could lead to diminished responsibility.”

“Our thoughts are with the family of Jennifer and Stephen Chapple at this difficult time”.

Detective Inspector Neil Meade, of our Major Crime Investigation Team, said: “There are simply no words to fully describe the horrors Collin Reeves committed.”