Ex-soldier who killed neighbours tells court he cannot remember attack

·5-min read
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Collin Reeves (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Collin Reeves (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)

An ex-soldier who stabbed his neighbours to death claims he cannot remember the attack despite recounting the incident to police in a 999 call just a few moments afterwards.

Collin Reeves, 35, is on trial for murder at Bristol Crown Court for killing Jennifer and Stephen Chapple on November 21 last year in Norton Fitwarren, outside Taunton in Somerset.

Reeves and his family lived next door to the Chapples on Dragon Rise on the new-build development, and they had previously had a good relationship before falling out over parking in May 2021.

There have been a number of rows between the families, including an incident on November 11 in which Reeves was captured on a door bell camera calling Mrs Chapple a “f****** c***” and a “fat bitch”.

The defendant had also been having trouble in his own marriage, and around 40 minutes before the killings, his wife Kayley had told him she wanted a trial separation.

Reeves accepts stabbing Mr and Mrs Chapple, but denies murder, and has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Jennifer and Stephen Chapple (Sam Malone/Avon and Somerset Police/PA) (PA Media)
Jennifer and Stephen Chapple (Sam Malone/Avon and Somerset Police/PA) (PA Media)

The Afghanistan veteran, who served with the Royal Engineers and completed the gruelling commando training, used the ceremonial dagger he had been given when he left the army.

The couple’s two young sons were asleep in bed upstairs at the time.

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

Reeves said he then remembered a “white light”, which he believed to be the Chapples’ security light when he climbed into their back garden.

Jo Martin QC, for Reeves, asked: “Do you have any memory of what you were thinking about when you were sitting on the stairs?”

Reeves replied: “Just the fear of losing everything, I just felt ‘like we are going to split up’, that was it, (my wife) was talking about me going to stay with my parents.”

He claimed he had no memory of 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 feel ashamed, disgusted with myself for what I've done, for taking Stephen and Jennifer's life while their children were in bed

Collin Reeves

“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 remember the handle of the (Chapples’) back door, the handle coming down.”

“I had a feeling like it was me or them,” Reeves added.

“I know it was wrong, I should never have been there.”

Reeves said the next thing he remembered was being back in his own home and hearing his wife screaming.

When at the police station, he told officers he was “Lance Corporal Reeves, sir”, and gave his military service number.

He told a custody sergeant “I was just doing my job” and “I was on an operation” although he did agree to speak to a mental health professional when this was offered to him.

But the jury previously heard the 999 call Reeves himself made, just a few minutes after the attack, in which he told the operator: “I went round with a knife, I’ve stabbed both of them.”

Under cross-examination, by Adam Feest QC, he acknowledged that he must have had a memory of the event when he made the 999 call.

During his evidence, Reeves recounted a culture of domestic abuse in his house growing up, and his own tendency to bottle up his feelings.

Collin Reeves, 34, in the dock (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)
Collin Reeves, 34, in the dock (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)

“I feel ashamed, disgusted with myself for what I’ve done, for taking Stephen and Jennifer’s life while their children were in bed, causing pain and suffering to their families and friends, knowing their two boys were in bed when it happened, why they can never see their mum and dad again because of me,” he said.

“I’ve always felt ashamed to talk to anyone about my feelings or thoughts because I always thought it was a sign of weakness, but now I am more ashamed for not talking or seeking help, because of what I have done.”

Reeves was recorded in the background of the 999 call telling someone, believed to be his mother Lynn, “I had to stop her tormenting Kayley”.

Mr Feest asked him: “Did you want to kill Jennifer?”

Reeves replied: “I don’t know.”

“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 asked Reeves if he had been trying to give Mrs Chapple “a taste of her own medicine” when he verbally abused her 10 days before stabbing her and her husband.

“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,” Mr Feest said.

The trial, which is expected to last eight days, continues.

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