Young mum stabbed by ex-soldier ‘knew he would kill her’, court hears

·3-min read
Collin Reeves, 35, in the dock at Bristol Crown Court, as prosecutor Adam Feest QC sets out his case (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)
Collin Reeves, 35, in the dock at Bristol Crown Court, as prosecutor Adam Feest QC sets out his case (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)

A young mother stabbed to death by a neighbour while her children slept upstairs “knew” he wanted to kill her, one of the victim’s co-workers told a court.

Former soldier Collin Reeves, 35, is on trial at Bristol Crown Court for the murder of Jennifer Chapple, 33, and her husband, 36-year-old teacher Stephen Chapple.

Reeves forced his way into the couple’s home in Dragon Rise, Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton in Somerset, on the evening of November 21 last year.

He stabbed both six times in a frenzied minute-long attack using the ceremonial dagger he had been given when he left the army in 2017, before calling the police and telling them what he had done, the court was told.

When officers arrived at the scene, the couple’s children were still asleep upstairs.

Reeves had been involved in a long-running dispute with the couple over designated parking on the new-build housing development.

The defendant has admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, claiming he was suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning, but denies murder.

Tributes laid to Stephen and Jennifer Chapple in Norton Fitzwarren (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)
Tributes laid to Stephen and Jennifer Chapple in Norton Fitzwarren (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)

Just 10 days before the killings, Reeves had verbally abused Mrs Chapple outside her house following an earlier exchange between the victim and Reeves’ wife Kayleigh Reeves.

During the incident, which was caught on the Chapples’ door bell cam, Reeves referred to Mrs Chapple as a “f****** c***” and “you fat bitch”.

Sandrine Moreira, who worked with Mrs Chapple in the coffee shop of a nearby garden centre, said on Wednesday the victim had been “very scared” of Reeves.

The witness said: “(Mrs Chapple) was very scared, she was very afraid.

“She knew (Reeves) would kill her if she would say or do anything against him, she knew he was ex-military.”

Ms Moreira described an incident in which Reeves had brought his two daughters into the coffee shop and adjusted his chair so he could stare at the counter where Mrs Chapple was working.

“The chair was turned sideways to face us at the counter and he just sat there looking at us, that was pretty much it,” Ms Moreira said.

Various friends and neighbours gave witness statements about how scared Mrs Chapple was of the defendant, including becoming anxious about the school run because she did not want to be alone.

Mrs Chapple also told several people she wanted to move house to get away from Reeves.

The jury was shown a clip from the Chapples’ back door camera of Reeves climbing their fence and entering via the back door.

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

Reeves had also been suffering problems in his marriage, the jury was told.

As well as the dispute over parking, on the evening of the killings, Mrs Reeves had told her husband that she wanted to try a trial separation.

Just a few minutes later Reeves walked out of his house armed with his ceremonial dagger, usually kept in a picture frame, and stabbed the Chapples, the court was told.

When he was first taken into custody, Reeves said at one point: “I shouldn’t have done it, I ruined their lives and mine.”

A psychiatrist instructed by Reeves’ defence team concluded that he was not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the army between 2002 and 2017.

Dr Lucy Bacon found the defendant had symptoms of moderate depression, but nothing to suggest it was undermining his ability to form a rational judgment or exercise self-control, and the defence of diminished responsibility did not apply.

A psychiatrist for the prosecution, Dr John Sandford, found Reeves had mild depression, but that he was able to operate fairly normally from day to day, and did not have an abnormality of mental function.

Reeves sat with his head bowed or in his hands throughout most of the prosecution’s opening speech.

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

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