Ex-soldier stabbed couple with ceremonial dagger, court hears

‘I was just doing my job – it was an operation’: What ex-soldier told police after stabbing married couple to death with ceremonial dagger while their children slept upstairs following long-running row over parking space

Ex soldier Collin Reeves stabbed his neighbours Stephen and Jennifer Chapple He used a ceremonial dagger he received upon leaving the army to kill themBristol Crown Court heard Reeves climbed a fence to break into their home Reeves denies murdering the couple but has pleaded guilty to manslaughter 

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A former soldier stabbed a young married couple in their home while their children slept upstairs using the ceremonial dagger given to him when he left the Army, claiming to police: ‘I was just doing my job – it was an operation.’

Collin Reeves is on trial at Bristol Crown Court accused of the murder of his neighbours Stephen and Jennifer Chapple in Dragon Rise, Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton in Somerset, on the evening of November 21, 2021.

Reeves, also of Dragon Rise, had been involved in a long-running dispute with the couple over designated parking on the new-build housing development, the court heard.

Following his arrest at the scene, Reeves was taken to a police station where he was asked how he was feeling. 

Reeves said he was ‘confused’ and ‘did not understand why he was there’. 

He then told officers: ‘I was just doing my job – it was an operation.’

He later added: ‘I shouldn’t have done it. I’ve ruined their lives and mine.’

He was then seen by a healthcare professional who described him as ‘alert’ and speaking coherently with a ‘willingness to engage.’

Collin Reeves is on trial at Bristol Crown Court accused of the murder of his neighbours Stephen and Jennifer Chapple in Dragon Rise, Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton in Somerset, on the evening of November 21, 2021

Former soldier Collin Reeves, 34, is accused of using a ceremonial dagger he received upon leaving the army to murder his neighbours Stephen and Jennifer Chapple in Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton in Somerset

Bristol Crown Court heard Jennifer Chapple, 33, suffered six stab wounds to her upper chest and shoulder causing fatal injuries to a major blood vessel and her heart. Stephen Chapple, left, also suffered six stab wounds and was found near the back door of his home

On the night of the killing, the 34-year-old defendant climbed the fence separating his garden from the victims’, and entered via the back door.

He then launched a frenzied minute-long attack on the couple in their living room, stabbing both ‘multiple times’ in the living room, the court heard.

Mrs Chapple, 33, suffered six stab wounds to her upper chest and shoulder, causing fatal injuries to a major blood vessel and her heart, prosecutor Adam Feest QC said.

She did not even have a chance to stand up from the sofa to defend herself, Mr Feest said.

Mr Chapple, 36, was found close to the rear door and had also suffered six stab wounds as well as three other minor injuries.

Neither had any defensive injuries, Mr Feest said, indicating the speed of the attack.

Mrs Chapple, pictured, and her husband did not have any defensive wounds, which according to the prosecution was due to the speed of the attack

The jury was told that Reeves, who was a commando engineer with the British Army, has admitted killing the couple and has pleaded guilty to their manslaughter

The jury was told that Reeves, who was a commando engineer with the British Army, has admitted killing the couple and has pleaded guilty to their manslaughter.

He claims he was suffering an ‘abnormality of mental functioning’, and jurors were told it will be their job to decide whether this was true.

After the killings, Reeves climbed back over the fence and telephoned the police to tell them he had stabbed his neighbours.

Just a few days before the attack, Mrs Chapple was the victim of a ‘particularly unpleasant verbal assault’ by Reeves, Mr Feest said, captured on the victims’ Ring Doorbell camera.

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

Mr Feest said: ‘Whether it was this parking dispute, tensions within the defendant’s marriage, or a combination of these things which led the defendant to kill his neighbours is unclear.

‘When he was questioned by the police in interview about his actions, the defendant chose to exercise his right to silence.’

He claims he was suffering an ‘abnormality of mental functioning’, and jurors were told it will be their job to decide whether this was true

The court heard cameras picked up the sounds of the attack with loud screams from Mrs Chapple while Reeves can be heard shouting ‘die you f******, die,’ before he closes the door behind him and climbs back over the fence.

Mr Feest told the jury: ‘The defendant armed himself with a dagger, which had been ceremoniously presented to him on leaving service in the British Army and went out of the rear door of his house.

‘From his back garden, he climbed over the tall fence separating his garden from that of his neighbours’, Jennifer and Stephen Chapple and went towards the back door of their house.

‘The Chapples were together in the living room of their home that evening, their two young children fast asleep upstairs. Having gained entry into the living room, within a short period of time the defendant used the dagger he was armed with to stab Jennifer and Stephen multiple times.’

On the night of the killings, Mr Feest said it was ‘clear as far as the defendant was concerned that the Chapple’s occupied a great deal of his thoughts’.

Moments before the killing, the court heard Mrs Reeves had told her husband ‘there are only so many years I can take your shit’ before he stormed out the house.

Mr Feest added: ‘This conversation about separating seems to be the last discussion between him and his wife before he armed himself with the dagger given when leaving the army and going next door to kill his neighbours.’

In the aftermath of the stabbings, the defendant’s dad Brian Reeves arrived at the scene and neighbours entered the home to find the victim’s bloodied bodies on the living room floor.

Mr Feest added: ‘They thought “this has got to be a joke”. After getting no response from Jennifer at all, they realised it was far from a joke.’

Reeves denies murdering the couple but admits their manslaughter. The trial at Bristol Crown Court will continues 

The court heard Reeves had also phoned police and told them on his call he had ‘stabbed his neighbours a couple of times each’.

That call was interrupted by his father telling him to put the phone down.

Mr Feest added: ‘Mrs Reeves (the defendant’s wife) had seen the commemorative dagger that was in a frame with photos had been removed. The frame was broken and the dagger missing. She phoned his parents and he came back into the house with blood on his hands.’

Mr Feest said the Crown’s case was that he was ‘not suffering from diminished responsibly and the killing of the neighbours in their own home was murder’.

Detailing the parking dispute, he added: ‘Although there was designated spaces, these were not always outside the house.

‘Parking seems to be the cause of tension during 2020 when Mrs Chapple learned to drive so they had a second car. With two cars on a single space this caused problems.’

He said although the parking did not block access to the Reeves’ driveway, the prosecution said it ‘did perhaps to a degree limit the access to it’ and required them to manoeuvre around the car.

There had been earlier confrontations over the issue, including an incident caught on a doorbell camera, which showed the defendant approaching Mrs Chapple and being abusive towards her.

Mr Feest added: ‘The rights and wrongs of the dispute matters not. Everyone had their own perspective. The importance of it was a disagreement.

‘You don’t need to decide who was at fault for parking where. But you can see the type of atmosphere it started to create. It is clear there was tension and was a topic that affected both families.

‘As far as the defendant was concerned it seems this dispute became a source of some stress, and came to the fore.’

The court heard there were several flashpoints over the issue in the months leading up to the killings – including the ‘most significant’ on November 11, involving an altercation caught on camera between Mrs Chapple and the defendant.

He is seen storming out her property when she comes home and is heard accusing her of ‘f****** gobbing off’ and calling her a ‘cheeky little bitch’.

Mr Feest said in an ‘angry and aggressive tone’ he also calls her a fat bitch and a ‘f****** c***’.

He added: ‘You get the sense of the tone and the level and nature of the relationship.’

Mr Feest said there was no evidence that the Chapples’ two young children witnessed the stabbings as they were asleep when police arrived at the house. 

The court heard when Reeves arrived at the police station after his arrest he was asked how he was feeling and said he was ‘confused’ and ‘did not understand why he was there’.

The court heard he then told officers: ‘I was just doing my job – it was an operation.’

He later added: ‘I shouldn’t have done it. I’ve ruined their lives and mine.’

He was then seen by a healthcare professional who described him as ‘alert’ and speaking coherently with a ‘willingness to engage’.

Mr Feest added: ‘There was no evidence of acute mental illness.’

Reeves later answered no comment to all questions at interview.

Mr Feest said the trial was a ‘single issue’ one whether he had a defence of diminished responsibility as he had accepted he had killed the couple without any lawful excuse.

In an opening statement, the defence barrister told the jury: ‘You know that Collin Reeves has pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter and has done so because he accepts as he should that he unlawfully killed Jennifer and Stephen Chapple.

‘He has done so as he accepted at the time of killing it was clear he intended to kill them.

‘The defence is that at the time of the killing he was not in his right mind. He was not himself.

‘You will hear evidence of his mental state from family and Collin Reeves himself in the run up to what happened on November 21.’

She said they will also present evidence he was suffering from PTSD due to previous trauma in his life.”

The trial continues.  

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