08 March 2023

Coroner warns of danger of Army ceremonial daggers after double murder

08 March 2023

The Army has been urged by a coroner to stop giving out weapons as retirement gifts after an Afghanistan veteran used a ceremonial dagger to murder his neighbours.

Collin Reeves stabbed Stephen Chapple, 36, and his wife Jennifer Chapple, 33, at their home near Taunton, Somerset, in November 2021 after a long-running parking dispute.

The dagger had been handed to Reeves when he retired from 15 years of service in the British Army in 2017.

Samantha Marsh, the senior coroner for Somerset, has written to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace urging him to consider the “appropriateness” of such weapons being given as gifts.

“The dagger was not a blunt replica, it was a fully functional weapon capable of causing significant harm, injury and, sadly, in the Chapple’s case, death,” she wrote in a prevention of future deaths report.

“Please reconsider the appropriateness of providing anyone leaving the British Army, regardless of rank or status, with what is to all intents and purposes a deadly weapon.

“Such presentation/gifting has essentially put a deadly weapon in the community where I understand it sadly remains, having never been recovered as it was removed from the scene prior to police attendance, and I am not persuaded that this is appropriate.

“During the trial, evidence was adduced by the defence team to allude to… poor mental health… because of combat and tours of war-torn countries.

“This is not an uncommon feature of those serving in and/or leaving the Army and adds further weight to my concerns around the appropriateness of such items, whether ceremonial or not, being issued in the first place, but secondly being issued to those who may have a propensity for mental health issues.”

Reeves was jailed for life in June last year and ordered to serve at least 38 years after being convicted of the double murder.

Reeves called police just a few minutes after the killings to confess, but later denied murder, claiming he was guilty of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

But two forensic psychiatrists found he was not suffering from psychosis or acute post-traumatic stress disorder, and diagnosed him with only mild to moderate depression.

On the night of the murders, Reeves 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 did not even have a chance to stand up from the sofa to defend herself, while Mr Chapple was found close to the back door.

The court heard that 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 Reeves’ wife Kayley and Mrs Chapple had told their friends they were anxious about bumping into each other on the school run.

The Defence Secretary has until April 25 to respond to the coroner’s report.

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