21 March 2023

Ex-soldier who murdered neighbours has minimum term cut by appeal judges

21 March 2023

A former soldier who stabbed his neighbours to death while their children slept upstairs has won an appeal after arguing the minimum amount of time he would have to serve in jail was too long.

Afghanistan veteran Collin Reeves, who knifed Stephen and Jennifer Chapple six times each at their home in Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton, Somerset, in November 2021 after a long-running row over parking, had been handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 38 years by a trial judge.

Three appeal judges on Tuesday cut that minimum term to 35 years after concluding 38 years was “excessive”.

Lord Justice Holroyde, Mr Justice Kerr and Judge Timothy Spencer considered Reeves’ challenge at a Court of Appeal hearing in London.

They concluded that Mr Justice Garnham, who oversaw a trial at Bristol Crown Court last June, should have given “more weight” to “mitigating factors”.

To kill the couple, Reeves, 36, a former Royal Engineer, used a ceremonial dagger given to him when he left the Army, appeal judges heard.

He called police minutes after the killings to confess.

Reeves denied murder but admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

Two forensic psychiatrists found he was not suffering from psychosis or acute post-traumatic stress disorder but diagnosed mild to moderate depression.

A jury was told Reeves had also been having trouble in his marriage and, less than an hour before he stabbed the Chapples, his wife asked for a trial separation.

Reeves was unanimously convicted of murder.

Lord Justice Holroyde said the issue was whether Mr Justice Garnham correctly balanced mitigating and aggravating factors.

Those factors included Reeves’ remorse, depression, military service and confession.

Barrister Jo Martin KC, for Reeves, told appeal judges there were “significant mental issues” and described what happened as “mania” and “10 minutes of extraordinary behaviour”.

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