A 'depraved' former soldier who stabbed his neighbours to death in their home in a row over parking while their children slept upstairs has been jailed for life.
Collin Reeves, 35, a former Royal Engineer, was convicted last week of the murders of neighbours Stephen and Jennifer Chapple, at their home in Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset, on 21 November last year.
He was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday to life in prison with a minimum term of 38 years.
Sentencing Reeves, Mr Justice Garnham said the killings had “torn the heart out of two perfectly normal, decent families”.
He told Reeves: “You left (Mr and Mrs Chapple) on the floor bleeding to death, and all of the time their two children were asleep upstairs.
“Your murderous behaviour left them orphans. They were put to bed that night by their parents and they would never see them again. The harm you did those two innocent children is incalculable.”
Mr Justice Garnham said Reeves had also inflicted enormous damage on his own daughters, as they will now grow up without their father.
Mrs Chapple’s mother, Ann Clayton, said in a victim impact statement: “For a mother to lose a child is something that causes never-ending pain, knowing there will forever be a darkness inside you, a light switched off that can never be replaced.
"This should not have happened, he had no right to do this to Jennifer and Stephen, his depraved, evil actions that night have left a tragic legacy that will remain with us all forever."
She described her daughter as “an exuberant, caring, beautiful light in the world”.
Mr Chapple's sister, Marie, said: "I’ve lost my little brother, the most caring person. The little brother who always wanted to protect his big sister. The little brother who would always make me smile when I needed it most."
In a highly unusual step, after the sentence was passed Reeves’s mother, Lynn, stood up to give her own statement, before she was stopped by the judge.
Detective Inspector Neil Meade, the senior investigating officer, said Stephen and Jennifer Chapple "were doting parents who did nothing to deserve what happened to them".
He added: “The impact their deaths has had on those who loved them is heartbreaking and while the sentence announced today is fully justified, I’m sure it in no way balances out the grief they continue to feel.
“They have shown great courage and dignity throughout our investigation and subsequent criminal proceedings and I hope now these have concluded they can move forward with their lives.”
Reeves, an Afghanistan veteran, used the ceremonial dagger given to him when he left the army to murder the couple.
The court heard he stabbed them to death 40 minutes after his wife said she wanted a trial separation from him.
He stabbed Mr Chapple, 36, and Mrs Chapple, 33, six times each in their home on Dragon Rise after a long-running dispute with the couple over parking on the new-build housing development.
He 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 ******* 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 rear door.
Reeves called the police to tell them what he had done, but later denied murder and instead pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
On Friday, a jury at Bristol Crown Court found him guilty of two counts of murder after five hours and 21 minutes of deliberations.
Reeves did not react as the verdicts were read out but his wife Kayley wept.
The court heard the Chapples and Reeves previously had a good relationship but it had deteriorated when Mrs Chapple learned to drive and bought a second car, sparking rows over parking spaces.
After the killings, Reeves was recorded in the background of the 999 call telling someone, believed to be his mother Lynn, “I couldn’t let her (or them) torment Kayley anymore”.
Following the murders, two forensic psychiatrists concluded Reeves was not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis, but diagnosed him with moderate and mild depression respectively.
Both said he could be suffering from “dissociative amnesia” – a condition common in perpetrators of domestic homicide when they are unable to process what they have done.
Dr John Sandford, for the prosecution, said: “This is nothing to do with depression – it’s a reaction to a traumatic act, something that is usually a reaction to something you’ve done rather than something done to you.”
In a statement, the Chapples’ loved ones said: “No verdict will bring back our beautiful Jennifer and Stephen.
“If anything, these past 10 days have prolonged us finding out how Jennifer and Stephen spent their final moments.
“We will now focus on Jennifer and Stephen’s beautiful boys, helping them to live the life that Jennifer and Stephen would have wished for them.”
Watch: Army veteran found guilty of murdering couple over parking row