The families of a couple murdered by their ex-soldier neighbor have paid tribute to the “wonderful parents”, but have fears their young children will not remember them.
Collin Reeves, 35, stabbed Stephen Chapple, 36, and Jennifer Chapple, 33, with an army ceremonial dagger in a frenzied attack at their home in Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset, in November last year following a long-running dispute over parking.
The Afghan veteran killed the Chapples less than an hour after his wife asked for a trial separation and on Tuesday was jailed for life with a minimum term of 38 years at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday.
Rhonda Godley, Mrs Chapple’s sister, said her sister and brother-in-law were “wonderful parents” and the “love they showed and taught their boys was incredible.”
However she added that the family were worried that the boys were so young that they might not remember their parents, and described helping them through the funeral and their first Christmas without them.
The family decided to tell the boys what had happened early on “so they didn’t have to keep wondering where mummy and daddy were”, she said.
In a victim impact statement, Ann Clayton, Mrs Chapple’s mother, described her daughter as “an exuberant, caring, beautiful light in the world”.
She said: “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 in your soul that can never be replaced.”
Ms Clayton continued: “The thoughts that enter your head every day, dark, horrid thoughts, you don’t want to imagine the fear that they felt, the suffering that they endured, what their final thoughts were.”
She said she would give anything to hold her daughter one last time, “tell her how much she was loved and cherished and never let her go”.
“Jennifer lived for her children, she loved them with all her being, there was nothing that she wouldn’t do for her children,” Ms Clayton said.
“Now they will never know what it feels like to love her, hug her, get bedtime kisses from her.”
Marie Chapple, Mr Chapple’s sister, who is now bringing up her two nephews, said she was devoted to keeping the victims’ memories alive so their sons would “never forget how loved they were”.
She continued: “I know from experience working with troubled teenagers that it will be their adolescent years that will be difficult, when they truly understand everything that has happened and begin to process it in the same way as I am now.”
Ms Chapple added: “My life has been turned upside down in the wake of this, not only from the heartache or the surrealness of the situation, but because I’m now trying to balance a career with being a single parent, because I want to give the children everything they deserve and would have had from their parents, and the worry that I might not be able to provide this.”
Additional reporting by PA
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.