On the night of November 21 last year, Collin Reeves sat on the steps of his home in the Somerset village of Norton Fitzwarren and burst into tears.
He was in a terrible place. Since leaving the Army four years ago, Reeves had coughed between unsatisfactory jobs, missed the structure and purpose he’d found in the military, and absorbed the horrors he’d seen in Afghanistan.
He had found the Covid lockdowns difficult and feared he would not be able to support his wife and two children. The last straw had come that evening when his wife Kayley Reeves said she wanted a trial separation.
What Reeves did next was gruesome and devastating. He spotted a framed commando dagger he had been given when he left the army, took it from its holder and went outside.
Using the skills he’d learned on the Elite Command Course, Reeves slipped unseen into the backyard of his neighbors Jennifer and Stephen Chapple, coffeehouse employees and teachers respectively, with whom he’d had an argument over a parking space — the kind of trivial argument found in countless streets instead.
He went into their living room and murdered them both, yelling, “Die, you fucker, die!” He stabbed each of them six times. Luckily, her two children didn’t wake up and were taken away by cops after Reeves dialed 999 to confess.
Relations between the two families had been cordial until the Chapples got a second car. Each house on her street had only one designated parking spot, and Jennifer Chapple began parking in an undesignated area that didn’t block Reeves’ space but made it a little more difficult for him to move. Reeves took offense and aggressively confronted her in May 2021, telling her, “You can’t park there.”
Jennifer Chapple was concerned enough to contact the police. She told a friend, “He’s ex-military, so he definitely thinks he should get what he wants.” She wrote to another, “The developers didn’t take into account that people want to park in front of their own homes… apparently it’s the biggest deal in the world [Reeves] and he made it a personal vendetta.”
Housing association LiveWest, which partially owns the Reeves and Chapple homes, was alerted and sent out a notice to residents, saying: “We advise you only park in your allocated parking space.”
tensions grew. During the pandemic, Reeves took a job as a security guard at Hinkley Point, where a nuclear power plant is being built, but quit after feeling like he was being monitored by the cameras there.
On November 11, 10 days before the murder, Reeves launched a barrage of abuse against Jennifer Chapple, berating and insulting her. She reported this to the police again.
She messaged a friend, expressing frustration that little had been done after contacting police in May. “I’ve called them before because he’s tried that before and they screwed up.” She described him as a “trained killer” who “gets out how I react to his absconding.”
An officer from the police community contacted them. She said she did not want to take any formal action but wanted her concerns to be recorded. The officer reported the situation to LiveWest.
On the day of the murders, Reeves took his children to see the Christmas lights go on and stopped at a war memorial to commemorate fallen comrades. Just after 9 p.m., Reeves carried out the attack. When he was taken into custody, he gave his military serial number and said it was an “operation”.
Reeves was to say that he had no memory of the murder, but was prompted to act by the bright white of the Chapples’ security light going on, reminding him of flares in a war zone.
He described being stationed at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan and witnessing colleagues being brought back from patrols with horrific injuries. His troop commander had been killed. He said after his tour he wasn’t given time to “decompress”.
On the witness stand, Reeves said he was physically abused as a boy and had had suicidal thoughts since he was 12. He said he joined the army at 17 and was proud to have passed the command course. He accepted that he was a “trained killer” even though he hadn’t actually killed in the army. He argued that he must have been suffering from a “mental abnormality” at the time of the killing.
After the verdict, DI Neil Meade, the lead investigating officer, said he did not buy Reeves’ claims that he was mentally ill. He didn’t think Reeves had planned the attack, but when he saw the dagger sitting on the stairs, he had acted spontaneously. “He saw his life fall apart and took action.”
Police’s handling of Jennifer Chapple’s concerns about Reeves has been investigated by the independent Bureau of Police Conduct, but officers are not expected to have done anything wrong. “No one could have predicted what happened,” Meade said.
Two psychiatrists examined Reeves and diagnosed depression but no serious mental illness. He told one that life “felt dark all the time,” and she judged he had “lapsed back” into his training at the time of the attack.
The jury at Bristol Crown Court was told there was no dispute that Reeves killed the Chapples. The only question was whether his complaint of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility could be upheld. Their verdict shows that they didn’t buy Reeve’s explanation for his brutal attack either.