A former soldier who stabbed his neighbors to death as their children slept upstairs was not mentally ill at the time, two psychiatrists have said.
Collin Reeves, 35, is on trial for murder at Bristol Crown Court after killing Jennifer and Stephen Chapple on November 21 in Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton in Somerset.
Reeves and his family lived next door to the Chapples in Dragon Rise in the new development and had an argument in a parking lot in May 2021.
There had been several angry exchanges between them, including an incident in which Reeves called Ms Chapple a ‘f****** c***’ and a ‘fat bitch’.
Reeves admits he stabbed Mr and Mrs Chapple, but denies murder and has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Read more: Ex-soldier tells court he doesn’t remember killing neighbors
The Afghan veteran, who served with the Royal Engineers and underwent grueling commando training, used the ceremonial dagger given to him when he left the army.
The jury heard he had problems in his own marriage and about 40 minutes before the attack his wife, Kayley, filed for legal separation.
After the murders, 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 any longer.”
Forensic psychiatrist Dr Lucy Bacon, who assessed Reeves on behalf of the defense team, concluded that he was suffering from moderate depression at the time.
She said Reeves did not have symptoms consistent with acute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The accused said he was anxious in crowds but was not “hyper-vigilant” – a symptom of PTSD often seen in soldiers where they feel a constant sense of threat.
Reeves said his life “felt dark all the time,” the witness said.
Dr Bacon said: “To me that’s quite an evocative description of low mood, there’s no brightness, no pleasure or happiness, things are pretty miserable.”
She diagnosed his depression as moderate because he was still able to function in some aspects of his life, such as going to work or going for runs, and worried about providing for his family.
Read more: Ex-soldier who killed neighbors tells 999: ‘I stabbed them’
Dr Bacon said: ‘I would certainly say depression is a relevant factor in Mr Reeves’ actions; I wouldn’t say depression caused him to do what he did, but I think if you look at the totality, depression played a part in it.
She added: “From my perspective, I don’t think this meets the criteria for mitigated liability, but that is my perspective, and it is a jury decision.”
While at the police station, Reeves gave his name “Lance Corporal Collin Reeves” and gave his service number, and seemed confused as to why he was there.
Dr Bacon said it appeared the defendant had “regressed” in his training.
“He spent many years as a soldier and he went back to that way of answering questions with his service number, that sort of thing,” she said.
“I think it was caused by the shock of killing the Chapples.”
Dr Bacon added: ‘It’s possible he’s already regressed somewhat and gone into armed mode during the kills.’
She said that, when talking to Reeves, he said “he didn’t feel that the depth of his feelings for the neighbors accounted for the fact that he killed them.”
Dr. John Sandford, a forensic psychiatrist for the prosecution, said Reeves’ memory loss regarding the murders was consistent with “dissociative amnesia” and was not a contributing factor to the incident.
He said it’s common in domestic violence homicide cases, where the perpetrator may call the police immediately afterwards but quickly lose all memory of the incident.
“It has nothing to do with depression – it’s a reaction to a traumatic act, something that’s usually a reaction to something you did rather than something that was done to you,” he said. said Dr. Sandford.
The witness diagnosed Reeves with mild depression, adding that it was a normal response for someone who was unhappy in his job and unhappy in his marriage.
Dr Sandford said Reeves described a pattern of “subtle bullying and social cruelty” by Ms Chapple towards his wife.
He said that, in his opinion, “the main factor in the commission of this offense is the dispute between the two families”.
The trial, which is due to be completed by the end of the week, is continuing.