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Personal statements of Jennifer and Stephen Chapple’s family

Stephen and Jennifer Chapple with bubbles at their wedding
Stephen and Jennifer Chapple

The following statements written by members of Jennifer and Stephen Chapple’s family were provided to Mr Justice Garnham prior to the sentencing of Collin Reeves.

Some were read out at Bristol Crown Court today (Tuesday 21 June) before Reeves was jailed for a minimum of 38 years.

Please note – the statements are incredibly moving and likely to be upsetting for some people to read.

Ann Clayton – Jennifer’s mother

To begin to describe the insurmountable grief that we, Jennifer’s family have in words is quite difficult. What happened on 21 November 2021, changed all our lives in the most horrendous way imaginable.

For a mother to lose a child is something that causes a never-ending pain, knowing that that there will forever be a darkness inside you, a light switched off in your soul that cannot be replaced. That is what happened when there was a knock to the door at 6am Monday 22 November. How can it be that Jennifer, a vibrant, caring, beautiful light in this world, was taken from us in this way. Why? This makes no sense, this cannot be comprehended, it is like living in a horror movie, that is on an infinite loop. How can Jennifer be murdered, in what should be the safety of her home? 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.

As a family we grieve for so much that we have lost, we have lost the ability to have a future, make memories, to laugh together. All conversations with everyone that we know are now tinged with sadness and grief, and this has a detrimental impact on your wellbeing. It is hard to imagine ever having a sense of peace again. Struggling to look at a photograph of Jennifer’s beautiful face as it causes so much pain, you just so want to hold her one last time and tell her how much she was loved and cherished and never let her go.

As a grandparent to know that your grandsons are now growing up without the two most important people in their lives creates a rage and an anger that is like a fire in the stomach, Jennifer lived for her children, she loved them with all her being. There was nothing that she would not do for her children, now they will never know what it feels like to hug her, snuggle her, get bedtime kisses from her again. Jennifer and Stephen will not be there for all their milestone moments, this is not right.

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. They had so much more to do in their lives, they had contributed so much in the short time they had here, Stephen teaching the future generations and Jennifer on her way to do the same, they offered so much love and light. We should not be thinking of them in the past, they should be part of our present and our future. However now, every waking minute is left with tears, heartache and suffering. A constant ache in the hearts of all that knew and loved them both.

We have received the ultimate life sentence by the actions of this person, we implore you to use your powers to ensure that this person is never allowed to harm another person again in their lifetime. No other family should have to suffer this anguish and pain.

Jennifer and Stephen, we all love and miss you so much, we will see you in the rainbows and the stars, shine brightly for all of us.

Kaiya Chapple – Stephen’s sister

It was and still is hard to comprehend what has happened, sometimes it feels like it is not real as if I am living a story in a television show, like an out of body experience. I still expect them to be with us, like I will find out there has been some mistake and they are not really gone.

There is a certain numbness to how I feel, I need to find things to distract me, whether it is work or immersing myself into something else. When I lie in bed sleep does not come easily. I think of ways that this whole chaotic situation could have been avoided, as if I could turn back time and somehow warn them.

Stephen was my little brother; I remember being protective of him growing up and how I could not protect him from this. He was funny intelligent and thoughtful. Jennifer, because of what happened, I feel I did not get enough time to know her well enough, but I know she was creative, passionate about things and spoke her mind.

Two boys have been left without parents, I am there for them along with the rest of their family although feel like we are now sharing moments with them that should have been shared with their Mummy and Daddy.

Stephen Chapple with his grandmother

Marie Chapple – Stephen’s sister

Losing my brother and my sister-in-law, my two best friends, has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through, and to lose them in such an insufferable way has been unbearable. Their two precious boys have been left without a mother and father, at such a young age, that I spend my days trying to keep their memory alive so that they never forget them, never forget how loved they were, and how much they would have done to give them everything they needed and more.

Every day I must be brave for those boys when I am absolutely breaking inside. I’m having to teach them that it’s ok to be sad, it’s ok to shed tears, whilst trying to hold back my own, so that I don’t breakdown in front of them. Every day I feel guilty for everything I do with them, that they should be doing with their parents. Guilty for them missing the auntie that has now become their parent, and for me not having the auntie/nephew relationship we used to have, because I now have to set their boundaries.

I have to hold it together because of their resilience to move from one emotion to the next, but I know from experience of working with troubled teenagers, that it will be the 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. And I will have to relive everything; every emotion, every heartache. But for now, I’ve had to try to explain to them what has happened to their mummy and daddy, why they went to bed one night with them there, and the next morning they weren’t. I’m having to be careful with every phrase I use so that they feel safe, even though I sometimes don’t, in my own home.

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.

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. The person who everyone loved because he would never do anything to upset anyone. This compassion was not only shown in his love for his wife and boys, but also in how he was with family, friends and his students.
I’ve lost my best friend, the friend who always looked out for me, who wanted to make sure I was ok, even when she wasn’t. The friend who cared so deeply about others and became my sister and someone my family loved as if she were our own. Someone who wanted everything for her boys and found a soulmate in her husband.

It hurts so much that we can’t create new memories with them and their children, but it pains me to know that the boys will not experience all the fond memories we were able to as a family, that they won’t be able to share their stories of their parents in the same way that I was able to with my brother. It absolutely breaks me to know that I couldn’t protect my little brother in the way I’ve always tried since he was small.

Not a day has passed where they haven’t been in my thoughts on waking, and when I haven’t cried in the evening, when the boys are asleep, and I only have time to think about what we’ve all lost.

Rhonda Godley – Jennifer’s sister

My sister and brother-in-law were the most wonderful parents I’ve ever known. The love they showed and taught their boys was incredible. They should still be here looking after them, tucking them into bed at night, reading them bedtime stories and easing their little minds for any worries that may occur, and seeing them grow up to be wonderful human beings, all of that stripped away in one night. I think that hurts every one of us in the family the most.

With their ages their boys will most likely grow up with no memory of their parents, so they’ll never really remember a time when they had parents.

To be told the news as soon as waking up felt like my heart had been ripped out, I thought I was still dreaming and this was all a dreadful nightmare. Not knowing truly what had happened made every minute of the days after feel like hours. six months on and I’m still in shock and riddled with grief. I lost the one person I could turn to when I needed help, no matter what my sister Jennifer would always be there for me, and now I feel lost.

The first month was dreadful, waking up felt like a chore, reliving the call telling me what had happened, not being able to stop thinking about it. Every waking minute I was, and still am, stuck trying to figure out what on earth could have happened to cause this.

Finding out how it happened hurt the most, in their own home while their two children were asleep in bed. I’m incredibly grateful to the police officers that carried their boys out of the house so they didn’t have to see anything.

Three days after it happened we decided it was best to let their boys know what happened. I told them, as I lost my Dad when I was four and found out when I was seven, so I knew what was needed, and what would help them with the grief. We knew the earlier the better, so they didn’t have to keep wondering where Mummy and Daddy were.

I told them that they’ll always be watching them, just to look out for the rainbows and they’re there, and at night to look up at the sky as they’re in the stars too. The pain it caused me to have to tell them still rips through me every day, to see their hearts break on my lap, and the cry that came from their eldest, I’ll never forget it.

We went with other family members to identify the bodies, for me it was to make sure it was real, as it still felt like a horrible nightmare. When walking into the morgue and seeing them, I knew I’d lost them both for good and it was a living nightmare, one I’ll never wake up from. They looked asleep and peaceful, I just wish it didn’t end this way.

A few weeks after, we went to their house, and that was a lot of pain, to see it the way they had left, it still smelt the same, as if they were coming to greet us and invite us in, that’s all we hoped for. But it was silent and cold. It felt like we were breaking in, wrong being there but we had to be, to get their boys some of their belongings, so they could feel more comfortable at their new home. Even after being told they still didn’t understand why they couldn’t go home.

I think we all dreaded Christmas, the “most wonderful time of the year” yet it felt so wrong to try and celebrate, even for their boys’ sake. Their boys were happy when distracted, and grateful for the huge amount of presents donated by people, but no amount of presents will ever bring their parents back, or make them feel okay. You could see it in their eyes that they knew something was missing, and that Christmas will never be the same for them again.

Five days after Christmas we had the funeral, it was beautiful but still felt wrong, we shouldn’t have been saying goodbye, especially not now. We cried a lot, shared cherished memories and all felt the sadness and grief together. We helped to distract their youngest, as at that age you don’t fully understand what a funeral is, or why there is 50+ people in the room crying in unison.

At the wake their boys seemed okay, kept close to the people they knew they could trust and be safe with, but it seemed as though they were still waiting for Mummy and Daddy to show up.

As time has gone on I’ve tried to think more of the good memories than anything else but it’s been very difficult. When I drive to Taunton I’m still on autopilot to their house, having to remember not to go there as I won’t see them. I have to still remind myself that I can’t just text my sister to see how she is, or ask her for advice.

For the past six months I haven’t felt safe in our own home, scared that something like this will happen to us. Always making sure the doors are locked and that we’re as safe as we can be. I can’t go out for walks by myself anymore, or even with my son as I’m terrified, I don’t know what of, but maybe not feeling safe, or feeling like someone is out there planning to get me. I’ve lost the freedom to do whatever I wanted to, now I have to think about how safe I’ll be, if someone was to try and hurt me, how would I make sure I was able to stop that, or get away from it. It’s made my life hell. My anxiety has never been higher.

I just know I would never want my son to be without his parents, I will never be able to comprehend how someone could do this, it’s cruel and unjustified. Could the defendant even imagine if it was his children in this situation? Surely not as he’s gone through with it. I am baffled by how his family can still stand by him after this. If my husband ever did anything like this I’d be outraged and wouldn’t want to ever look at him again, and I’m certain he’d feel the same way if it was the other way around.

This kind of grief has been the worst I’ve ever dealt with. I couldn’t eat, I barely slept, and have been constantly thinking of all the possible ways it happened. How? Why? Did they defend themselves? Did they try and get to their boys to protect them? Did they try and call for help?

I don’t believe I’ll ever know the answers to all of the questions, but I believe the trial will give some sort of closure, to hopefully stop my imagination getting the better of me.

I still think of the things we had planned. Stephen was planning to go and watch Sheffield United with my husband and take their boys and our son as they’re all big fans of the same football team. Jennifer and I were going to get matching tattoos, we had talked about it for months. I imagined growing old, sitting together, Jennifer crocheting, and I would be knitting, complaining about something completely irrelevant. But sadly we won’t get to make those memories, which hurts a lot.

Robert Chapple – Stephen’s father

There are no words to express how we truly feel, but on the 21st of November 2021 we were woken by a knock on the door by the police.

The news we were given about our son and daughter in law devastated our lives, then having to pass that news on to our two daughters was so terrible.

We struggle most days to accept reality to think that we will never see our beautiful son and daughter-in-law again and our two grandsons losing their lovely mum and dad at such a young age.

It is so hard to get on with everyday tasks we are very close knit family and also met up and did lots of activities together, now when we get together there is always a huge void in our lives , we don’t feel we will ever come to terms with what has happened and the cruel way they were taken from us.

Irene Selway – Stephen’s grandmother

Stephen was one of my many grandchildren, but one of my closest, who I saw regularly with Jennifer and his two boys, and they would always look out for me. It’s now not the same when the boys visit as Stephen and Jennifer are not there.

I recently had a tea party for my 90th birthday, with all my family there, but Stephen and Jennifer were missing. It’s not right that I have had a 90th birthday party and Stephen and Jennifer lost their lives at such a young age.

Stephen (and later Jennifer too) used to buy me a Cliff Richard birthday card and at Christmas a Cliff Richard calendar every year. Christmas 2021 will be the last year that I received this calendar, from a very much loved grandson, as he had already bought it ready for Christmas.

It’s not natural for a parent to lose a child, and having lost children at a young age myself, I can understand the pain and suffering my daughter and son-in-law are going through, along with the rest of our close knitted family.