Afghanistan veteran who killed neighbors ‘suffered from depression’

A former soldier who stabbed his two neighbors to death had depression but no other mental illness, two forensic psychiatrists have agreed.

Collin Reeves has admitted stabbing Steven and Jennifer Chapple at their home in Norton Fitzwarren, outside Taunton, Somerset, on November 21 last year, but has denied the murder.

The Afghanistan veteran, instead, admitted to involuntary manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Jurors were asked to decide whether Reeves’ depression, which was diagnosed as “moderate” by one psychiatrist and “mild” by another, amounted to an “abnormality of mental functioning” under the law.

On Friday, Reeves was found guilty of murder.

During the trial at Bristol Crown Court, the jury heard that Reeves and his wife Kayley had been involved in a dispute with the Chapples over parking since the previous May.

The Reeveses were also having problems in their marriage, and about 40 minutes before the murders, Mrs. Reeves had asked her husband for a trial separation.

The defendant later said that he had almost no recollection of the incident and that he did not have the “depth of feeling” about the Chapples that would explain why he killed them.

Tributes for Stephen and Jennifer Chapple at Norton Fitzwarren (Andrew Matthews/PA)

(PA file)

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Lucy Bacon, who evaluated Reeves on behalf of the defense team, concluded that he was suffering from mild depression at the time of the attacks.

Dr. Bacon said that she had explored the possibility that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his tour of Afghanistan and concluded that he was not.

The defendant reported being anxious in crowds, but was not “hypervigilant,” a symptom of PTSD often seen in soldiers where they feel a constant sense of threat.

Nor did he suffer from nightmares or flashbacks.

Instead, Reeves told her that since leaving the military in December 2017, he had been depressed and tired and wanted to avoid people.

Reeves said that he had been thinking about killing himself, and also about packing his suitcase and disappearing to get away from his life.

A police tent on the scene at Dragon Rise in Norton Fitzwarren (Andrew Matthews/PA)

(PA file)

While at the station, Reeves gave his name as “Lance Corporal Collin Reeves” and gave his duty number, and seemed confused as to why he was there.

Dr. Bacon said that it appeared that the defendant had “regressed” in his training.

“He’s spent many years as a soldier and he’s back to that way of answering questions with his service number, that kind of thing,” he said.

“I think that was caused by the shock of killing the Chapples.”

Both Reeves’ wife and his mother, Lynn Reeves, described Reeves looking very different on the night of the attack, something Dr. Bacon attributed to extreme shock.

Reeves told Dr. Bacon that life before the stabbings “felt dark all the time”.

He told her that he had felt scared most of the time growing up due to episodes of domestic violence against him and his mother by his father, but had never sought help for his mental health.

Reeves said, “I’m a soldier and I need to toughen up, so I don’t discuss it,” said Dr. Bacon.

She diagnosed her depression as moderate because she was still able to function in some aspects of her life, like going to work or going for a run, and she was worried about providing for her family.

Dr. Bacon said that depression was an abnormality of mental function because it affects how someone sees the world and their own behavior.

But he said that, in his opinion, it did not meet the criteria for diminished responsibility in the law.

Dr. John Sandford of the prosecution said Reeves’ memory loss of the murders was consistent with “dissociative amnesia,” where an incident is so traumatic that the brain erases it.

“This has nothing to do with depression, it’s a reaction to a traumatic event, something that’s usually a reaction to something you’ve done rather than something done to you,” said Dr. Sandford.

The witness diagnosed Reeves with mild depression, adding that it was a normal response for someone who was unhappy in their job or marriage.

Dr. Sandford said Reeves’ behavior of shock, confusion and memory loss when he was arrested were a result of the murders, not pre-existing mental conditions that prompted his actions.

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