The families of a couple murdered in their own home by their neighbour while their sons slept upstairs have paid tribute to them as “wonderful parents”.
Ex-soldier Collin Reeves, 35, stabbed Stephen Chapple, 36, and Jennifer Chapple, 33, at their home in Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset, on November 21 last year following a long-running row over parking.
The Afghan veteran had been having problems in his own marriage, and killed the Chapples less than an hour after his wife asked for a trial separation.
He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 38 years at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday.
Mr Chapple was a teacher in a local school, while his wife worked in the coffee shop at a nearby garden centre.
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.”
Rhonda Godley, Mrs Chapple’s sister, said: “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.”
Ms Godley said the family feared 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.
Ms Godley added: “I am incredibly grateful to the police officers who carried the boys out of the house so they didn’t have to see anything.”
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.”