A couple were stabbed to death while their children slept upstairs amid claims of a long-running dispute with neighbours over parking – as police continue to quiz a man on suspicion of murder.
IT teacher Stephen Chapple, 36, and his garden centre worker wife Jenny, 33, were found at the £250,000 property on a new-build estate in the sleepy Somerset village of Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton, on Sunday night.
Police confirmed at a press conference this afternoon that the couple’s two children, five and six, were in their upstairs bedrooms while the attack took place. They were found ‘distressed’ but unhurt and are now being looked after by Jenny’s sister at a home nearby, neighbours said.
Jenny suffered ‘multiple’ stab wounds, her postmortem found. Stephen’s has not yet been carried out.
One of the couple’s neighbours, 34, was arrested on suspicion of murder. His father, 67, was arrested but has since been released under investigation. One of the men is believed to have a military background.
Residents have confirmed parking was a contentious issue on the estate and drone pictures today showed two cars parked bumper to bumper in the Chapples’ designated space.
One resident, Melissa, said: ‘I never knew of a dispute over parking that Jenny and Steven were involved with specifically.
‘But everyone has an issue with parking around here. Some people have multiple cars there isn’t space for and it has caused a lot of upset.’
Avon and Somerset Police said the incident on the Dragon Rise estate would be referred to the policing watchdog due to ‘prior police contact with those involved’.
IT teacher Stephen Chapple, 36, and his garden centre worker wife Jenny, 33, were found at their property in the Somerset village of Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton, on Sunday night
Residents have confirmed parking was a contentious issue on the estate and drone pictures today showed two cars parked bumper to bumper in the Chapples’ designated space
A ground view of the parking space. One woman said: ‘Everyone has an issue with parking around here. Some people have multiple cars there isn’t space for and it has caused a lot of upset’
The pair – who were named locally – were found with serious injuries and died at the scene. Jenny is pictured in a social media photo
A forensic officer pictured today at the scene in Norton Fitzwarren, a sleepy village near Taunton
Two police officers are seen searching a drain on Dragon Rise. In the foreground are floral tributes to the couple
A message placed on tributes outside Dragon Rise. Police are continuing to investigate the lead-up to the Chapples’ deaths
‘You lit up the street with your smile’: Friends pay tribute to couple
Friends have paid tribute to the Chapples in notes left at the scene.
One heartfelt message on one read: ‘Jennifer you lit up the street with your smile. You and Steve have been such wonderful friends since you arrived in our lives. Such a kind and welcoming couple.
‘You have left a void that will be felt across all those who knew you. Words cannot express how much we’ll miss you both.’
Another message said: ‘Jenni, chick I bloody miss you.
‘Thank you for the laughter, joy and craziness you brought into my life. And thank you for sharing your family.’
One unnamed resident who lived nearby to the couple, and whose children went to the same school and Jenny and Steven’s, said: ‘Jennifer was always very chatty and she loved dogs – she’d run up to every dog she saw.
‘Steve was also a lovely man – he seemed to be very devoted to his children.’
Another nearby resident called Barbara, aged 40, said: ‘I wasn’t close to the family but whenever I saw Jennifer she was ever so friendly and was always smiling.
‘She was always really happy and would stop for a laugh and a joke. Her hair was always bright – just like her personality. They will both be dearly missed.’
Gregg Mockridge, Headteacher at West Somerset College, where Stephen worked, said: “Steve was a fantastic colleague at West Somerset College, a brilliant teacher that cared deeply about the students in his care. He led innovations in the use of technology across the school as well as within his own teaching.
“Steve will be sadly missed by all staff and students and our thoughts and prayers go out to his children and wider family at this time.”
Rob Brooks, manager of the Otter Garden Centre, where Jenny worked in the coffee shop, told MailOnline: ‘She was a well loved member of staff and a very kind person.
‘We all loved her and so did the customers. We are devastated. We will remember her as a beautiful, kind and dedicated mother and colleague. This has hit us all very hard and it feels very raw.’
Mr Brooks said that Jenny had been working at the garden centre since the start of the year.
He added: ‘Stephen and the kids would sometimes come in and we got to know them too. They were a really close knit, loving family.
‘There’s a lot of speculation going around that this was a neighbourly dispute but I don’t want to get into any of that right now.’
Neighbours living on the new build estate around Dragon Rise described the neighbourhood as quiet, and one neighbour described the victims as ‘very friendly’.
‘I knew them by sight but I didn’t know their names, my dog used to really like the lady.’
Another neighbour said he had not realised anything was wrong even when the air ambulance arrived, and had believed it had just been from the nearby military base.
‘We slept through it all – we only saw all of the police and the tape this morning,’ he said.
Others said they heard screams and later the police and emergency services arriving.
A police cordon is still in place at two properties on the street while officers carry out a forensic examination of the scene.
Due to prior police contact with those involved, a voluntary referral will be made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
A formal identification process and post-mortem examinations to determine the causes of death will take place in due course.
Officers were called to Dragon Rise (pictured today) in Taunton, Somerset, at 9.45pm on Sunday. The couple were found with serious injuries
A police officer guards Dragon Rise in Taunton today. Flowers have been left nearby by wellwishers
Detective Inspector Neil Meade, of the Major Crime Investigation Team, said: ‘The thoughts of everyone in the force this morning are with the families of the two people who sadly died last night.
‘Two young children were inside the property at the time of the incident and while thankfully they weren’t hurt, they are understandably distressed at what has happened.
‘They are being looked after and specially trained officers have been deployed to support the victim’s families in what is undoubtedly the most difficult of times.’
He added: ‘We will carry out a full and thorough investigation and we will do all we can to achieve justice for the victim’s families.
‘While this appears to be an isolated incident, there will be increased police activity in the area to provide the community with reassurance.
‘Incidents like this are very rare but when they do happen, we know they cause significant concern so we’d urge anyone with worries or questions to speak to dan officer or contact their local neighbourhood policing team.
‘If anyone has information which would help our investigation, please phone 101 and give the call-handler the reference number 5221274497.’
A forensic tent is pictured today at the scene of the suspected double murder in Taunton
Due to prior police contact with those involved, a voluntary referral will be made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct
A woman living nearby said: ‘We didn’t see much of (the suspect) really, but there had been rows in the past about parking’ (image taken yesterday)