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Somerset couple stabbed to death as young children slept upstairs | Crime


A husband and wife were stabbed to death at their Somerset home as their children slept upstairs, police have said.

Paramedics tried to save Stephen Chapple, 36, a teacher, and Jennifer Chapple, 33, who worked in a coffee shop, but they died of their wounds in their house in the village of Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton.

When police arrived they found their children, aged five and six, still asleep. Officers ushered them away, not allowing them to see their parents’ bodies.

Neighbours said there had been disputes about parking in the street and that police had visited on at least three previous occasions to speak to those involved.

Avon and Somerset police has referred itself to the watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct because of the previous contacts.

Two men, aged 34 and 67, were arrested on suspicion of murder after the attack at about 9.45pm Sunday. On Tuesday, magistrates granted an extension to the custody time limit in relation to a 34-year-old man, while a man aged 67 was released under investigation. Officers searched bushes, gardens and drains around the house in Dragon Rise.

Tributes poured in for the couple. Rob Brooks, the manager of Otter garden centre in Taunton, where Jennifer Chapple worked, said: “Jenny joined us at the beginning of this year and worked in our coffee shop. She was a respected member of the team and was well liked by all her colleagues.”

Gregg Mockridge, the headteacher of West Somerset college, where Stephen Chapple taught, said: “Steve was a fantastic colleague, 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.”

A murder investigation is being led by the major crime investigation team. Police said the children were being looked after by family members.

A postmortem confirmed Jennifer Chapple had died from multiple stabs wounds. The postmortem on Stephen Chapple was continuing on Tuesday but a police source said he, too, had suffered stab wounds.

The senior investigating officer, Det Insp Neil Meade, said: “What happened to Stephen and Jennifer is utterly heartbreaking and I can’t begin to imagine the impact their deaths will have on their two children. This is a tragic incident which has shocked the community, and neighbourhood officers are patrolling the area to provide reassurance.”

One neighbour, who asked to be named only as Melissa, said: “Everyone has an issue with parking around here … it has caused a lot of upset.”

A resident who asked not to be named, whose children go to the same school as the couple’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.”

Among notes left at the scene was one that 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.”

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