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Dagger gifting rule will not change after dagger murders

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said the Ministry of Defence (MOD) will not change its rules allowing those leaving military to be gifted knives, after a senior coroner wrote to him, urging him to consider the appropriateness of using ceremonial daggers as leaving gifts.

It came after veteran Collin Reeves murdered his neighbours Stephen and Jennifer Chapple using a dagger.

Mr Wallace said current restrictions were “sufficient”, adding that other knives were available to buy online.

However, he said the MOD had “learned lessons” and “corrective action is being taken”.

Veteran Collin Reeves, 35, had killed Jennifer and Stephen Chapple in Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset on 21 November 2021.

He had stabbed Mrs Chapple, 33, and Mr Chapple, 36, six times each in their home while their children slept upstairs.

Reeves, an ex-commando trained Royal Engineer who served in Afghanistan, was jailed for life in June 2022.

He was ordered to serve at least 38 years in prison after being convicted of the double murder in Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset.

“A deadly weapon”

In a prevention of future deaths report, Senior Somerset Coroner Samantha Marsh said it was understood the dagger had been handed to Reeves following his retirement from the service.

The dagger was believed to be a “Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife” – commonly referred to as a Commando Dagger and officially named a Combat Fighting Knife.

Writing to Mr Wallace, Ms Marsh asked him to “reconsider the appropriateness of providing anyone leaving the British Army, regardless of rank or status, with what is to all intents and purposes a deadly weapon”.

Mr Wallace noted the dagger had never been recovered and that even if it had been, it would not have been possible to determine if it had been supplied through the MOD or legally purchased from a commercial UK source.

Dagger is “one of many gifts that may be presented”

He said “there are no records of combat fighting knives having been gifted”, but added there was a “tradition” of presenting leaving gifts to individuals when they left the armed forces, and that a Combat Fighting Knife, as part of a presentational display, was “one of many gifts that may be presented to service personnel departing military units associated with the commando role”.

In the response Mr Wallace went on to argue that a standing order prohibiting service personnel gifting such items would be of “limited utility” and added that on Google there were in excess of 160,000 hits on “Fairbairn-Sykes knives for sale”.

He concluded: “I consider existing restrictions upon gifting of MOD property to be sufficient, however, I have written to the Service Chiefs in order to inform them of this horrific murder and remind them of their duty to ensure that misappropriation of MOD items is identified and investigated.”

Mr Wallace added that he would also be writing to the General Officers commanding the units entitled to these knives to remind them to ensure there was genuine requirement to issue such items to personnel.

(Source: BBC)

(Image: FAIRBAIRN SYKES FIGHTING KNIVES.COM, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

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