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Bad neighbours: The killers next door

Smashed glass in front of a Neighbourhood Watch sign

All of the following four cases are shocking, mainly because they were not random attacks, but murders that were rooted in years of personal grievance. These are the families who became unwitting victims of a monster living next door.

1. Anthony Lawrence

Facing eviction from his Yorkshire home for the misuse of banned substances and noise pollution, 55-year-old Anthony Lawrence had already threatened his neighbours with an axe. Believing that Shane Gilmour and his pregnant girlfriend Laura Sugden had reported his anti-social behaviour to the police, Lawrence broke into their home via the wall separating their respective lofts in January 2018.

Lawrence then crept downstairs and confronted Shane before shooting him in the stomach with a specially converted bolt from a crossbow. Lawrence then shot Laura in the head. She managed to pull the bolt out, only for him to shove it back into her neck. Lawrence fled the scene and was discovered in a rented campervan, dead from an overdose of painkillers, a couple of days later.

Incredibly, Laura survived and a few months later gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

2. Debby Foxwell

Welwyn Garden City is a quiet, peaceful town located 20 miles north of London. However, the calm on Fordwich Road was shattered when 41-year-old Debby Foxwell chased down her neighbour, 64-year-old Louise Lotz, and beat her to death with a spade.

While never particularly close, the pair had been on speaking terms up until five years before the tragedy when Foxwell began to complain about the untidy state of her neighbour’s house and garden. This escalated into arguments over boundaries, with Foxwell blaming Louise for devaluing her property.

On 24th August 2019, as an argument between the pair escalated, Louise, fearful for her life, ran inside her home to call the police. She was eventually chased down by Foxwell, cornered, and beaten to death. After the killing, Foxwell walked home and told her partner, ‘It's over. I have done it.’

The judge didn’t buy Foxwell’s plea of manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility and in February 2021 she was sentenced to a minimum spell in prison of 21 years.

3. Can Arslan

Despite being diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder, 52-year-old Can Arslan never sought treatment for his condition. In October 2021, Arslan stabbed to death his neighbour, 43-year-old father of three Matthew Boorman, in the Gloucestershire village of Walton Cardiff.

For the previous 12 years, Arslan’s anti-social behaviour had become increasingly unbearable. It wasn’t just the Boormans' life he’d been making a misery, other neighbours had had enough too. Arslan had been served a community protection notice and, just 12 days before the murder, had been issued an injunction to prevent more threatening behaviour.

On the day of the murder, Arslan had lain in wait for Matthew to return home. On arrival he was stabbed 27 times, an act witnessed by his children and his wife, Sarah, who suffered a stab wound to the thigh trying to save her husband. After killing Matthew, Arslan sat on his body, chuckled and lit a cigarette. He then left the scene and forced his way into the home of another neighbour, Peter Marsden, who survived being stabbed six times, before Arslan was apprehended and taken into custody.

Arslan’s attempts to convince the judge that he was suffering from some sort of psychotic episode fell on deaf ears. He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 38 years in prison.

4. Collin Reeves

As we’ve seen in these cases, diminished responsibility is often used in an attempt to avoid a long jail sentence. It’s a similarly grim story with the case of Collin Reeves, a former soldier who stabbed to death his neighbours with a ceremonial dagger following a parking dispute.

On 21st November 2021, Reeves broke into his neighbour’s house and stabbed Jennifer Chapple six times while she sat on the sofa. Her husband, Stephen Chapple, was stabbed a further six times when he attempted to intervene. All the while their two young children slept upstairs. After the killing, Reeves called the police to tell them what he’d done.

Reeves was sentenced to a minimum of 38 years for the ‘brutal and savage’ attack on two innocent people. However, the sentence was reduced to 35 years following a successful appeal in 2023.