A SOLDIER who launched a sustained attack on a retired woman in her Clitheroe home, hours after arriving back in the UK, has been jailed for 20 months.
Lance Corporal Andrew Chappell, a member of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, used violence against the 57-year-old former psychiatric nurse following a heavy drinking session.
He somehow ended up at the Clitheroe home of Mrs Rebecca Watson who was later found lying outside her flat, her face covered in blood. She had sustained a dozen separate areas of injury.
Witnesses had heard the defendant shouting things like “nazi” and “scum”. Mrs Watson had no recollection of the attack upon her.
Chappell (32), of Long Lane, Bolton, had pleaded guilty to a charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent. The offence happened in August 2009 and since then he has served in Afghanistan and been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The prosecution at Preston Crown Court described it as a traumatic and rather tragic case both for the victim and the defendant.
Mr Bob Elias (prosecuting) said in his basis of plea, the defendant stated he had consumed a large amount of alcohol at the time and had been suffering fatigue, due to the long journey back from Canada, where he had been on a training tour.
Before the offence arose, Chappell had been out drinking heavily in the centre of Clitheroe with a staunch friend and fellow soldier, Richard Clement, who has since been severely injured in a bomb blast in Afghanistan. They had been drinking lager and spirit shorts.
Mr Elias said: “How the defendant found his way to and inside Mrs Watson’s home is entirely unclear.”
At around 2 a.m. on August 7th, a neighbour in Church Court heard a man shouting. He went outside to discover Mrs Watson lying on the ground in front of her door, her face covered in blood.
The defendant was in the flat, incoherently shouting “nazi”. Chappell walked out of the flat holding a picture of the woman’s deceased husband, which he then shoved into her face before smashing it.
Chappell stamped once on her face. Another neighbour, an elderly woman, pushed the defendant away with her hands on his face. Chappell was heard to say at one stage “I’ll kill you, nazi scum”.
Mrs Watson had no recollection of the attack on her. She had clearly been assaulted indoors. A police officer found the defendant standing over her.
“It was a sustained attack on a middle-aged woman in her own home”, added the prosecutor. The court heard she had suffered 12 separate areas of injury, including a couple of broken teeth. There was multiple bruising to her head and face.
Chappell went on to tell police: “I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what’s happened.”
In a victim impact statement, Mrs Watson spoke of since being afraid to go out. She had found the near two-year wait for sentencing particularly difficult and took issue with Chappell being allowed to continue serving as a soldier while on bail.
Mr Rob Kierney (defending) said it was a unique case. What happened was out of character and it occured in very particular circumstances that were highly unlikely to arise again.
The barrister told the judge: “I hope you can see how sorry he is. He has had real difficulties imagining himself being involved in such an offence.
“It has been very difficult for him to come to terms with this. His parents are at court. They are obviously upset and frightened for the consequences for him, as are the Army.”
Captain Thomas Mills said the solider’s service in Afghanisation indicated he was very professional, dedicated and loyal. He was very highly thought of by the regiment and had performed to a level higher than his rank.
“If he received a custodial sentence, the Army would have to no longer employ him. In the civilian world, he would not be able to cope with his current mental condition as if he would in the Army.”
In passing sentence, Judge Simon Newell said it was a very nasty attack on a vulnerable woman by a man properly trained in violence for the protection of the country.
He told the defendant: “I have to consider not just your position, but the position of the woman. Justice has to be done to all parties who were involved in this tragic incident.”