Essex: Chef murderer sentenced to minimum of 23 years in jail

A MAN who “viciously and callously” knifed a French chef outside a classical music concert in Essex has been jailed for a minimum of 23 years after being convicted of murder.

Prosecutors said unemployed Karl Wills, 22, launched a “brutal and wholly unnecessary attack” on Reynald Duchene, 37, in Southend in June.

They told Chelmsford Crown Court that Mr Duchene, 37, of South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, was stabbed in the heart after leaving the open-air concert, featuring The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, with his fiancee Paula Haddlesey.

Jurors heard that Mr Duchene had stepped in after Wills and another man “pestered” Ms Haddlesey and two of her friends as they crossed a road.

Wills, of Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, denied murder and said he had brandished the knife as a warning after being chased – not intending to kill or cause serious injury. He said he carried a knife for protection.


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But a jury took three hours to find Wills, who has two previous convictions for possessing a knife in public and a string of convictions for other offences, guilty following a trial in November.

Judge Charles Gratwicke imposed a mandatory life term and said Wills must serve 23 years before being considered for parole. He had adjourned sentencing until Monday so that background reports could be prepared.

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The judge said Mr Duchene was a “decent man” who had not been “looking for trouble”.

“By all accounts it had been a pleasant evening. He (Mr Duchene) was not looking for trouble,” said the judge.

“An altercation occurred in the course of which you viciously and callously plunged that knife into his heart.

As a result an innocent and decent man was cut down on the street. His life extinguished. His family and friends devastated.”

The judge said he had accepted that Wills had probably intended to cause injury – not to kill.

But he said Wills had previous convictions for carrying a knife in public and had “run away” after the attack. Ms Haddlesey and members of Mr Duchene’s family, who come from Lille, were in court to see Wills sentenced.

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