Self-styled gangster given life for 'vicious and callous' murder of chef trying to protect his fiancee at a classical concert

Callous killer: Karl Wills showed 'complete indifference' after he plunged a 10cm lock knife into the heart of 'innocent and decent' Reynald Duchene, 37

Karl Wills plunged a 4in lock knife into the chest of chef Reynald Duchene, 37, was he went to the aid of his fiancee

A self-styled gangster who 'viciously and callously' knifed a chef as he left an open-air classical music concert was today jailed for a minimum of 23 years.

Jobless Karl Wills, 22, was convicted murdering of Reynald Duchene, 37, as he stepped in to protect his fiancee.

Mr Duchene, of South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, was stabbed in the heart after leaving the 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 4in lock knife as a warning after being chased - not intending to kill or cause serious injury.

He said he carried a knife for protection.

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.

The evening began with Pimms and a picnic to celebrate the 44th birthday of Mr Duchene's fiancee, Paula Haddlesey, at an outdoor recital by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.

But the tragedy began to unfold when Wills and a pal approached Miss Haddlesey and two female friends and 'demanded' their deck-chairs.

When Mr Duchene, 37, rushed to protect her, Wills pulled out the blade and knifed him in the chest. He bled to death in the street.

Judge Charles Gratwicke today imposed a mandatory life term and said Wills must serve 23 years before being considered for parole.

In love: Reymond Duchene and fiancee Paula Haddlesey had a 'pleasant evening' eating a picnic, drinking Pimms and listening to the musicuntil Wills and a friend demanded her deckchair

Reynald Duchene and Paula Haddlesey were engaged and planning to emigrate to Canada to set up a guesthouse business

He told Chelmsford Crown Court: 'Family and friends (are) devastated.

'A mother has lost her son, others their friend. A fiancee hoping for a long and happy future - this has been dashed by your actions.'

Speaking outside the court, Miss Haddlesey, who runs a ceramics business, described her fiance as her 'Mr Right', saying: 'He was the best man ever. The time we had together was fantastic.'

KNIFE KILLER HAD 14 CONVICTIONS SINCE 2004

Karl Wills had a criminal record dating back to 2004, the court heard.
Wills, 22, had 14 convictions for 22 offences - including two convictions for carrying 'bladed articles' in public places near Southend.
He said Wills was given a three-month suspended prison sentence in March 2007 after being found with a kitchen knife.
That sentence had been 'activated' the following November after Wills was convicted of disorderly conduct.
In June 2008, Wills was convicted of assault, threatening and offensive behaviour, destroying property and disorderly behaviour. The court heard Wills had been involved in a fight on the street and onlookers told how he punched a man to the floor then kicked his victim in the head.
Witnesses said they feared Wills' victim 'could have been killed'.
In February 2009, Wills was again convicted of carrying a 'bladed article' after being found carrying a kitchen knife. Wills resisted arrest, was abusive and threatened to bite a police officer, the hearing was told.
Prosecutor Andrew Jackson said Wills was convicted of destroying property in October 2009 and December 2009.
Following the second conviction, Wills was made the subject of a community order - he had returned to court in April 2010 after failing to comply with the order, said Mr Jackson

She added: “I lost a fiance my children lost a father figure who they loved deeply. Everyone else who knew Rey lost a real friend.

'No sentence will bring Rey back but at least the wider public are safe from Karl Wills for many years to come.'

The judge said Wills has fled the scene showing “complete indifference” to the murder.

Wills had claimed during the trial he had pulled out the knife in self-defence and Mr Duchene ran into it.

But a nine-year-old girl who had a 'grandstand view' of the murder  told the court she saw the killer push Mr Duchene in the chest.

After the brutal murder Wills boasted about it to a 16-year-old girl giving her a 'chilling' demonstration before spending the night drinking and having sex with her.

Wills, who describes himself as a “southend ganstar” (sic) and “mc scars” on a social networking site, showed no reaction as he was handed a life sentence.

Mr Duchene, had moved from his home in Lille in France and met Miss Haddlesey, a divorced-mother-of-three from South Woodham Ferrers, Essex.

At the time of his death, he had been working a chef at the historic Gray’s Inn, one of the four Inns of court in London.

The pair were engaged and planning to emigrate to Canada to set up a guesthouse business.

The court heard that after a 'last minute decision' on June 26 this year (2010) the pair went to Southend in Essex with family, friends and the family dog to attend the outdoor concert.

The trial was told the group had a 'pleasant evening' eating a picnic, drinking Pimms and listening to the music but as they left Priory Park, Wills and another youth 'demanded' Miss Haddlesey handed over her metal deck chair.

Music in the park: The couple had gone to see the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra in Priory Park, Southend, Essex, to celebrate Miss Haddlesey's 44th birthday

Music in the park: The couple had gone to see the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra in Priory Park, Southend, Essex, to celebrate Miss Haddlesey's 44th birthday

The jury was told that Wills also confessed to his girlfriend, which he denied, who told him to get rid of the knife and burn his clothes. The knife that killed Mr Duchene has never been found.

Four days after the stabbing, Wills, from Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, walked into a police station and told officers he had heard they were looking for him but answered only 'no comment' in interviews and had pleaded not guilty to murder.

Mr Duchene’s mother France Beyls, 62, said she hoped her son’s brutal murder would encourage others not to carry knives. She added: 'Throw them away, throw them away.'

Mr Duchene’s brother Frederic, 33, who lives in London added: 'Rey was our big brother. Nothing will bring Rey back to us. He will always be in our hearts.

'Rey was very fair and just. He was a very strong, caring, protective man. He would like to see justice done.'

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