Christopher Chapman bled to death after being stabbed by a young girl. His girlfriend Tonya says she’ll never get over his murder
Originally Published: 1 November 2011
Violently stabbed to death outside his own home, Christopher Chapman’s murder made headlines earlier this year, not least because, shockingly, his killers were two drunk teenage girls.
Fuelled by a mix of vodka, whisky and wine, Natasha Johnson, then just 16, plunged a six-inch kitchen knife into the 24 year old’s chest, after he tried to break up a fight between her and his friend in the street. Her pal, Megan Hope, then 18, egged her on, armed with a carving knife.
They callous pair then fled the scene and washed their clothes at Johnson’s home to cover their crime – but they were caught later that day and, earlier this month, wept in the dock as they were jailed indefinitely for murder.
'These girls are animals- I can't understand why they'd do this'
For Christopher’s girlfriend, Tonya Rutherford, 24, who held him as he bled to death, the pain is still raw – she still cannot comprehend how two teenage girls could be capable of taking a life with such violence. Tonya, from Blyth, Northumberland, says: “These girls are animals – I can’t understand why they’d do this. It was all so pointless and over some silly row Chris had nothing to do with. I don’t even think they realise the devastation they’ve caused.”
She adds: “He was the love of my life, we talked about kids – now I can only kiss his photo and sleep with his T shirt. I fear his smell fading from his clothes.”
Speaking as shocking research shows the number of violent offences committed by female juveniles has soared by 28 per cent since 2002/3 – and the number of women sentenced for violent assaults has escalated twice as fast as male thugs – she adds: “To think girls did this to Chris is particularly shocking. I can’t believe they were capable of it and so remorseless they attempted to cover it up.”
Tonya and Chris got together in August 2009, after meeting through a friend. She explains: “He was popular and funny. He was 5ft 11 and loved a kick-about and drink with his mates, but he was gentle and never looked for trouble. We liked to have quiet nights in together.”
The pair moved in together last December and talked about starting a family one day.
“He was always joking about getting married – I wanted to be with him forever,” recalls Tonya, a former factory worker who hasn’t yet found the strength to look for work since Chris’ murder.
On 19 April, the pair invited three friends round for drinks, but went to bed before them. Tonya says: “We’d had enough and left them to it. The last thing I remember is us cuddling in bed.”
But around 3am, Tonya woke up alone. Confused, she walked to the living room. She recalls: “I only remember suddenly spotting Chris outside through the window. I watched him collapse to his knees, there was blood on his T-shirt and coming from his mouth – it was horrific. I ran out, clutched him and begged him to breathe. I was screaming, crying – but he couldn’t talk. Then someone pulled me off him and the police arrived and started resuscitating him.”
'I watched him collapse to his knees... it was horrific. I ran out, clutched him and begegd him to breathe'
While Tonya had been sleeping, Chris, a roofer, had heard shouting and gone to investigate. One of his friends had become involved in a row with Johnson outside the flat – a girl Tonya and Chris barely knew. Incensed, and drunk on whisky, wine and vodka, she and Hope became aggressive, which is when Chris asked them to leave.
It was at that moment that Johnson produced a six-inch kitchen knife and stabbed him in the chest, inflicting a single fatal wound that punctured his diaphragm, liver, stomach and aorta – as Hope brandished a carving knife. Tonya says: “I didn’t see them. I was in pieces, I didn’t know what had happened.”
Although desperate to go to the hospital to be with Chris, police asked Tonya and her pals to go to the police station so they could question them.
Tonya recalls: “I was pleading with them to let me go to Chris. I couldn’t tell them anything, it was so surreal. Two hours later, they told me Chris hadn’t made it. I collapsed on my hands and knees – the thought of him dying alone killed me. I felt helpless.”
When Johnson and Hope were arrested later that day, Tonya was released and allowed to return to her mum’s home. She says: “When they told me about the two girls, I couldn’t take it in. I knew of one of them, but not really well – Chris had nothing to do with them. I couldn’t see how teenagers had done this.”
In the days afterwards, Tonya refused to go home and was unable to sleep, constantly reliving Chris’ death. She says: “I wore his T-shirt and fell into a depression. The hardest part was trying to understand it – why were the girls carrying knives and why did they attack Chris – he wasn’t involved in the argument. The girls are animals. In a second, they wiped out a life and left mine in pieces.”
Bravely, Tonya attended their trial at Newcastle Crown Court last month – and was there to see them found guilty of murder. Judge James Goss ordered Johnson be detained indefinitely and serve at least 15 years. He handed Hope at least 13 years, saying both girls were “armed” and “intent on violence.” He added that Chris’ “needless” death was “A stark example of the problem of young, drunk people out of control, arming themselves with knives… intent on fighting.”
Incredibly, feral Johnson had been handed a night curfew by a youth court just three days before, and Hope was on a supervision order. Both girls had a record of violent behaviour and substance abuse.
'I had to make them look at me. When they caught my eye, they looked away'
Tonya says: “I was nervous, but had to make them look at me. When they caught my eye, they looked away. They showed no remorse, their faces were cold. They only cried when they were sentenced – they only cared about themselves.
“They were out of control, drunk and they meant to hurt someone that night. I’ve never hated anyone as much. No sentence would be long enough.”
And distraught Tonya adds: “Chris was all I wanted, I can’t ever see myself finding anyone else. Those girls have taken everything.”