I found myself recently thinking about how some people seem to idolise serial killers and mass murderers. Folk who hold the likes of Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer in highregarded much the same as some people worship sports stars, Hollywood actor and actresses, musicians and other famous people and I can’t work it out. If we take the crimes of Ted Bundy for example, Bundy’s crimes were heinous and the definition of a sexually motivated killer who preyed on vulnerable young women to satisfy his sexual urge to control and ultimately kill. Bundy brought untold misery to so many not just the victims of his depraved sexual appetite, but to the friends and families of the people, Bundy killed who have to live with the incredible sense of grief that will never leave them as they attempt to live their lives. In short serial killers destroy lives, and that is not something to be idolised.
I was listening to the outstanding British true crime podcast “Still at Large” the episode was the fourth instalment into the currently unsolved case of the East Lancashire ripper ( this podcast is highly recommended, and if you haven’t already, please give it a listen ) in the episode the host (and friend of the blog) played, in full the statement of Karen Edwards who is the mother of murder victim Becky Godden. Becky was killed by the double murderer and suspected serial killer Christopher Halliwell in January 2003. Becky was snatched off the streets of Swindon, strangled, dismembered and buried in a field where she lay undiscovered for eight years. Becky has only discovered thanks to the brilliant police work of Detective superintendent Stephen Fulcher in an incident which ultimately cost him his job and Wiltshire police one of the best detectives around. DS Fulcher was able to deliver Karen’s daughter back to her all be it in the most devastating circumstances. Halliwell was eventually convicted for Becky’s murder and was already serving a life sentence for the murder of Sian O’Callaghan.
The statement made by Becky’s mother was tough to listen to, and this mother’s grief poured out with every word she spoke. Karen manages somehow to remain dignified and what I can only imagine was the worst moments of her life. I encourage more people to listen to victim impact statements, and I would love to see more true crime podcasts involve victim impact statements in their shows where possible.
In this edition of my Blog, I am telling the story of David Oakes. I will warn you now that this story does involve the murder of a two-year-old child so if that is something you wish not to read about then i understand. The details of the killings will be explained in detail, but this is not intended to glorify what happened but to emphasise that people can be monsters much as the saying goes on the excellent Sword and Scale podcast. Fair warned we move onto the story.
In October 2005 Christine Chambers a thirty-two single mother of three living in Braintree Essex started out on a new relationship. This relationship is different from others though. The new man in Christine’s life is giving Christine all the things she has never experienced before. He spoilt her. He took her out for fancy meals and foreign holidays. Christine’s son Levi who lived with his dad but who maintained a close relationship with his mother remembers his mum as happier then she had been in a long time. Levi was delighted that his mum had found love with a new man and that this man was making his mum so happy.
Christine’s new man was David Oakes. David was 45 when he and Christine first got together, and David was working as a builder and a nightclub bouncer. David had a reputation as a bit of a hard man, and this reputation was well known to Christine’s sister Jeanette. Jeanette was two years younger than Christine, and the sisters were very close. Jeanette made her fears of David known to Christine, but Christine dismissed her sisters warning with Christine’s persistence with the relationship causing a rift between the two ordinarily close sisters.
David Oakes was all too aware of the rift and began using it to his advantage. By now the couple had been together six months, and things were serious between them. David started to show his possessiveness towards Christine and knows that Jeanette is a threat to the control he holds over Christine. David works to drive a wedge between Christine and Jeanette to isolate Christine and make her easier to control. This form of domestic abuse is known as coercive control and is defined as a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victims liberty or freedom, to strip away their sense of self. This form of abuse is not as visible as the physical signs, but it is no less insidious and is now, thankfully recognised in British law as an offence.
In early 2008 Christine discovers that she is pregnant with David’s child. Christine was of the belief that having a baby together will have a positive effect on David and bring out his loving side as, over time, David had become more volatile and aggressive towards Christine. Christine believed that this would be a turning point in their relationship and looked forward to being a mother again as motherhood most certainly agreed with Christine she was a great mum who put her children first.
Christine gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on 27th October 2008 whom they name Shania. Christine falls instantly in love baby Shania and is a loving, nurturing parent to her newborn baby. David to is besotted with Shania, but this does not stop the cycle of abuse he subjected Christine too, in fact, it intensifies. In one incident when Christine dared to talk back to David during one of his foul-tempered tirades David threw a glass of whisky into Christine’s eyes.
On another occasion during a heated row, Christine tried to the leave the house and walked away from the fight. David was not having that and stopped Christine halfway up the garden path by grabbing her hair, lifting her off the floor and dragging Christine kicking and screaming back into the house where he subjected Christine to further physical abuse.
In April 2011 Christine made a courageous decision albeit a hazardous one as Christine decided she need to end her relationship with David Oakes. Christine had endured countless beatings and humiliation from the man who claimed to love her, but Christine realised that her children would also be at risk from this foul-tempered, aggressive brut. Christine knew she had to get rid of David. I have glossed over this point in the story, but I can not emphasise enough just how incredibly brave this was for Christine and any woman who seeks to end the abuse they have been subjected to. Christine had now 2-year-old Shania as well as her ten-year-old daughter Abigail from her previous relationship living with her whom she had to put first, and as the realisation dawned on Christine that sooner or later David will most likely focus some of his rages on them Christine did the right thing and should be praised for her actions.
David leaves the house but he takes Shania with him, dragging the terrified toddler out of her mother’s arms. Christine was now faced with a dilemma as David told Christine that the only way she would get Shania back is if she takes David back as well. An act of childish jealousy on David’s part but Christine, again to her credit, stuck to her guns and took the matter up through the legal system. Christine understood that David was scared of losing Shania and tried to reassure David that he would always be apart of Shania’s life.
Christine wasn’t alone in her fight to regain custody of her daughter as Christine, and her sister Jeanette had ended their feud, and Jeanette was very much on Christine’s side. Christine poured her heart out to her younger sister about the all the horrendous abuse she had suffered and together Christine and Jeanette were going to take on this disgusting bully and Shania back where she belonged with her loving mother.
David continues to bombard Christine with calls and texts which Christine reports to the police. David is served with a none molestation order meaning that he was not permitted to be within 100 yards of Christine, but David has to be repeatably warned by police as he continually breaches the law, but David is not arrested and is not charged with any offences (eye roll )
A hearing is set for the 26th April 2011 at family court in which both Christine and David state their case to have full-time custody of Shania. Despite David’s best efforts to paint Christine out to be a terrible mother the Judge Awards interim custody of Shania back to Christine with a further hearing set for June that year. Furthermore, as David had come across in court so badly, the Judge made arrangements for Christine and Shania to be escorted home with security to eliminate the possibility of David attempting to snatch Shania.
With Shania back with her mum Jeanette was able to meet Shania for the first time and instantly fell in love with her. Shania was just like her mum, loud bubbly, full of life and laughs. Things were finally looking up for Christine; she had regained custody of her daughter, rekindled her relationship with her sister and had got rid of her violent, abusive partner. Looming in the distance was the court case set for 6th June in which it would be decided where Shania would live permanently, although confident Christine was nervous and she knew that David would not take the courts decision lying down. David was a fighter, and he was used to getting his way, Christie knew sooner or later a backlash would be coming, and she was right.
On the evening of the 5th June, the day before the custody hearing Christine, Shania and Christine’s ten-year-old daughter Abigail were cuddled up together on Christine’s bed watching a DVD. Shortly before midnight, David Oakes high on Cocaine and alcohol gained access to the property using a key which he had kept from when he lived there. David made his way up the stairs and into Christine’s bedroom where he found Christine and her two girls asleep in Christine’s bed. David had evil on his mind, but if you thought he would execute Christine in her sleep, then you would be very wrong. David had prepared for this occasion and brought some tools with him to carry out his murderous deed. In his blue holdall, David had a kit to inflict maximum pain and suffering. David was seething with jealous rage and would make damned sure that no other man would be with Christine if he couldn’t, and there was no way another man would get to play Dad to his baby girl Shania. Someone was going to pay for the wrongs that David felt and that someone was Christine and she would be paying for extreme pain.
In Davids bag he had a 12-bore shotgun with cartridges, numerous sharp bladed instruments, an axe, some heavy duty pliers, a length of wire threaded through a rubber tube in what is believed to be a homemade garrotte, David also had petrol and a lighter in which he planned to burn the house down with everyone including himself inside.
What follows is a series of continued torture, the timeline of which is believed to be three hours and most of the torture that Christine suffered and she was brutally tortured was witnessed by 2-year old Shania and ten-year-old Abigail both of whom would have been petrified. Just for a minute put your self in their young shoes and try to make sense of what is happening. Also bear in mind that ten-year-old Abigail not only survived but she gave evidence in court against David Oakes, the man who tortured and killed her mum and her two-year-old sister in cold, remorseless blood in the one place she should feel safest of all – her home. Pretty incredible and the word brave doesn’t even begin to describe her actions that night and for the rest of her life.
David stood in the bedroom where he used to sleep he had a fire in his eyes, he was at that moment the Devil, and he was there to do the devils work. David switched on the light waking everyone in the room, Christine told David to get out of the house, but David wasn’t going anywhere. Instead, he opened his bag containing his torture and killed kit and took out his 12-bore shotgun. When Christine saw this her heart would have sunk and her worst fears would be playing out in front of her eyes, she knew what was in store but David didn’t pause and in one movement smashed the butt end of the shotgun hard into Christine’s face. Without a second thought, he did the same to ten-year-old Abigail before taking both Christine and Abigail’s mobile phones and smashing them to pieces. There was no chance either of them would be making a call for help and David had them right where he wanted them. With a shotgun in one hand and n axe in the other David threatened to blow Abigail’s leg off and would use his pliers to pull off her nipples. David then placed the barrel of the gun into Abigail’s mouth but removed it soon after. The fear this poor girl was subjected to is indescribable.
David placed a pair of scissors in Christine’s hand and demanded that Christine cut chunks of her own hair off. Christine was also ordered to remove her top half clothing and walk around topless while telling David that she loved him and hugged him at his order. Christine, out of fear did everything David asked her to do and pleaded with him for mercy and to leave her and her children alone but, David was in an unimaginable rage he wasn’t finished yet.
Abigail and Shania were in Shania’s bedroom David, and Christine was downstairs, the terrified girls screamed for their mum and had to listen to her screams of pain. David had become temporally distracted, and Christine used that opportunity to go to her children who would have seen Christine covered in blood. Christine told Abigail to run and save herself while she still could and although terrified ten-year-old Abigail was able to escape from the house via the bedroom window and drop down to the ground. Abigail then ran faster than she ever ran before to her Dad Ian’s house who only lived a few streets away. Ian, who was also David Oakes’s best friend was awoken by Abigail frantically banging on the window. Abigail was inconsolable he was barely able to talk such was the terror she had endured. Eventually, Ian was able to make sense of what Abigail was telling him that there was a man with a gun at her house. Ian made a frantic 999 call, and armed police were dispatched immediately to the address.
Back inside the house the situation had got much worse for Christine who was utterly at the mercy of David Oakes. As armed officers arrived outside David was not even remotely distracted. With his Axe, David cut deeply into Christine’s forehead and then set about mutilating Christine so that no man would ever look at her ever again. Using a Stanley knife, David sliced a deep gash across Christine’s eyebrow into which David poured superglue. David then cut a Y shape with his knife into the bridge of Christine’s nose, cut off part of Christine’s left ear and slashed both sides of Christine’s face. Again with his knife, David cut Christine from her lower abdomen down to her Vulva. David had disfigured Christine into an unrecognisable mess.
David took his shotgun and shot Christine in the left thigh as Christine writhed in excruciating pain David shot her again this time in the right kneecap, both shots were delivered at point-blank range, and the pain would have been unbearable but, incredibly worse was to come. David had left his worst punishment until last, and now that Christine was unable to move she was powerless to stop what was going to happen next. David went into the bedroom where he picked up his two-year-old daughter Shania. Shaina would have been screaming in fear as David carried her to see her mother led on the floor screaming in pain. David made sure Christine was able to see what he was doing as he placed the barrel of his shotgun onto the forehead of his baby girl and pulled the trigger. The shot would have had a catastrophic effect as the force of shooting would have in all intense in purposes exploded Shania tiny skull spraying blood, brains and head all over the walls. Christine although wounded badly, was alive and this was all part of David’s evil plan to make sure she witnessed her daughter being executed in front of her. Christine was broken there was nothing else that David could do to her that could cause her any more pain. David levelled his shotgun and shot Christine in the in the chest which proved to be a fatal wound.
Following the shots, a tense stand-off between David and armed police unfolded. The standoff lasted until around 6 am when David realised that there was no way out and placed the barrel of the gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger but, the powerful recoil of the shotgun caused the barrel to skew meaning David was not killed by the blast but did succeed in blowing one side of his face off. Police entering the house would have seen the horrific aftermath including the headless body of a two-year-old child.
David was taken to a hospital, treated then arrested and charged with the murders of Christine and Shania Chambers.
The case went to trial in April 2012 at Chelmsford crown court. David’s version of events was somewhat different from what transpired as David claimed it was, in fact, Christine who shot Shania as the couple wrestled for the weapon in the heat of an argument. Once David had realised what Christine had done he went blank. David claimed that he entered the property much earlier than he did and that Christine had gone berserk attacking David with scissors in a row about money. David claimed to of acted only in self-defence and told the court that he and Christine had been getting on well.
Prosecuting Counsel Orland Pownall QC took no time in tearing apart David’s tissue of lies and accused David of being fuelled by Jealousy, frustrated by the fact his relationship with Christine was over and that he would only have limited access to Shania. Mr Pownall explained to the jury that David Oakes decided that if he couldn’t have them, then no one could.
Throughout the trial, David Oakes spent hardly any time in the dock as he complained of physical discomfort due to his self-inflicted botched suicide attempt and that he couldn’t bear to hear the details and see the pictures of his daughter’s death. The jury found David Oakes guilty on both counts of murder, and it was left to Judge Mr Justice Fulford to pass sentence.
Judge Fulford said that David Oakes was a bullying and controlling man who had inflicted pain and misery on Christine throughout their relationship. David Oakes killed Christine and their daughter because he was unable to accept that Christine Chambers no longer wanted David Oakes in her life. Christine recognised David’s importance in Shania’s life and wanted David to be a big part of her life. Christine had agreed with arrangements for Shania to spend four out of three weekends with David. Judge Fulford praised Christine for her maturity and putting Shania’s interests above anything else.
David, on the other hand, acted with self-pity and when it was clear that his relationship with Christine was over David was going to have his revenge and planned Christine and Shania’s demise with excellent clarity and elaborate detail. He wanted Christine to suffer for the last agonising hours of her life.
Judge Fulford sentenced David Oakes to two life sentences, but due to the sadistic nature in which he killed Christine and how he made his two-year-old daughter witness the whole event before killing her, Judge Fulford sentenced David Oakes to a whole life term.
Incredibly after serving just five months in prison, David Oakes’s legal team appealed the sentence as David was now 51 years old, so a whole life term was disproportionate. The appeal hearing was heard on 10th October 2012 with the decision expected on 21st November. The panel of three judges listened to the appeal and looked at it, but it was decided that the whole life order given to David Oakes was entirely justified.
In reality, though David didn’t see much prison time at all as he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in his lungs which had spread. David was taken from his cell in Frankland prison to a local hospital where he died in a matter of hours.
David Oakes died on 13th February 2013 less than two years after murdering Christine Chambers and their two-year-old daughter Shania.
David’s death brought mixed emotions from Christine’s family as on the one hand he was dead but on the other, he hadn’t begun to be punished for what he had done.
Thank you, everyone, for reading this edition of the no remorse blog. At the start, I touched on the murders of Becky Godden and Sian O’Callaghan and I would recommend to anyone who wants to know more about this fascinating story to read the excellent book ” catching a serial killer ” by former detective superintendent Stephen Fulcher and also check out the incredible work of Chris Clark on his website www.armchairdetective.org.uk