A ‘callous’ Breaking Bad copycat killer who stabbed a father-of-five in the head before trying to dissolve his body in acid and hide it in a wheelie bin has been jailed for life.
George Knights, 19, was found guilty of murder last June and was sentenced to life in prison on Friday, with a minimum of 23 years for the murder of 38-year-old Stephen Chapman.
Knights had arranged to meet the victim to buy £2,500 worth of cocaine at around 8pm before going to a house party in October 2020 – despite being virtually penniless, a court heard.
After knifing Mr Chapman in the skull with a military-style dagger, the teenager then tried to dispose of his victim’s body by covering it in acid and stuffing it in a wheelie bin – leaving it in the conservatory while he went to a house party.
The victim died from a single stab wound from a double-edged military dagger which had been embedded deep into the skull.
Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC told the court Knights took inspiration from US drugs crime drama Breaking Bad in which the two lead characters dissolve a body in a bucket of acid.
George Knights (pictured), 19, has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 23 years for the murder of Stephen Chapman
Maidstone Crown Court heard that Knights was desperate for money and told a friend he planned ‘to hurt someone’ and rob them of £2,500 – the exact amount of cocaine Mr Chapman had agreed to sell the teenager when they arranged to meet at Knights’s home in Rochester, Kent.
After murdering Mr Chapman, Knights went partying and bragged that he had killed someone.
In the week leading up to the murder, Knights also had a tattoo with a snake wrapped around a knife similar to the murder weapon etched onto his neck.
A selfie video on his phone also showed him at the huge party with a packet of cocaine in the background.
During the month-long trial, the jury heard Knights was a self-styled shares trader who turned his kitchen into a drugs factory to produce amphetamines.
He bought a £300 pill presser from China and stashed sulphuric acid in the kitchen.
Knights also bought and sold drugs and became obsessed with knives – having a dagger, a machete and a knife from the Greek island of Crete in his house.
Detective Superintendent Gavin Moss, the senior investigating officer for the case, said after the sentencing the defendant was ‘devoid of human emotion’.
He added: ‘Throughout this case Knights has shown no remorse or empathy for his actions.
‘He is a callous killer who robbed Stephen Chapman of his life, and on top of this his attempt to dispose of the body deprived Mr Chapman’s family of an opportunity to see him for a final time.
‘He prevented Mr Chapman from having a future with his family and put them through the ordeal of a trial.
‘He has been devoid of human emotion throughout this case and is a clear and obvious danger to the public.
‘I’m pleased our investigation has led to his conviction. Knights offending has had a significant impact on his family and nothing will undo this harm but I hope that today’s sentencing can offer them a form of closure from this result.’
Judge Philip Statman said no-one will ever know precisely what happened after Mr Chapman arrived at Knights’ home in Rochester.
He told the defendant: ‘But it was your intention to rob him of the cocaine he was carrying. You are a person who likes to big himself up, some may think a bragger. This was murder for financial gain.
‘And after the killing you showed a callous manner when you went to a party and made a selfie.
‘When the family of Mr Chapman called you, you demonstrated a callous regard. During the trial I saw no remorse in you although there are some indications now you are having an understanding of the future.’
When police questioned Knights in the wake of the killing he claimed he bought drugs off the victim and was evasive about giving officers his name and address.
The next day a group of people arrived at the house where Knights was living, looking for Mr Chapman, and they called police when they saw the defendant run from the property.
Officers arrived and found blood-stained clothing, a large stash of class A and B drugs and Mr Chapman’s iPhone and bank card.
Knights was found at nearby property and was initially arrested on suspicion of drug offences, but could not explain the drugs and blood-stained clothing.
Officers later found the wheelie bin in the conservatory. It had Mr Chapman’s body inside, with four empty bottles of sulphuric acid nearby.
Knights was then also arrested on suspicion of murder.
Despite his bid to dispose of the body, detectives were not hindered as they were able to use recent breakthroughs in forensic technology to carry out a thorough post-mortem.
Knights plunged his dad’s Royal Marine commando dagger 16cm-deep into Mr Chapman’s (pictured) skull before stealing a neighbour’s plastic wheelie bin in which to dump and douse the body in six bottles of high concentrate drain cleaner
At court it was also revealed that the Knights had detailed notes of a sinister plan to kidnap ‘the daughter of a tycoon’ and hold them for ransom.
Lists including names, addresses and phone numbers of his intended victim and her family were found on his arrest, together with a police uniform
Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC told Maidstone Crown Court that the abduction and ransom plot was ‘no idle fantasy’, and provided support that Knights poses a high risk of danger to the public.
The teenager was just 18 when he plunged his dad’s Royal Marine commando dagger 16cm-deep into Mr Chapman’s skull before stealing a neighbour’s plastic wheelie bin in which to dump and douse the body in six bottles of high concentrate drain cleaner.
Knights himself told a jury he had been inspired by the gruesome episode from season one of the award-winning Netflix series, and had a ready supply of acid to hand from his own amphetamine-producing business.
The bodybuilder and cagefighting fan had never been in trouble with the police when he fatally stabbed 38-year-old Mr Chapman on October 23, 2020.
But Ms Carberry said there was ‘substantial evidence of very worrying behaviour’ in his background which had not been heard by the jury at his four-week trial last year.
Detailing the kidnap plot and other threats of violence discovered by detectives, she told the court: ‘Notes he had written to himself where he spoke of wanting to knock someone out, the use of insulin to do so, making a Taser, setting up a tracking device and acquiring a police uniform fancy dress costume, which was found in his home at the time of his arrest.
‘Other notes included the plot to kidnap and hold to ransom the daughter of a well-known fashion tycoon. That was no idle fantasy because he had taken time to track that daughter, record names and addresses of her family and their real phone numbers.
‘And from the statement of his most recent girlfriend, he had told her all about the plot in some great detail.
‘There was, of course, no evidence that the plot took place but there was a lot of evidence to suggest clear preparation for a kidnap.
‘It certainly had got to the planning stages and demonstrates he was seriously considering using violence towards another person, potentially including kidnap, the use insulin to incapacitate, the use of restraint, gagging, threat and disguises.
‘It also demonstrates the danger that he poses to the public.’
Police were able to speak to and alert his intended victim, who has not been publically named.
Knights, who took insulin as part of his steroid-taking cycle, told his pal he could use it to inject his victim as it would ’cause a heart attack and kill without leaving a trace’.
Ms Carberry said it was the prosecution case the ‘out of control’ teen, who had been using steroids since he was 16, was ‘fixated on money’ and that the killing of the 38-year-old, who was known as ‘Ginger’, was ‘murder for gain’.
At his trial, his lifestyle was described as ‘bizarre and stranger than fiction’, focusing on using, making and selling both prescription and illegal drugs.
At court it was also revealed that the Knights had detailed notes of a sinister plan to kidnap ‘the daughter of a tycoon’ and hold them for ransom. Lists including names, addresses and phone numbers of his intended victim and her family were found on his arrest, together with a police uniform
He even used the name of Breaking Bad’s lead character ‘Walter White’ – who himself made crystal methamphetamine – as a DVLA online account password reminder.
The jury also heard that having murdered forklift driver Mr Chapman, Knights left the acid-soaked body head-first in the bin in the conservatory at his home in Delce Road to go out partying with friends.
He not only filmed himself bingeing on drugs and alcohol – boasting he would play the footage to his ‘new friends in jail’ – but also briefly returned home to take bizarre photos of Mr Chapman with his feet holding the bin lid ajar.
The badly-decomposing body was found two days later, still with the double-edged military dagger in his head, after his desperate family had broken into Knights’s home.
During their attempts to find him, the teenager had repeatedly lied to both police and Mr Chapman’s pregnant girlfriend about his ‘disappearance’.
Knights, who has a dagger entwined with a snake tattooed on his neck, had denied murdering Mr Chapman but was unanimously convicted in June.
Sentencing was adjourned for psychiatric and probation reports after Judge Philip Statman described the killing of Mr Chapman and subsequent concealment and degradation of his body to be ‘extremely disturbing’.
Knights, a keen bodybuilder and cage fighting fan who had a dagger entwined with a snake tattooed on his neck (pictured) just days before the killing, denied murdering Mr Chapman on October 23 last year
But the judge was told Knights, now 19, still maintains he acted in self-defence.
Referring to the findings of the reports, Ms Carberry said he had shown little remorse and the current risk of ‘physical harm resulting in fatal consequences, was high.
She added that the psychiatrist had found no evidence of any mental illness or disorder other than anxiety.
‘He concluded George Knights provided a rehearsed and calculated account of events with little emotional involvement,’ the prosecutor said.
‘He expressed some remorse but continued to minimise his role and justify his actions and demonstrated an inability to understand the severity of his offending.
‘In his assessment, George Knights is a dangerous offender.’
The court heard that within minutes of meeting that night, Knights had fatally stabbed Mr Chapman in what was a premeditated plan to ‘rob, hurt or kill’.
At the time, the teenager was said to be leading a ‘bizarre, out of control existence’ focused on using, producing and selling steroids, prescription medication and his own self-made amphetamines labelled as a ‘Superhuman Labs’ product.
On arrest, Knights tested positive for a staggering 13 drugs, including ecstasy, amphetamine, cocaine, Zanax, diazepam, and a cocktail of steroids.
Ms Carberry told the jury: ‘George Knights’s behaviour throughout 2020 was stranger than fiction.
‘This was a young man who inhabited a universe where he had set up his own amphetamine production at home, where a plan to hurt, to rob and to kill came worryingly very easily to him. This was no fantasy world.
‘George Knights was living a life where his primary focus was on taking drugs, making drugs and selling drugs. He also had an unhealthy fascination with knives.
‘The robbery of Stephen Chapman was for drugs and in the course of that he killed Mr Chapman.
‘This was just part of the very bizarre existence George Knights had carved out for himself at that time.’
Giving evidence, Knights, who left school before taking his GCSEs but spoke of wanting to become a ‘self-employed stocks and shares trader’, said he believed the only way he could ‘get rid of’ Mr Chapman’s body was to copy the infamous Breaking Bad episode.
He told the jury: ‘I watched Breaking Bad and in my madness at that point I thought that the only way I could get rid of him was to do what they did in that film. It was the only thing I could think of.
‘I looked up on my computer what acid it was and it was sulphuric acid, which is what I had used in an attempt to make amphetamine, and what kind of plastic you have to put it in.
‘The wheelie bin was the right plastic. I got it from down the road…I brought it back to the house and put it in the conservatory.
‘I put it on its side…Then I pushed and pulled Ginger into the wheelie bin. While I was doing that his shoes came off.
‘Obviously I wasn’t thinking straight at all. I didn’t put a gas mask on or anything like that. I got acid which was already in the house and poured it on top in the bin until I couldn’t breathe anymore.
‘Then I shut the conservatory doors and I left…..I shouldn’t have done what I did but I wasn’t thinking rationally at that point in time.’
The court heard that just hours before the murder Knights had written a list headed ‘Knife’ and including items such as ‘Superglue’, ‘mask’ and ‘wipes’.
Mr Chapman was said to have been ‘helpless in defending himself against a very strong young man armed with a lethal weapon’.
Jailing Knights (pictured) for life with a minimum term of 23 years before he can be released on parole, Judge Statman said his ‘callous’ efforts to dispose of Mr Chapman’s body and his lies to family searching for him were of ‘acute concern’ as to just how dangerous he was
Jurors were also told that his acid-doused body posed such a public safety risk that firefighters were needed to transport him, still in the bin, to the mortuary at nearby Medway Maritime Hospital.
Furthermore, the post-mortem examination could not be completed despite staff wearing full PPE clothing, including heavy-duty gloves, a respirator and gas mask.
In a sad twist of fate, Mr Chapman’s girlfriend Rebecca Leader gave birth to their third child – his fifth – on the first day of Knights’s trial.
In a victim impact statement she wrote how her ‘world had been turned upside down and her heart torn into pieces’.
At the time of the killing, the couple were saving to get married.
The court also heard that she had the added distress of having to go through the courts to have his name put on his daughter’s birth certificate.
Mr Chapman’s sister Lisa Chapman spoke of the horror of discovering how his body had been ‘folded in a rubbish bin like a piece of filth’ and desecrated.
His former partner Louise Prince wrote a statement on behalf of their 14-year-old son, saying she would never forget the look on his face when she told him he would never see the father he ‘worshipped’ again.
She also told Knights: ‘You have torn his world apart. You have broken his heart. You have literally ruined his life. He will never get over this. It will haunt him forever. My sweet boy is broken.
‘You have done this to him and for that I will never forgive you. How does it feel that his world has ended but yours still goes on.’
Jailing Knights for life with a minimum term of 23 years before he can be released on parole, Judge Statman said his ‘callous’ efforts to dispose of Mr Chapman’s body and his lies to family searching for him were of ‘acute concern’ as to just how dangerous he was.
‘You were covering up events effectively in a copycat manner of the storyline in the TV series, Breaking Bad,’ he told the teenager.
‘You were able to make those concerted efforts in order to ensure that the body was desecrated by your further conduct which shows an extreme aggravating feature in this case.
‘This callous approach was not something which can be explained away by some degree of anxiety or panic that you had at the time.’