‘I’m sorry’: Last words of chef trying to protect fiancée

The stepson of a London chef told today how the man died in his arms after being stabbed in the chest trying to protect his fiancée from thugs.

Reynald Duchene, 38, died after two youths tried to steal picnic chairs the family were carrying as they returned to a minibus following an outing to see the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.

He was engaged to Paula Haddlesey, whose son James, 20, said the chef did not realise he had been stabbed until later and died gasping: “I’m sorry.”

A group of 14 people were celebrating Ms Haddlesey’s 44th birthday on Saturday in a park in Southend, Essex. Mr Haddlesey said: “Rey had been with my mum for four years but we thought of him as our dad. He died in my arms and I watched as he took his last breath.”

Mr Duchene was a chef at Gray’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court where barristers have banquets and training events.

Mr Haddlesey said: “These two boys were following my mum, asking her questions. All Rey did was try to find out what was going on, but he would never hurt anyone.”

His sister Sophie, 18, said: “They were being overly friendly, saying Come give us your chairs’. Rey saw it and went over, he was saying Leave my fiancée alone, go away’.

“He was so protective of my mum, his natural instinct was to see she was OK. He loved her so much.

“They were pushing Rey and he chased them away around the corner where they pushed him over.”

Her brother added: “No one saw a knife but afterward he was walking around for about 10 minutes as if he was drunk, but he had very little to drink. Nobody knew he had been stabbed in the heart because there was no blood until he was dead.

“The taxi pulled up. Rey was wobbling and he just slumped against the side and slid down. The last thing I heard him say was: I’m sorry, I’m sorry’.”

Mr Duchene’s family, from Lille, are being comforted by the Haddleseys at their home in South Woodham Ferrers. His mother, France Beyls, 62, said: “There are no words for what happened to Rey. As a son he was perfect.”

Essex Police arrested two men, aged 18 and 19, from Southend on suspicion of murder and have released them on bail until August. Detectives are still hunting two men.

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