Chelsea Chambers was just a little girl when she was introduced to her mum’s new boyfriend – and her first impression was that he was fat and ugly.
But despite being startled by the former bouncer’s appearance, she could never have predicted that David Oakes was more monster than human.
He demonstrated this on the night he snuck into the family home armed with an axe, shotgun and can of petrol while Chelsea was sleeping in bed beside her mum, Christine, and sister, Shania.
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The trio had been watching Family Guy together on the television – before Oakes tortured his ex-girlfriend and made her strip and cut off her own hair before murdering their two-year-old daughter in front of her.
He then took the life of the unimaginably distraught mum before botching his own suicide. Chelsea survived after escaping through an upstairs window.
One of the reasons why Chelsea was put off by Oakes from day one was because she knew her mum could do so much better.
But despite being wary of him, the unemployed builder soon moved into their home in Braintree, Essex, and his behaviour was alarming.
In her first ever interview, Chelsea told the Sunday People in 2020: “I hated David Oakes from the moment I first saw him and I was right to. He ruined my life. He asked me to call him dad, but I told him I already had a dad. There was something about him that gave me the creeps but he made mum happy so I avoided him.
“At first they seemed happy but then they began arguing and I saw him hit her. It quickly became a regular thing. I never knew what she saw in him. He was fat and ugly while she was so pretty. I begged her to leave him but then she became pregnant with Shania and things seemed okay.”
But during their six-year relationship, bullying Oakes regularly inflicted violence on Christine, whose feet were once lifted from the ground after he pinned her to the bathroom door.
The domestic abuser even forced her to become isolated from her family members. And her sister, Jeanette, later spoke on the series Britain’s Darkest Taboos where she said: “He caused problems between me and Chrissy and we didn’t talk, we didn’t talk for six years, while she was with him.”
Christine eventually gave birth to their baby girl Shania but the brutality continued and Chelsea became accustomed to her mum wearing sunglasses inside.
She later found the courage to tell Oakes that enough was enough, and she banished him from her home before a custody battle over Shania was initiated.
She even had to get a restraining order put in place against him after he made death threats – something Christine reported to the police weeks before her murder. The Independent Police Complaints Commission later concluded that Essex Police missed opportunities to arrest Oakes.
But Oakes decided to commit his evil acts just hours before a custody hearing on June 6, 2011. Knowing his relationship was doomed and he would likely lose access to Shania, he let himself into the house while reportedly drunk and on cocaine.
Chelsea, who was just ten, recalled: “We were in Mum’s room and watched Family Guy before we all fell asleep together in her bed. The next moment, I saw David standing over us.
“We suspected he had a spare key and usually blocked the door with a curtain pole but that night we forgot. He said he was going to kill us all and burn the house down. He had a big duffel bag out of which he pulled his shotgun, axe and a can of petrol.
“I grabbed a phone and tried to hide under the bed to call the police but he yanked me out and smashed the phone with the barrel of the gun. He told mum to take off her clothes and Shania and I sat on the bed, screaming. He then ordered Mum downstairs.”
Continuing, she said: “I heard David smash the TV with the axe and he threatened to cut off mum’s nipples. He was hitting her and making her chop off her hair. He threatened to put Mum in a wheelchair and said she’d have to wheel herself behind our coffins.
“I remember thinking we are all going to die and began to cry. Mum came upstairs. She was topless with clumps of hair missing and blood coming out of her mouth. She held me tight and whispered in my ear to go and get help. She said she was proud of me and that she would always love me and would see me soon. Then she went back downstairs.”
The three hour torture also involved Oakes using the axe to strike Christine while also beating her face with the butt of his gun.
Chelsea meanwhile ran to her father’s house who lived five minutes away and she yelled that “he was going to kill them” before the police were called.
However, Oakes had already shot little Shania in the head at point blank range before firing the gun multiple times at Christine. The sadistic killer also blasted himself in the face, but he survived the suicide attempt.
And remembering hearing the gut-wrenching news that her mum and sister were dead, Chelsea said: “It wasn’t until the next morning we were told he’d killed them both. I felt guilty for not waking up Shania. I could have caught her from the bottom and saved her but I was trying to save her and mum.”
Oakes denied murder, pinning the blame on Christine instead, and a murder trial took place the following year. And during the court proceedings, Christine’s sister, Jeanette, had to leave the room because the details of the torture were too distressing.
Chelsea had to give evidence while clutching a teddy bear and Oakes was found guilty in May 2012 and was given a whole life sentence for the double murder.
Afterwards, Mr Justice Fulford said: “A bullying and controlling man, who had frequently inflicted violence on Miss Chambers during the six years of their relationship, he killed his ex-partner and their young daughter simply because he knew she could not bear to be with him and wished to start a new life.”
However, not long into his life-long sentence, Oakes, aged 51, took his final breath after dying of cancer, something which caused more pain for those who loved Christine and Shania.
Jeanette said: “He was in there for good but he wasn't was he. He was in there for about a year and died. No one was happy about that. There's mixed emotions. I was pleased he was dead but he had only just started paying for what he's taken away. He got off lightly didn't he?”
Chelsea agreed with these sentiments, and said: “I was furious when I heard that. I wanted him to languish in jail and feel a tenth of the pain and heartache he has caused me, which I will have to live with for the rest of my life. I pray that he is rotting in hell.”
However, after his death, Oakes's father, Peter, told the press: “We use to write letters to each other, I used to send him letters you know and he would write back. He was still my son despite being a convicted killer. I still miss him.“
After turning 18, Chelsea was awarded £21,500 in compensation for police failings after they missed chances to protect her mum and sister from Oakes.
She also endured more heartbreak after her father died of a heroin overdose in 2015. However, she later got her life back on track and dreams of starting a family of her own one day.
“I can’t wait to start a family and tell them how amazing their nan and auntie were,” she said. “I want to make my mum proud so she can smile down at me from above.”
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