“The Beast of Jersey”

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One of the masks worn by the “Beast of Jersey”

When one tends to picture the Channel island of Jersey, the first things off the top of the head used to be that it was the setting for the 1980’s TV series “Bergerac”; of Jersey cows, or how the island was German occupied during the Second World War. More recently, however, it may be the horrific allegations of physical and sexual child abuse that stretch back for many years, and that concern a former children’s home on the island, Haut de la Garenne. These allegations have led to Jersey police recording claims of abuse from more than 100 people who have recounted tales of physical and sexual assaults they had suffered both at the home, and at the hands of people connected with the home. Even famous names, such as notorious paedophile Jimmy Saville and the late actor Wilfred Brambell have been posthumously accused of attacks on people there in decades gone by. The allegations in this ongoing enquiry are horrific enough, but are not the first such evil to have blighted the island of Jersey.

The reign of terror began for islanders in 1957. In November, a 29 year old nurse waiting for a bus in the Monte a L’abbe area was attacked by a man wearing some kind of covering over his face and affecting an “Irish” accent, and was dragged into a field and sexually assaulted. She was quite severely injured and left with wounds that needed many stitches. The following year, in March, a 20 year old woman walking home from a bus stop was attacked in the parish of Trinity and had a rope put around her neck. She too – in what was to become a signature of the attacker – was dragged into a field and raped. Then in July that year, a 31 year old woman, again walking home from a bus stop, was attacked in what was by now the signature fashion of the offender. Rope around the neck, dragged into a field, raped or indecently assaulted. The same happened to a young girl walking home in the parish of Grouville in August 1959, and to a 28 year old woman attacked in the parish of St Martin’s in October 1959. The latter, although indecently assaulted by the man, was able to fight him off quickly enough for him to flee startled. The former was not so lucky.

Detectives noticed several recurring themes throughout each description of the attacker given by each victim, and when pooled this led them to believe that they were all committed by the same man. Each victim agreed that the man was aged about early to mid 40’s; was about 5″6 tall, and affected an “Irish” accent. Some of the victims described the attacker as wearing a rope or a cord around his waist, and he often restrained the victim by tying their hands together. All of them described the attacker as smelling “musty”. Coupled together with the pattern of placing a rope around the victim’s neck and using the location of a field for the assault, detectives suspected a serial attacker, who became known as the “Beast of Jersey”.

In 1960, the attacker added  sinister twists to his modus operandi; he attacked indoors, he also changed his preference of victim – and the attacks increased in both frequency and ferocity. In the early hours of Valentine’s day 1960, a 12 year old boy asleep at home in the region of Grands Vaux was awoken by a man who had climbed through his bedroom window. The boy had a rope placed around his neck, and was then led outside and indecently assaulted. Then the following month, a 25 year old woman walking to a bus stop in St Brelade was offered a lift in a Rover car by a man claiming to be a doctor on his way “to pick up his wife”. She accepted, and during the journey noticed him wearing a cap and duffle coat and gloves, but could not make out his features due to the darkness. He drove the car into a field and overpowered the woman, punching her, threatening to kill her and tying her hands behind her head. She was then dragged out into the field and raped, then placed back into the car and driven away. However, she managed to escape from the vehicle and scream for help, but the attacker managed to get away.

In March 1960, a 43 year old mother and 14 year old daughter in a fairly isolated cottage in the St Martin parish underwent a horrific experience. The mother was awoken at about 12:30am by the telephone ringing downstairs. She went down to answer it, but when she lifted the receiver heard nothing but a click and then the dialling tone. She went back to bed but was awakened about an hour later by a sound downstairs. She started downstairs to investigate, but as she reached the bottom of the staircase the lights abruptly went out and she heard someone in the living room moving about. In the dark, she made for the telephone to call for the police – but the phone lines had been wrenched out. Then, she was confronted by the figure of a man who grabbed her and demanded money. He was very rough with her and threatened to kill her, but left the woman immediately when he heard the daughter coming down to investigate the commotion. The woman took the chance to flee and raise the alarm at a nearby farmhouse, and upon returning to the cottage found her daughter – she was still alive but had been horrifically raped in the now familiar signature. In April, a 14 year old girl in La Roque awoke in her bedroom to find a man wearing a strange looking mask, though he took off when the child screamed. And in July of that year, an 8 year old boy was abducted from his home by a man wearing a raincoat who indecently assaulted him, then led him home and left him on the doorstep. The attacks stopped for the rest of the year, but began again in February 1961. There was an attack on a 12 year old boy in the Mont Cochon area in the now familiar fashion; an attack on an 11 year old boy in the parish of St Saviour in March of the same year, and a brutal rape of an 11 year old girl in St Martin’s in April.

By now the “Beast of Jersey” had been at large for over three years, and the Jersey police investigations had got no nearer to catching him. Feeling pressure from the press and the scared public, Jersey police had summoned help from Scotland Yard. It came in the form of a celebrated member of Scotland Yard’s murder squad, Detective Superintendent Jack Mannings. One of his first actions was to appeal to all islanders to “turn detective”, and the press were issued with a verbal identikit of the “Beast”.

This went as follows: “The Beast” always struck at night, and up to that point had only struck on moonlit week-ends between the hours of 10pm to 3am. He appeared to have an intimate knowledge of the Island, particularly the eastern areas. He was described as being about 40 to 45 years old, about 5″6 tall, with a moustache and of medium build. He was usually described as wearing a low, thigh length jacket or raincoat which gave off a distinct “musty” smell, a peaked cap and gloves. His face was always covered, either with a facemask or a scarf covering the lower part of it. He carried a torch with him during the attacks, and his methods followed a distinct pattern: his victims were selected carefully, and the usual method of entry was a bedroom window. Once inside, the man  was fast and silent, and usually blindfolded and tied up the victim’s hands. In each case a rope was placed around the victims necks, and they were then taken to a nearby field and suffered a sexual assault, then returned home. The assailant spoke lots during the attacks, with a voice that was described as “soft”, in an “Irish” accent. He had mentioned at various times a wife, a dead mother who had died of drink, that he had killed before, and often made a point of saying that he had dropped either his cigarettes or his lighter. Jersey is not a large island, indeed is only less than 46 square miles in total, and it stands to reason that someone would have known or at least suspected someone who matched at least part this description. Every possible man was looked at, all men with a criminal record were questioned and interviewed. But “The Beast” was still not found.

The intervention of Scotland Yard was effective in that there were no more attacks for two years – “The Beast” had gone to ground. But in April 1963 he returned, attacking a 9 year old boy in St Saviour in his familiar MO. Another attack in St Saviour in November 1963 on an 11 year old boy followed, then he went to ground again. But he was back in 1964, attacking a 10 year old girl in Trinity parish in July. An attack on a 16 year old boy followed  in August 1964 in Grouville parish, and then “The Beast” again went to ground. There were no more attacks for two years, and the hunt died down.

In 1966, Jersey police received a strange letter from an author claiming to be the “Beast Of Jersey”. It is reproduced as follows (SIC)

My Dear Sir,

                I think that it is just the time to tell you that you are just wasting your time, as every time I have done wat I always intended to do and remember it will not stop at this, but I will be fair to you and give you a chance. I have never had much out of this life but I intend to get everything I can now…..I have always wanted to do the perfect crime. I have done this, but this time let the moon shine very britte in September because this time it must be perfect, not one but two. I am not a maniac by a long shot but I like to play with you people. You will hear from me before September and I will give you all the clues. Just to see if you can catch me.

                                                                                                Yours very sincerely

                                                                                                                Wait and See

Was the author The Beast? It seemed likely, because there was a savage rape on a 15 year old girl in Trinity parish in August 1966 – as the letter had promised. The attack mirrored the previous ones, the method and description was of signature of “The Beast” but this time there was a new detail to the attack. Strange long scratches, regularly spaced and always parallel, were found on the victim’s torso for the first time in the series. Following this attack, there then remained the longest lull in the series, for there were no more reported attacks for the remainder of the decade.

But he was back in August 1970, when a 13 year old boy was awakened at his home in Vallee Des Vaux by a torch shining in his face. The Beast  made the boy get out of bed and took him to a field at the rear of the house. He then placed his raincoat on the ground, made the boy remove his pyjamas, and then indecently assaulted him. The boy then was returned home and raised the alarm the following morning at 8am, having been threatened by the assailant to remain quiet “because if you don’t someone will harm your mother and father”. The boy was very distressed and dishevelled, and offered a description of what had happened that was now all too common. This time, the assailant had “black spiky hair” and a terrifying mask on. The boy also had the same scratches on his face and body as found on the victim in the 1966 attack. Again, the majority of the island was interviewed (nearly 30,000 people in all were spoken to in the hunt for the Beast) but he wasn’t caught.

Police didn’t know at the time, but the man who had terrorised Jersey for so long had less than a year of freedom left.

The night of 10th July 1971 had started as a routine nightshift for Jersey police officers John Riseborough and Tom Mcginn, out on mobile patrol duties focused around the St Helier area. At 11:45pm, they had pulled up at some traffic lights when a small Morris 1100 saloon car shot past them at high speed, jumping the lights and driving in a very erratic manner. The officers immediately gave pursuit in their car, and chased the Morris at high speeds for a number of miles. During the pursuit, the Morris car sideswiped several vehicles, drove on the wrong side of the road, and even drove down footpaths at high speed in an attempt to shake off the police. Finally, the Morris crashed through a hedge and came to rest in the middle of a tomato field. The two police officers, who wrote off their own patrol car as a result of the pursuit, gave chase to the fleeing driver of the Morris on foot and managed to catch him after one of the officers got him in a low rugby tackle. The driver struggled wildly, but was ultimately arrested and taken back to police headquarters.

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A mannequin depicts the attire worn by the “Beast of Jersey”

It was only when they got the suspect back to the police station did they fully appreciate just how much of a normal arrest that this hadn’t been, when in the light of the police station they saw clearly how the man looked and how he was dressed.  The man was wearing an old raincoat, one that smelled musty as struck both the officers. The raincoat had 1″ nails protruding from both shoulders and the lapels of the coat, and he was wearing cloth bands around each wrist that again had protruding 1″ nails. He was wearing old trousers tucked into socks, carpet slippers, and woollen gloves. A strange sight as you can imagine, but when the suspect emptied the pockets of the coat – it got even stranger. Removed from the raincoat was a torch with black tape covering the front to provide only a narrow shaft of light; two lengths of sash cord; a peaked woollen cap; several empty cigarette packets; rolls of adhesive tape, and a black wig with stiff spiky hair. With mounting suspicion that they had at last found the “Beast of Jersey”, the suspicion became overwhelming when they removed the final item from the raincoat. It was a homemade, horrific facemask.

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Edward John Louis Paisnel – the “Beast of Jersey” unmasked.

The man was Edward John Louis Paisnel, a native Jerseyman who came from an affluent family. He was 46 years old, and was a building contractor well known throughout the island, married with a daughter and two step-children. The only skirt with a criminal record he had was when he served a month’s imprisonment during the German occupation of the island in the Second World War for stealing food to distribute to starving families. His wife, Joan, had run a foster home for children called La Preference, and met Paisnel when he helped out as a handyman there. The children knew him as “Uncle Ted”, who always had sweets and gifts for them, played with them and dressed up as Santa Claus every year to distribute presents to the children at the home. Paisnel had married Joan in 1959, but the marriage was punctuated with frequent rows, until shortly after the birth of the couple’s daughter when they lived as man and wife in name alone. Following the separation, Paisnel built an annexe onto the house where the couple lived, consisting of an office and a large sitting room and took himself to live there. He was considered overall as a kind and considerate man who was good with children, but one who had never let go of the roaming spirit that he had had since childhood, keeping irregular hours and often going out fishing or for walks at night. Sexually, his wife considered him to be normal and if anything to have had a very low sex drive, although at the time of his arrest Paisnel had at least one mistress.

When questioned about his strange apparel and asked to explain his actions on the night he was arrested, Paisnel gave strange answers. He said he had been on his way to an orgy and had borrowed the car to get there to avoid anyone seeing him and identifying him on the way there. The nails in the clothing, he said, were as a defence against anyone using martial arts to attack him. He refused to say anything about the mask and wig, but it was noticed that he had adhesive tape marks on his face that matched tape inside the mask, meaning he had clearly worn it at some point that night. He was locked up for the night, and police set out to search his home, by now quietly convinced that they had the “Beast of Jersey” under arrest. What they found there astounded them . In Paisnel’s bedroom was found a locked “secret” room that he had built. Opening it, it immediately struck police that it smelt musty. Inside the room hung several items of old clothing including a blue tracksuit and an old fawn raincoat, home -made wigs and hats, and false eyebrows . There was a camera hanging on a hook and several photographs of various houses. There was also several items of black magic paraphernalia, a home -made altar, a sizeable library about the occult and black magic rituals, and a very large curved wooden sword hanging on the wall. There was no doubting in police minds now – the “Beast of Jersey” had been caught.

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A police officer demonstrates the horror of the facemask worn by Paisnel to inflict terror.

Paisnel was eventually charged on 13 counts including rape, indecent assault and sodomy against 6 victims, with all but one being a minor. His trial in November 1971 revealed an obsession with black magic and with one of the most evil men in history, Gilles de Rais, and how Paisnel had claimed himself to be a distant descendent of him. Perhaps the crimes of Paisnel were in some way an attempt to emulate the actions of Gilles de Rais himself, and only stopped short of murder. Paisnel had never explained what motivated him to go out and commit the terrifying and savage attacks that he did, indeed, when questioned about anything he gave evasive and babbling answers and descended into talk of curses, covens and hints at black magic involvement. Otherwise, he just point blank refused to answer any questions or told police to “prove it”.

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Press coverage of the trial – note the nails sticking up through the coat

There was no question of an insanity defence – it was revealed just how cunning Paisnel was and how pre planned his attacks were. He photographed houses that he had earmarked as targets to attack children – sometimes years in advance. This explained how he knew exactly which room to go to and how not to disturb the occupants, and also how to access and egress the property. Paisnel then kept these photographs as trophies of his crimes. He affected an Irish accent whilst committing attacks, dropped cigarette packets and gave random misleading details about himself to his victims. In reality, these were all red herrings to lead police away from his trail – he was a native of Jersey, and was a non smoker. He was proud of his crimes and boastful, having wrote the letter to police (which was confirmed as being in his handwriting by Paisnel’s wife). The mask was designed not only to disguise him, but to inflict terror on his victims also. The nails in the raincoat were placed in such positions as to injure someone grabbing him – they were designed to help him get away if possibly interrupted. Definitely bad, but in no way mad. It also emerged that Paisnel had been one of just thirteen men on the island who had refused to give any fingerprints during the search for the Beast, as was the right of a Jersey resident at that time.

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Paisnel arrives at court during his trial.

On 29th November 1971, it took just 38 minutes for a guilty verdict to be reached against Paisnel on all charges, and he was taken away to await sentencing. He stood in the same court two weeks later, and stood impassive as he was sentenced to thirty years imprisonment for his monstrous crimes. He was then taken away to Winchester prison to begin his sentence. Paisnel appealed his conviction and sentence in September 1972, but his appeal was unsuccessful and he was returned to prison to serve out his sentence. He was released in 1991 after being a model prisoner and returned to Jersey, albeit briefly. However, local feeling was still so strong by islanders who remembered Paisnel’s reign of terror, and he eventually was hounded out and moved to the Isle of Wight, where he died of a heart attack in 1994.

Since his death, there have been unsubstantiated reports that Paisnel was involved in child abuse concerned with the notorious Haut de la Garenne children’s home. Papers that were released during the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry revealed him to be a regular visitor there, and had previously heard evidence that he prowled the halls and rooms of The La Preference home, which was run by his mother in law and Joan, during the 1960’s in his terrifying mask. A former resident of the home in the 1960’s, known only as “Mr D” gave evidence saying that Paisnel had on numerous occasions crept into the home at night through the windows dressed in a raincoat and gloves, and that he had used chloroform to drug children and remove them from beds to abuse in his signature fashion.

“One night I was asleep and I felt a presence in there and it was Paisnel stood staring at me. He had some kind of mask on him. The Paisnel’s house was so eerie. When we were doing the outer building you would see cats strung up and you would actually see him strangling cats. I just couldn’t stay there any longer. I always sensed that Paisnel was evil – you just sensed that something pure evil was going on in that place” – “Mr D”

However, despite any allegations made against Paisnel in relation to abuse at Haut de la Garenne, he was not included in the initial enquiry looking at historic sexual abuse at the home, Operation Rectangle.
The police file stated that was “no firm evidence to hand in the investigation that Paisnel was responsible for any abuse that falls within the parameters of the investigation”.

Yet it would appear likely that Paisnel had committed many more crimes than he was charged with and tried for. The attacks that led to the charges Paisnel was tried and imprisoned for are the ones that have been detailed here, and who knows just how many more unrecognised victims of this monster are out there. Yes, Paisnel is long dead now, but the memory of the terror of the “Beast of Jersey” will never be forgotten. Not by police who searched for him for more than a decade, not by long-time residents of Jersey, and certainly not by his victims.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

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