29th September 1851

A Jersey murderer is transported for life

When shoemaker Frederick Derbyshire fell out with his wife, she moved out of the flat they shared, and moved in with dentist Jacques Fouquet, who lived downstairs. According to news reports, she was acting as his housekeeper, but the Hampshire Advertiser later revealed that “[Frederick] Derbyshire had been improperly intimate with [Fouquet’s] wife”.

Unhappy neighbours

It can’t have been easy for the estranged Derbyshires to be living in the same building, just one floor apart, and when Frederick came downstairs, not long after he and his wife had split, he and Fouquet got into an argument. Fouquet shot as Derbyshire but, as Derbyshire was by the on the other side of a door, missed him.

Derbyshire wasn’t so lucky second time around, when Fouquet came home and found Derbyshire in his apartment, demanding that his wife return certain items that she’d taken when she’d left. This time there was no door to get in the way, and when Fouquet again fired at Derbyshire, he hit him. The bullet passed straight through him, but it still took until lunchtime the following day for him to die.

Convicted twice

Fouquet stood trial for the man’s murder, first before the Petty Jury, which found him guilty, and then at the Royal Court, which affirmed the verdict and sentenced him to be hanged. Such a sentence was the customary penalty for murder, and it was also customary to delay the execution for three weeks to give the condemned man time to petition the monarch for clemency.

This, he did, and his appeal was granted, but that didn’t mean he was a free man. As the Jersey Times reported, “by Tuesday’s packet a dispatch was received from the Home Office by his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, informing him that the penalty of death pronounced against the convict would be commuted into transportation for life”.

Legal misunderstanding

Unfortunately, this didn’t go down entirely well on Jersey. The original verdict passed, as was custom on the island, was that Fouquet was rather more guilty than innocent, which the home secretary had taken to mean there was some doubt as to whether Fouquet really had killed Derbyshire or not. If that was the case, then transportation, without first seeking clarification, would seem a somewhat harsh punishment.


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