4th April 1959
Children discover a body in the sand dunes
Brother and sister Alan and Ann Heath, who had been playing in dunes near St Brelade, made a gruesome discovery: the body of 45-year-old John Perree, who had been killed when he was shot in the face. The last time Perree had been seen alive, he’d been with his 32-year-old nephew, Francis Joseph Huchet. Huchet told police that the two had had a drink and then gone their separate ways. The owner of a pub confirmed that the two men had been in there together on the day in question – but it wasn’t in that pub that Huchet claimed they’d been drinking.
Police made a search of Huchet’s car, in which they found ropes that matched rope found near the crime scene, at which they’d also uncovered some of Huchet’s wife’s clothing. If that wasn’t damning enough, tracks in the sand matched the print on Huchet’s tyres.
Francis Huchet’s arrest and trial
Huchet was arrested and charged with Perree’s murder and of subsequently burying the body. He was held in custody, during which he performed perhaps his most reckless and foolish act – aside from the murder itself. He wrote a fabricated confession on the inside cover of a book, which was smuggled out of the prison and handed over to Grace Kemp, with a request – in Huchet’s handwriting – that she copy it out and send it to the police anonymously, thereby suggesting someone else was to blame for the killing.
However, Kemp informed the police, and the note was presented as evidence at his trial, which began in September. There, he faced a jury of 24 members, as was customary for a murder trial, which, for the first time ever, included women. The jury took just under an hour and a half to find him guilty of murder and he became both the first man hanged on Jersey in 52 years, and the last convicted criminal to be hanged in the Channel Islands.
The son of the island’s chief of police, Peter le Brocq, had organised a petition arguing that Huchet should be reprieved, which proved unsuccessful, and the date of the execution was finalised just two days before it was carried out.
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Other events that occured in April
Major Moses Corbet is appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jersey
- Corbet served in Menorca and Gibraltar before retiring to Jersey on the grounds of ill-health. He was appointed Lieutenant Governor in 1771.
- Read more…