16th July 1866

Circumstantial evidence sends a man to the gallows

Two days. That’s all it took the Royal Court of Jersey to convict 22-year-old Francois Bridoux – known as Francis Bradley – of the murder of Esther Le Brun, despite the evidence against him being apparently circumstantial.

Whoever killed 60-year-old Le Brun had gained access to her home by climbing through a hole in her thatched roof. There was nothing to suggest that Bradley was the culprit or even that he had been anywhere near her house on 3 May, the night she’d been killed, but the fact he’d escaped police custody a few days before had set the authorities against him.

They could pin nothing concrete on him, but police were nonetheless able to present a chain of events that suggested it was possible he might have killed the woman and, after just half an hour’s discussion, the jury found him guilty.

Sentenced to death

He was sentenced to be hanged and given a month’s reprieve during which he could seek clemency. Papers that reported the case said that although the spectators were initially sympathetic towards the convict on account of his being so young, they turned against him when he started calling the judge and jury murderers and brigands for sentencing him to death.

Salvation was denied. At 8am on 18 August, Bradley was led to the gallows in front of a crowd of 15,000, some of whom were using opera glasses and telescopes to get the best view. It was the first hanging in Jersey for 29 years, and the public didn’t want to miss it.

The Ballymena Observer described how his demeanour had flip-flopped between elation and despair as the time of his execution drew near. Eventually, “the wretched man was so prostrate that it was feared he would have to be carried up to the scaffold. A glass of brandy was given him and this nerved him for the dread journey, which he then took, though not with a very steady step, accompanied by the hangman on one side and the deputy viscount on the other. On reaching the scaffold the rope was adjusted, the cap drawn over his head, the bolt withdrawn, and in a minute the unfortunate criminal had ceased to exist. He persisted in proclaiming his innocence to the last, even after having received the sign of the cross, the last attention from his spiritual advisor.”


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Other events that occured in July