2nd March 1886

French woman’s first full day as a convict

French barmaid Marie Roose (some sources say Marie Riot) died at Jersey Hospital after her clothes were set on fire by a “Frenchman”, according to the papers. Except it wasn’t a French man at all, but a woman.

Jeanne Marie Duboscq set 14-year-old Marie Roose’s dress on fire when Roose, a barmaid, refused to serve her any more drink. Duboscq, then 47, was already drunk, and when Roose attended to the fireplace, she thrust a rolled up newspaper into the flames and put it under her clothes. They caught immediately, and Roose begged Duboscq to help her take them off, but the assailant refused and left, and Roose was only saved from complete immolation by running into the street and being helped by passers-by.

In retrospect, it may have been kinder if she had not survived. According to the Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph, “the body, especially the lower parts and back, bore frightful marks of severe burning, and made it evident that the unfortunate victim’s prolonged sufferings must have been intense”.

Duboscq had set Roose alight on 16 December 1885 but it had taken until early in the morning of the 18th for the barmaid to die.

Drink as a defence

When the case came to court, the attorney-general argued that Duboscq was not necessarily a murderer, since a verdict of murder required that the jury was satisfied she had set out with the intention of killing Roose, not merely harming her. As Duboscq had been drunk when she committed the crime, she was judged not to have fully thought through what she was doing, and was thus convicted not of murder, but manslaughter.

Her advocate argued that she should be sentenced to no more than two years’ custody with hard labour, but the bailiff thought differently and gave her twenty-one years’ penal servitude. She was imprisoned in Jersey but was shipped off the island on 2 April to serve her sentence on the mainland. She was by then notorious not only for what she had done, but also for becoming the first woman in almost forty years to be given a sentence of penal servitude.


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