23rd December 1891

John Pinel stands trial for abduction

When 60-year-old John Pinel took 18-year-old Susan Malzard into his home, her mother wasn’t happy. Pinel, whose wife had left him, was considerably older than Malzard, and not the kind of person her parents wanted her taking off with. Pinel wasn’t having it and, as well as refusing to give her up, he threatened to shoot anyone who tried to take her away, saying in Vigntenier Baudains’ presence, “bring down my revolver. The first man that breaks open my house, I’ll blow his brains out.”

Abduction… and arrest

As far as Susan’s mother was concerned, that constituted abduction, whether their daughter wanted to be there or not, and Pinel was arrested and brought before the court which, after hearing preliminary evidence that she had occupied a separate room in Pinel’s house, nonetheless committed Pinel for trial at the Royal Court.

When the case came up, Advocate Durell, representing Pinel, pointed out that although Malzard may have been living in her mother’s home when she decided to move in with Pinel, the fact she was 18 years and four months old meant she was no longer a minor, and was thus able to make up her own mind about where she should live, and with whom. She hadn’t been at Pinel’s against her will, and no immoral act had taken place. Indeed, Pinel was even paying her £15 a year to act as his housekeeper.

The Bailiff wasn’t convinced, pointing out that as far as Acts of Parliament were concerned, it was still abduction unless the “girl” in question was 21 or older. Under Jersey law, too, citizens were still minors until they were 21, and thus Pinel still had to answer the accusation that he’d kidnapped a minor.

A revelation or two

From this point on, the story became all the more complicated, with accusations that Malzard’s mother had been abusing her and Pinel himself had in fact been the girl’s adopted father for the last five years. Further, after Pinel’s arrest he had bought the girl birthday presents, including jewellery and a mackintosh that the girl’s mother had helped him choose. Moreover, Pinel himself was the mother’s attorney. Needless to say, all of this took several pages to outline in the Jersey Weekly Press and Independent.

Despite the amount of testimony that they had heard, the jury retired for just 25 minutes to consider their verdict but failed to come to a unanimous decision. Nonetheless, the majority felt that Pinel was indeed guilty of having held the girl hostage, regardless of whether she had voluntarily been there, which wasn’t as important under Jersey law as the fact that her mother hadn’t wanted her to be there. They also found him guilty – again by way of a split decision – or having made threats with his gun.

A fine and custody

The Bailiff sentenced him to a fine of £25 for allowing Malzard to stay in his house, and a month in prison for having made threats. Yet, having served his sentence, he was back in court in February on a similar charge, this time pleading guilty and being sentenced to a further three weeks in prison.

And that wasn’t the end of the saga, either. The following May, Pinel’s son was in court, accused of having assisted his father in the crime for which his father was fined on or around the 22nd of 23rd December 1891. This time, the jury delivered a unanimous verdict that the accused was not guilty, thus drawing to a close a story that had occupied the Jersey legal system for several months.


FREE Jersey history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Jersey's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want.



Other events that occured in December