8th September 1972

The Beast of Jersey loses his appeal

Edward Paisnel was convicted of 13 counts of assault, rape and sodomy and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment in December 1971. The following year, he appealed his conviction.

Nicknamed the Beast of Jersey, construction worker Paisnel’s 11 years of breaking into homes dressed in a rubber mask, and attacking women and children, were brought to an end when police pulled him over for failing to stop at a red light. Upon inspecting his car, they found various elements from the outfit he wore during his night-time break-ins.

Not guilty plea

Paisnel had pleaded not guilty and, according to the Aberdeen Evening Express of 13 December 1971, his defence counsel “had suggested that an electric machine to detect epilepsy should be used on [him]”. However, it had taken the court less than 45 minutes at the close of his trial to find him guilty on all 13 counts. According to a report in The Times, the court had heard testimony from 51 witnesses, and around 150 people had been in the Royal Court’s public gallery to watch the verdict passed.

Following his conviction, The People of 5 December 1971 published an interview with Paisnel’s girlfriend, Florence Hawking. “I was still a virgin when I met him,” she said. “And from the time I first allowed him to make love to me – when I was 43 – I made a vow that there would never be any other man for me… it was hard to believe that my lover was really the man found guilty of terrorising this island.”

Secret room

According to the interview, she had known about a secret room in which Paisnel had kept “those nightmarish clothes with the nails in them”, but had not known what was in it. She claimed that Paisnel had been kind to her, and gentle enough to be able to lift a sleeping blackbird out of its nest without waking it.

During the investigation, suspicion had fallen on Alphonse Le Gastelois, who was arrested and subsequently released through lack of evidence. Unfortunately for Le Gastelois the accusation stuck and he was hounded off Jersey. His house was burned down and he fled to Les Ecrehous, where he lived alone, largely on a diet of seaweed, seagull eggs and shellfish. He remained on Les Ecrehous even after Paisnel’s conviction, but was brought back to Jersey in 1975 to stand trial on a charge of arson, of which he was found not guilty. He remained on Jersey until his death in 2012.

Although sentenced to serve 30 years, Paisnel was released early and died on the Isle of Wight in 1994.


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