Case File #0029
The Beast of Jersey
Edward Paisnel
"The assailant was wearing a terrifying mask..."
The Bailiwick of Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands, and has been under British rule since the reign of William the Conqueror. The Island has since remained part of the Crown and has endured a strong British influence and a rich and colourful history, which includes the German occupation during World War II. However, by the 1950's the Islanders experienced a new terror when women and children were being preyed upon and viciously sexually assaulted by what they described as a masked man who would vanish into the night. The newspapers referred to the unknown assailant as the Beast of Jersey, and from 1957 until 1971 he managed to elude capture and would claim numerous victims before the police were finally able to unmask him.
The Island of Jersey had endured many hardships during the Nazi occupation which had begun on 1 July 1940. The Germans began construction projects on the Island which became part of the Atlantic Wall, using upwards of 16,000 Soviet slave workers to construct the heavy fortifications which turned the Island into a fortress. After 1944 supplies to the Island had become interrupted by the D-Day landings and food had become scarce. During the winter of 1944/45, the situation grew worse and both the occupied population and German garrison were facing starvation which was eventually alleviated when the Red Cross were able send supplies and news of the Allied victories. The Channel Islands were amongst the last to be freed from German occupation and the Islanders were liberated on 9 May 1945 when Germany formally surrendered with the downfall of Hitler's Reich.
By 1951 the population on the Island, which measures some 45.6 square miles, was recorded as only 55,244 with almost a third of residents living in the Island's only town, Saint Helier. Despite such a close-knit community, a sexual predator began a reign of terror on the Island beginning in November 1957. The first attributed incident involved a 29-year-old nurse who was waiting for a bus in the Monte a L'abbe area. She was attacked by a man and dragged into a nearby field where she was sexually assaulted. Although she was severely injured with wounds that required stitches, she was alive and was able to describe her attacker to police. She said the man affected an Irish accent and was wearing something that covered his face so she could not provide police with a positive description.
The next attack occurred the following year in March 1958 when a 20-year-old woman was accosted as she walked home from a bus stop. The incident took place in the Parish of Trinity and this time the man placed a rope around the victims neck and dragged her into a field where she was raped. By July 1958 a third victim reported to police that she was attacked as she walked home from a bus stop. In almost the exact circumstances as the previous victim, the attacker placed a rope around the 31-year-old's neck and dragged her into a field where she was raped. Police now linked these crimes to a single perpetrator, because of the similarity of the attacks, the women were near a bus stop or were walking home from one, and the use of the rope which was the rapists signature.
It was almost a year before any other crimes were committed, when in August 1959 a young girl was similarly attacked as she walked home near the Parish of Grouville and again in October when a 28-year-old woman was indecently assaulted in St. Martin's parish, although this time the victim was able to fight the man off and he fled into the night. Investigators were now convinced they were dealing with a sexual predator who was stalking the Island for female victims. The women were able to provide a basic description of the man, which was fairly consistent and placed his age around early to mid-40's and his height at around 5"6 tall.
It was believed he affected an Irish accent to disguise his real voice and in some cases he wore a mask which covered his features. They described their attacker as having a strange "musty" odour, and that he wore a rope or cord around his waist which he used to restrain his victims hands. Because of the similarities of the attacks, police were confident it was the same man and the unidentified rapist was nicknamed the "Beast of Jersey" by the press. By 1960 the attacks continued and intensified, however it was noticed by police that the perpetrator had changed his victim preference and was now targeting his victims inside their homes.
In what would be the first change to his modus operandi, the Beast of Jersey targeted a 12-year-old boy who was attacked at his home in the region of Grands Vaux in the early hours of 14 February. On Valentines Day, the boy was awoken by a man who climbed in through his bedroom window and placed a rope around his neck. The boy was then led outside and sexually assaulted. The next month a 25-year-old woman was offered a lift as she walked to a bus stop in St Brelade by a man driving a Rover make of car. The man claimed he was a doctor on his way to pick up his wife and the victim accepted. However during the journey the man drove into a field and launched an attack against the woman, punching her into submission and threatening to kill her if she didn't do as he told her.
He tied her hands behind her head and then dragged her from the car and into a field where she was raped. Afterwards he placed her back inside the car and drove away. She then attempted to escape and ran from the vehicle, screaming for help and the man drove away making his escape before help arrived. In her description of her attacker, the woman remembered he wore a duffel coat, peaked cap and gloves but could provide no further details because his features were obscured by the darkness.
This latest attack was reminiscent of those previously attributed to the Beast, and the police were confused by the perpetrators random selection of a 12-year-old boy during the Valentines assault. Although they were unsure why he selected a different victim type, they were certain it was committed by the same man because of the use of rope that was a signature of the unidentified rapist. Later in March 1960 he targeted a 43-year-old mother and her 14-year-old daughter at their isolated cottage in St. Martin Parish in what would be a terrifying experience for both. The mother was asleep when she was woken at 12:30am by the downstairs telephone ringing. When she lifted the receiver to answer it, she heard only a click and then the dial tone as the line went dead. Thinking nothing of it, she returned to bed but was awoken again an hour later by unusual sounds emanating from downstairs.
As she walked down the stairs to investigate she noticed the lights go out as she reached the bottom of the staircase and could hear someone moving about in the living-room. In the darkness she located the telephone and attempted to call the police but found the phonelines had been ripped from the wall. At the moment she was confronted by a man who grabbed her roughly demanding money and threatening to kill her. When the 14-year-old daughter dame down the stairs to see what the noise was, the man let the mother go and left the house immediately. The woman then fled the cottage and went to a nearby farmhouse to raise the alarm, but when she returned home she found her daughter had been brutally raped. The attacker had used the same method, attaching a rope to the victims neck after tying her hands. Detectives were unable to get a description from either the mother or daughter.
Over the next year there were five similar attacks, all against children and the rapist had now defined his victimology and modus operandi, which included the forced entry of the victims home and then abduction and sexual assault. In April 1960 a 14-year-old girl awoke to find the Beast of Jersey in her bedroom. She would later describe to police that he was wearing an odd looking mask and when she screamed he ran away. Several months later in July, an 8-year-old boy was abducted from his home and indecently assaulted. He described a man wearing a raincoat who took him away and afterwards led him back home and left him on the doorstep. No more attacks were reported until the next year in February 1961 when a 12-year-old boy was assaulted in the Mont Cochon area under similar circumstances. In March an 11-year-old boy was attacked in the parish of St Saviour and an 11-year-old girl was horrifically raped in St Martin's in April.

The Beast of Jersey

At this stage in the investigation the Jersey Police were no closer to catching the rapist than they were when he first began his reign of terror. There was significant pressure from the frightened public who were understandably scared for the well being of their children, meanwhile the press who's coverage of the crimes now depicted a strained police force who were unable to make a break-through after a 3-year search. The Jersey Police requested help from the mainland, specifically Scotland Yard, who sent Detective Superintendent Jack Mannings of the murder squad.
When he arrived on the Island he set about re-focusing the investigation, and requested help from the Islanders who were asked to be vigilant, whilst the press were given a descriptive composite of the suspect. Officers began looking at every man on the Island with a criminal record who had a history of sexual assault or rape. These men were questioned at length and then ruled out of the investigation. Every man on the Island was asked to provide fingerprints to eliminate them as a suspect, only thirteen refused, which was their right as a resident of Jersey at that time.
The Investigation soon focused on 30 suspects who were placed under surveillance. One of these men was an agricultural worker and fisherman who's name was Alphonse Le Gastelois. 45-year-old Gastelois was around the correct age of the Beast and was known to roam country lanes at night wearing a dirty old raincoat with a piece of rope for a belt. This matched the well known description of the wanted man and soon local feeling towards Gastelois became hostile. Fuelled by personal grudges, rumours and gossip he was soon considered by many to be the prime suspect. DS Manning had the Jersey Police bring him in for questioning and he was released 14 hours later due to a lack of evidence.
Despite this, his clothing was for forensic examination by Scotland Yard, and he was sent home in ill-fitting clothes. Because his name had been released to the public he was unable to live his life under normal conditions, and experienced threats and abuse on a daily basis. Eventually the public suspicion surrounding Gastelois culminated in his cottage being burnt down in an act of arson. As a result he left the Island in May 1961 for self-imposed exile on the Écréhous where he lived a reclusive and quiet existence on the reef.
Although the Beast had not been caught, investigators were still able to learn much about his modus operandi. He was very familiar with the Island, in particular the eastern areas and would always stalk his victims at night, and had so far always struck on a moon-lit evening at the weekend during the hours of 10:00pm and 03:00am. His victims were carefully selected and he demonstrated some pre-planning in advance because of how he approached his intended target, bringing with him everything he would need to subdue them. In his latest attacks he would enter the bedroom through the window and then proceed to move silently and fast, often shining a torch to wake his sleeping victims and then used rope or cord to bind their hands and a blindfold so they could not identify him. In almost every case the victim was led outside with a rope around their necks to a nearby field where they were sexually assaulted before being returned home.
His face was always covered with either a mask or a scarf which concealed the lower half of his face and every victim recalled how his clothing, which was usually consisted of a raincoat or low cut jacket gave off a musty but distinct smell, a peaked cap and gloves. He would talk often during the attacks and his voice was described as soft with an affected Irish accent, that he used to disguise his voice. During the attacks he would often mention his wife, his dead mother who had died an alcoholic and also that he had killed before and threatened to do so again if they did not comply with his demands. It was believed he was between 40 and 45-years-old, around 5"6 tall of medium build and had a moustache. Although DS Mannings investigation did not identify a suspect, it was successful in scaring the Beast into stopping his attacks, and no more were reported for two years.
April 1963 saw the return of the Beast, with an attack on a 9-year-old boy in St Saviour, using his now all too familiar method. Later that year in November another attack occurred in St. Saviour when an 11-year-old boy was assaulted. After this the Beast vanished once more to avoid capture. He resurfaced in July 1964, attacking a 10-year-old girl in Trinity parish and struck again in August when he attacked a 16-year-old boy in Grouville parish before disappearing once more. No further incidents were reported during another two year period and the intense police search eventually subsided. In 1966, an anonymous letter was sent to the Jersey Police which purported to be from the "Beast of Jersey";
My Dear Sir,

I think that it is just the time to tell you that you are just wasting your time, as every time I have done wat I always intended to do and remember it will not stop at this, but I will be fair to you and give you a chance. I have never had much out of this life but I intend to get everything I can now... I have always wanted to do the perfect crime. I have done this, but this time let the moon shine very britte in September because this time it must be perfect, not one but two. I am not a maniac by a long shot but I like to play with you people. You will hear from me before September and I will give you all the clues. Just to see if you can catch me.

Yours very sincerely

Wait and See
Although there was some doubt about the authenticity of the letter, there was a subsequent attack committed in August 1966 as promised by the author. A 15-year-old girl was savagely raped in Trinity parish and was identical to previous assaults attributed to the Beast. This specific attack also contained one new element that was missing from any of the other incidents. This time the rapist left unusual long scratches, parallel and evenly spaced on the victims torso. After this there were no more attacks attributed to the Beast of Jersey for the remainder of the decade, which would be the longest hiatus in these series of crimes. The authorities had numerous theories to explain the long breaks between attacks. Perhaps the rapist was in prison for similar crimes, or he could be a visitor from the Mainland. It was also suspected that the investigation was getting close to apprehending him and the Beast went to ground to avoid capture. Whatever the truth was he was not heard from again until August 1970.
This latest attack involved a 13-year-old boy who was awakened at his home in Vallee Des Vaux by an intruder wearing a terrifying mask who shone a flashlight in his face, demanding the boy get out of bed. Fearful, the boy did as he was told and was taken outside to a field at the rear of the house where the man laid a raincoat on the floor and had the boy remove his pyjamas before indecently assaulting him. He then returned the boy to his home and vanished. Because the man had threatened the boy to remain quiet, telling him "if you don't someone will harm your mother and father", he did not raise the alarm until 08:00am the following morning. His parents noticed he was dishevelled and distressed, and when questioned further he gave them a description of the events which had become the well known method of operation for the Beast of Jersey.
The boy told police the man was wearing an unusual mask with black spiky hair which sprouted from the top of his head. When examined it was found the boy had the same odd scratches as the previous victim of August 1966. It was evident the rapist had resurfaced and police now began a new round of questioning to locate the man responsible. A large majority of the Island, over 30,000 people were spoken to during the investigation but even this failed to produce a suspect. The public were beginning to believe the Beast was a phantom, a bogeyman who committed his heinous crimes before vanishing without trace. This would all change the following year when a break was made in the case.
On the night of 10 July 1971, two Jersey police officer, Tom McGinn and John Riseborough were on night duty in their marked police vehicle and were patrolling the St. Helier area. At around 11:45pm the two officer pulled up to a set of traffic lights and noticed a small Morris 1100 saloon car which raced past them at high speed, jumping the lights. The police immediately followed in pursuit and noticed the car was being driven in an erratic manner, and when the driver noticed he was being tailed a high speed chase began which lasted for several miles, during which the morris sideswiped several other cars and drove down footpaths in an attempt to evade capture.
The chase ended when the morris crashed into a hedge after being driven on the wrong side of the road, and came to rest in a tomato field. The offices exited their car, which was written off as a result of the pursuit, and gave chase on foot in an attempt to apprehend the suspect. They managed to capture the man when one of the officers lunged at him during a rugby tackle, and despite struggling for some time, he eventually was placed under arrest and taken back to the police station.
Once the officers were able to clearly see the arrested man in the glow of the station lights, they were surprised to discover what he was wearing. He was dressed in an old raincoat which gave off a pungent musty smell, which had 1" nails which protruded from both shoulders and the lapel of the coat. He had cloth band around each wrist which also had 1" nails protruding and was wearing a pair of old trouser which were tucked into his socks, slippers and woollen gloves. His odd choice of clothing did not immediately raise suspicions as he told the officers he was on his way to attend an orgy, however when they had him empty his pockets they began to grow more alarmed.
He removed a torch from his jacket, which had black tape covering the end and produced a narrow shaft of the light, along with a peaked woollen cap and several empty cigarette packets. But the items soon became more insidious when he produced two lengths of sash cord, several rolls of adhesive tape and a black wig with black stiff spiky hair. The officers were beginning to believe they had captured the Beast of Jersey, when the final item confirmed their suspicions, it was a horrific homemade facemask.
Under interrogation the man said gave evasive answers to any questions from the officers or he simply refused to answer, telling police to "prove it". He did not explain his odd clothing, and said he had borrowed the car to avoid anyone recognising him attending the orgy. He said the nails were a defensive measure against anyone who might attack him, but refused to answer questions about the mask and wig. Officers noticed he had numerous adhesive marks on his face, indicating he had worn the mask that very same evening. The man gave his name as Edward John Louis Paisnel, a 46-year-old native Jerseyman who worked as a building contractor who was well known throughout the Island.
He was placed in a cell overnight whilst officers were sent to search his home. When they arrived they found much evidence that supported their suspicions he was the Beast. In his bedroom investigators found a secret room he kept locked which, when opened, they found contained the same musty smell as that of the raincoat. Inside were numerous items, such a camera which hung from a hook beside several photographs of various houses and old clothing, including an old fawn raincoat, a blue tracksuit and homemade wigs, hats and false eyebrows. There was also a large collection of occult paraphernalia, such as books on the occult, black magic rituals and a large curved wooden sword which hung on the wall.

Edward Paisnel

Beast of Jersey Outfit

It was learned that Paisnel came from an affluent family and was married with a daughter and two step-children. His wife Joan had previously managed a children's foster home called La Preference, and they had met when Paisnel worked as a handyman there. The foster children referred to Paisnel as "Uncle Ted", and he would often give them sweets and gifts, playing dress-up as Santa Claus to distribute presents at Christmas. Edward and Joan married in 1959, two years after he began his sexual assaults, however it was not a happy union and the couple frequently fought until the birth of their only child, and they subsequently lived together as husband and wife in name only.
After the separation, Paisnel made modifications to the family home and built an annex onto the house where the couple had intended to live, which consisted of a large sitting room and office room which Paisnel then used as his own personal accommodation. His wife later recalled that they had a normal sex-life, and believed her husband did not have a very high sex drive. She would later discover that Paisnel kept at-least one mistress. He was described by his friends and family as a kind and considerate man who was good with children. His only brush with the law had been during the German Occupation of the Island when he served a month in prison for stealing food which he intended to distribute to starving families. He was considered very much a carefree spirit and could often be found fishing or going for long walks in the countryside at night, which meant to would often keep mostly irregular hours.
Detectives compiled their evidence and Paisnel was charged with 13 counts, including rape, sodomy and indecent assault against six victims, with all but one being a minor. His trial began in November 1971 and his defence counsel were wise not to enter a plea of insanity, because of the amount of planning involved in the crimes. In an attempt to throw off suspicion from himself he affected an Irish accent and would often leave cigarette packets at the crime scenes. He believed this would lead the investigation away from him because he was a native of Jersey and a non-smoker. Paisnel photographed numerous houses, which demonstrated a certain degree of premeditation, with careful planning some years in advance.
He would target a specific house, learning the routine of the occupants and the layout of the home, knowing exactly where to go so he did not disturb the parents as he made his way to the children's bedrooms. He kept the photographs as trophies of his crimes and it was revealed he had an obsession with black magic. Paisnel identified with the 15th Century French Lord Gilles de Rais who was found responsible for the serial murders of approximately 140 children who were horribly killed during alleged black magic rituals in an attempt to invoke a demon known as Barron. In-fact Paisnel believed himself to be a descendant of de Rais and would often mention witches covens, curses and the involvement of black magic when asked about his motivations.

Paisnel arriving at court

The evidence against him was overwhelming. The grotesque mask he used was to both disguise his features and terrify his younger victims into submission. The 1" nails on the raincoat and wrist bands were designed to inflict injury on anyone who attempted to apprehend him if he was interrupted during his assaults and was confirmed by his wife that it was Paisnel's handwriting on the letter sent to police, which boasted about claiming more victims. On 29 November 1971, the court deliberated on his fate and within 38 minutes the guilty verdict was reached against Paisnel on all charges.
He was taken back to his cell to await sentencing, which came two weeks later when he was handed a 30 year prison sentence for his crimes. Paisnel stood impassive as the sentence was read out and began serving his time as Winchester prison. In November 1972 he appealed his conviction and sentence, but was unsuccessful and he was returned to prison. During his time in prison he was considered a model prisoner and was released in 1991, briefly returning to Jersey. But his stay would not last long because the local sentiment towards him was still strongly negative because his crimes were still remembered by the Islanders who hounded him off the Island. He settled on the Isle of Wight where he died of a heart attack in 1994.
Although he had been vindicated, Alphonse Le Gastelois, the original prime suspect remained in self-imposed exile for 14 years as a hermit where he became known as the King of the Écréhous. He remained there until 1975 when he finally returned to Jersey and settled into a single room in a cottage in Dumaresq Street, St. Helier where lived in extreme poverty until his death on 3 June 2012. Meanwhile there have been unsubstantiated rumours that Paisnel was directly involved in the child abuse claims committed at the notorious Jersey children's home Haut de la Garenne. The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry would reveal that he was a regular visitor there and former residents recall how he would prowl the halls and rooms, after creeping inside through the window wearing his raincoat and gloves.
He was suspected of using chloroform to render the children unconscious to remove them from their beds and abuse them in his preferred way. It was also suspected that he would regularly visit the La Preference care home run by his wife Joan and her mother-in-law during the 1960's, wearing his horrifying mask to abuse the child residents. Despite the allegations against Paisnel, he was not included in the initial inquiry into historic sexual abuse at the home which was known as Operation Rectangle. Police investigators concluded there was no firm evidence which connected Paisnel to any instances of sexual abuse committed at the home which came under the parameters of the investigation.
Despite these findings, it is believed by some that Edward Paisnel committed many more crimes than those he was suspected and found guilty of committing. There were possibly many more crimes which went unreported to police out of fear that the man in mask would return to carry out his threats. His legacy on the Island is one of fear and terror which is remembered by his victims and the police officers who spent 14 years hunting the Beast of Jersey.

Written by Nucleus