The Terrifying Beast of Jersey
The people of Jersey locked their doors, but nothing could stop the bogeyman from entering their homes, and no one would forget his mask.
Famous for its woollen trade and cows, Jersey is smaller than the Greater London region. At only nine miles wide by five miles long, the small island is part of the sovereign state of the United Kingdom that sits in the Channel between England and France. Its population in the 1950s was just over 30,000 inhabitants.
The island faced a dark and fearsome time between 1957 and 1971, when one man in the most frightening mask terrified the residents and left his mark on the island forever. He would be known as the Beast of Jersey.
The terror begins
In 1957, a nurse waiting for a bus in the Monte a l’Abbe area of the island. Dressed in a long coat and a scarf over his face, a man approached her and beat her over the head, tied a rope around her neck and sexually assaulted her in a nearby field. She was badly injured during the attack and needed stitches, she was discovered and taken to the hospital where she recovered from her physical wounds.
The man attacked a 20-year-old in March 1957, who was walking home from the bus stop near Trinity. He used the same method with her and pulled her into a field by her neck and assaulted her. In July, he attacked a 31-year-old, and then a 28-year-old in St Martins in October 1959.
After the attacks, the victims gave their statements to the police and all of them had repetitive themes. They all confirmed the man was around 5”6’, in his mid-40s and had a strange Irish accent that they believed was fake. They also described him a musty smelling. Police agreed that the same man had attacked them all and he became known in the press as the Beast of Jersey.
In 1960, he changed his attack pattern and began breaking into houses and assaulting people in their homes, instead of on the streets. No one was safe.
On the 14th of February, the Beast of Jersey climbed through the window of a house and into an upstairs bedroom. The boy whose room he entered was only 12 years old. When he woke up, he saw the man in a mask, standing at the foot of his bed, holding a torch to his face, blinding him. The man placed a rope around the boy’s neck and dragged him outside to a field, where he raped him. When the assault was over, the man led the boy back to his house and disappeared.
In March, a woman walking to a bus stop in St Brelade stopped to speak to a man who had stopped his car and offered her a lift. He said he was a doctor who was on his way to pick up his wife. The woman accepted the lift and got in the Rover and the two drove off. When she turned to speak to the man she realised that he was wearing a big overcoat, hat and gloves. She couldn’t see his face and when she understood the mistake she’d made, he had already driven them to a secluded part of the island.
He beat the woman, punching her hard in the face and tied her hands behind her back, then led her out of the car into a field. Once he had finished sexually assaulting her, he led her back to the car and their pair drove off. Realising that this was her chance to escape, the woman jumped out of the moving car and began to scream. Panicked by the noise, the man sped away and was never tracked down.
Later that month, in a remote part of the island, a 43-year-old woman and her 14-year-old daughter were asleep in their cottage, in a remote part of the island in St Martins. The mother was awoken after midnight to the phone ringing downstairs. She got out of bed to answer it but there was silence on the other end, followed by a click and the dial tone. Assuming it was a wrong number, she went back to bed.
A while later, she was awoken again by a noise. She went back down the stairs to investigate the strange sound, turning on the lights to see better. When she reached the bottom step, the lights went out and she realised she wasn’t alone. There was someone in the living room, so she picked up the phone to call the local police, but the line was dead. The phone line had been cut.
The figure in the living room ran at the woman and demanded her money and threatened to kill her. In the struggle, her daughter awoke hearing the noise and went to see what was going on. In seeing the young girl, the man let go of the woman and lunged up the stairs to the daughter. The woman, now free ran to her neighbour’s home and brought them back to the cottage to catch the intruder, but when they arrived, they found the daughter alone. She had been tied up and raped, but she was still alive.
In April, a 14-year-old girl was awoken by a man in her bedroom, watching her as she slept. She began to scream in the hopes of waking her sleeping parents. It worked and the man fled.
In July the same year, an eight-year-old boy was kidnapped from his home. He had a rope tied around his neck and was led into a nearby field where he was raped. After the assault, he was taken back to his home and delivered right to his doorstep. This would be the last assault that year.
Investigators realised that the Beast of Jersey had to be a resident of the island, due to the frequency of the attacks. They began to interview every man who had a criminal record but none of them fit the description the victims made. Officers also requested fingerprints from all the adult males on the island. They had a right to refuse and 13 of them did. One of them was the masked man.
A break in the case
Jersey police arrested Alphonse Le Gastelois for the attacks and rapes. He was known as a strange fisherman, who lived on the island. The police were grasping at straws and any eccentric characters needed to be looked in to. He was released after 14 hours of questioning and due to lack of evidence, but the damage was done. His name had been given to the press and his picture was all over the local news.
After his house was burned down by an angry mob, Le Gastelois was forced to flee to Ecrehous, a group of islands north-east of Jersey. He died in June 2012 at the age of 97.
In February 1961, the attacks began again. This time, the Beast of Jersey’s pattern changed, and instead of attacking different generations, he targeted solely children, and by April, three young children had been taken from their homes and attacked.
By this point, the local police were at a loss. They didn’t know what to do next, so they called in Scotland Yard to help with the investigation.
Scotland Yard told residents that they needed to start looking out for each other and set up neighbourhood watches, to keep each other safe. They also created a profile of the attacker from the descriptions made by the victims.
40–45 years old and approximately 5”6’ in height with a medium build. He knew the island well especially the east coast. He had a moustache but covered his face, either with a scarf or a mask during the attacks. He wore a long, dark musty coat, a hat and a pair of gloves. He entered homes through bedroom windows, using the moon as a light, between 10pm and 3am and carried a torch.
Despite the profile, investigators hit dead end after dead end and eventually the attacks stopped, for a few years.
Two years later, in April 1963, a nine-year-old boy was the next victim of the masked man. He was taken from his home to a field with a rope around his neck and sodomised. As before with the other victims, he was taken home again after the attack.
In November, the same happened to an 11-year-old boy. In 1964 during July and August, a 10-year-old girl and a boy of the same age were attacked in their homes too.
For the next two years, the Beast of Jersey stayed in the shadows and life went on as normal. Neighbourhoods began to calm their self-policing and it appeared that the attacks were over.
In 1966, the police received a letter 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 [sic] 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 [sic] 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
In August, a 15-year-old girl was brutally assaulted in her home, but this time the attack was different. The girl’s body was covered in long scratches that were perfectly dispersed in parallel lines. After this attack, there were no more incidents for four years.
In August 1970 the Beast returned. A 14-year-old boy awoke from his sleep in his Vallee Des Vaux home, to a torch shining in his face. He was attacked as the others were but this time, when he was being led back to his house, the masked man spoke to him; he told the boy to stay quiet, “because if you don’t someone will harm your mother and father”.
When the boy’s parents found him, he was dishevelled and upset but wouldn’t speak of what had happened to him. Eventually, he told them and was taken to hospital, where an examination showed that he too had the scratches down his torso, that had covered the girl four years earlier. The boy told police that the man had spiky black hair and was wearing a frightening mask.
On the 10th of July 1970, two officers were cruising around the island on their regular night patrol. It was almost midnight when they stopped at a red light in the St. Helier district when a Morris car ran the stoplight. The officers chased the driver, who was trying desperately to get away from them. He drove on the wrong side of the road and up embankments and onto footpaths but eventually crashed into a hedge and finally stopped in a tomato field.
When he got out of the car he began to run, as did the officers chasing him. He was eventually tackled to the ground and arrested.
On the ride to the police headquarters, officers noticed a musty smell coming from the man, and when they were finally under the bright strip lighting of the station, they saw the appearance of the man for the first time.
He was wearing a long dark coat with inch-long nails and screws sticking out of the collar, cuffs and shoulders. These were what made the marks on the young girl and boy. When they emptied the man’s pockets, they found a black torch with tape covering the majority of the glass, so only a pinprick of light would shine through. There were two pieces of cord, used for tying up his victims, a wool cap, and duct tape.
They also found a black spiky wig and the mask he had been using to terrorise his victims with.
Born in 1925, 46-year-old Edward Paisnel was a family man, with a wife and children. He worked in construction and came from a wealthy family. He didn’t have a criminal record but was imprisoned for a month during World War II by German officers, when he stole food for starving families. He played Santa Claus at the children’s foster home that his wife worked at, and the kids called him ‘Uncle Ted’.
But Edward Paisnel had another side to him, which included a low sex drive and at least one mistress. However, his wife never suspected anything, and their marriage appeared to be normal.
When questioned about the outfit he was wearing and why he was speeding, he told investigators that he was going to an orgy and he didn’t want to be recognised. As for the nails, he said that he added those in case he was attacked by someone who knew martial arts. He refused to talk about the mask and the wig, which had been worn that night, judging by the marks on his face.
Paisnel was remanded in custody and officers were sent to search his home. Once in the house, they found a locked secret room inside his bedroom. It smelled of must and they found old clothing and homemade wigs complete with matching false eyebrows.
They discovered a camera and photographs of houses across the island. Investigators believed that he had been planning his attacks for years and had many more lined up. When they asked Paisnel about the photographs, he told them he chose his victims years in advance of the crimes. He knew specific details about the families and their home and knew which windows to climb into on the night of the assaults.
They also found his shrine to Satan, which included an altar, a sword and a large collection of books about black magic and the occult.
On the 29th of November 1971, it took a jury 38 minutes to find him guilty of 13 counts of rape, indecent assault and sodomy against six of his victims. He was sentenced to 30 years in Winchester prison in the UK, but was released in 1991 after 20 years served for good behaviour.
He tried to move back to Jersey but due to the reign of terror he held for so many years, he wasn’t welcome, and instead, he moved to the Isle of Wight. He died three years later from a heart attack in 1994.
In 2007, a child abuse investigation named Operation Rectangle began, which saw many children in foster care on the island abused for years. In 2008, during a search of Haut de la Gareene, a home that housed up to 60 children at a time, officers found 65 milk teeth in the basement, many belonging to older children who would have already shed them. They also found shackles under the dirt, which were attached to the walls. Children were abused by staff and for a long time it was believed that Edward Paisnel was part of the conspiracy due to his involvement in the foster care system, but police have since confirmed he wasn’t part of the inquiry.
Though he was only charged for 13 counts, it’s believed that he assaulted many, many more people than the number who came forward.
In 1975, Joan Paisnel wrote the book, The Beast of Jersey, detailing her husband’s decade of terror on the small island as a rapist and paedophile. It’s an interesting read but very much of its time.