MFDJ 05/05/24: The Jersey Rapist

Today’s Apologetic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Undoubtedly, one of the most curious cases of a Jekyll and Hyde personality is that of the Jersey (an island between England and France) rapist, Edward Paisnel. Just before midnight on Saturday, July 10, 1971, two Jersey policemen were sitting in their patrol car at a traffic light when another car hurtled across the road in front of them against the amber light. They decided to give chase to the car, which was heading towards St. Helier: they suspected it might have been stolen for a joyride by local youths. The driver ignored their signals to stop, struck an oncoming car a glancing blow, and roared off at 70 miles an hour. He began weaving from side to side to prevent the police from overtaking. Finally, after a chase of many miles, he turned into a private road, ran though a fence and across a garden, and into a field of tomatoes. The occupant leapt out and ran; one of the policemen brought him down with a rugger tackle.

At the police station they discovered that the man—who was middle-aged—had rows of nails, their points outward, sewn to the lapels of his jacket. In his pockets they found a wig, a rubber face mask, and adhesive tape. The police realized suddenly that they had at last caught the man who had been committing rape on the island for many years—perhaps as many as 14.

He was Edward John Louis Paisnel. Back at his home—a farmhouse called Maison du Soleil—they discovered a secret room behind a bookcase; it contained a raffia cross, more masks, coats with nails, and black magic paraphernalia. When asked about this, Paisnel replied: “My master would laugh very long and loud about this.” His “master” was the devil, and it later turned out that Paisnel was obsessed by Gilles de Rais, burned in 1440 for the murders of more than 50 children.

The pattern of the crimes had been peculiar. In November 1957, three women had been attacked by a man with a knife, and one was sexually assaulted. In April 1958, a man threw a rope round the neck of a girl, dragged her into a field and raped her. In October 1958, a girl was dragged from a cottage and raped. The attacks ceased until 1960, and police hoped they had stopped. But then, in January 1960, they took an altogether more alarming turn. A 10-year-old girl woke up to find a man in her bedroom. He warned her that if she cried out he would shoot both her parents. He then sexually assaulted her in her own bed, and left by the window, driving off in her father’s car. When she told her brothers the next morning, they were inclined to believe that she had dreamed it all—a feature that recurred in some of the later cases.

A month later, a man entered the bedroom of a 12-year-old boy, made him go out with him to a field, and committed a sexual assault. The rapist then took the boy back to the house and back to his bedroom. This was perhaps the oddest feature of all. Why should he risk being caught? It seemed that, once he had committed his assault, the rapist became apologetic.

For the next 11 years, Jersey became an island of terror. Householders had bolts and bars put on windows. In March 1960 a 24-year-old air hostess, waiting at a bus stop, was dragged into a field and raped. On April 27, a woman whose husband was in hospital heard a noise in the middle of the night and found a man in her kitchen. The woman’s 14-year-old daughter came downstairs, and a rope was thrown around her throat. She was dragged out to a nearby field and raped, then allowed to go home.

In this, as in many succeeding attacks, it became clear that the rapist had studied the house, and knew how to achieve his object with the minimum of risk. He often wore the terrifying rubber mask. Usually the children were too frightened to scream; the man would commit a sexual assault and then courteously escort them back to their bedrooms. In some cases, penetration was minimal—he was evidently worried about hurting his victims—but at least one girl became pregnant. When 11-year-old Joy Norton was found stabbed to death in September 1965, it was feared that the rapist had at last turned to murder; but it was discovered that she had been sexually abused over a period of years, and her elder brother was charged with her murder.

And so the rape and assault continued, usually at the rate of one or two a year, until Paisnel was caught. One man who was generally suspected of the assaults had been so ostracized that he had been forced to leave the island. Altogether, Paisnel was charged with seven sexual assaults, including rape and sodomy. Found guilty, he was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment. But what baffled all those who knew him was that the kind Edward Paisnel, the man who genuinely loved children, and often played Father Christmas at parties, should also be the rapist who had terrorized the island.

Edward Paisnel: The Beast of Jersey

Culled from: Crimes and Punishment, the Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 1 


Vintage Crime Scene Du Jour!

No caption. The body is that of a black man, who is lying in the front hallway of a tenement. A crowd has gathered outside, in the rain, holding umbrellas. The cigarette butt on the floor might have been thrown there by anyone, including the cops.

Culled from: Evidence

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *