Edward Paisnel: A Masked Sex Offender Known As 'The Beast Of Jersey'
When you live in an isolated area, you have to find your own ways to entertain yourself. You could go with something harmlessly mild, like erecting the world's largest pea pod, but if you're like Edward Paisnel, you wage a full-blown reign of terror against your most vulnerable neighbors, complete with homemade outfits and Satanic symbolism. (Note: Do not be like Edward Paisnel.)
Who was Edward Paisnel?
Between 1957 and 1971, Paisnel stalked, raped, and sodomized more than 13 people living on the remote isle of Jersey, which is part of the Channel Islands between England and France. By day, however, he was a construction worker who lived with his wife, Joan, and her children---just your average, everyday family man. That's not to say that, even to Paisnel's family, everything was as it seemed. Apparently, due to what his wife described as his "low sex drive," the marriage was in name only. (Joan Paisnel insisted that she was unaware of his actions throughout their marriage.) He kept his wardrobe and supplies in an annexed section of the house that, upon his arrest, was opened up to reveal multiple costumes, a sort of Satanic shrine, and a strong, musty scent that matched victims' descriptions of their attacker. He had no criminal record unless you count being jailed for stealing food during World War II to feed hungry families. On top of that, he played Santa Claus at his wife's foster home for children, La Preference, at least once upon her request. The kids even called him "Uncle Ted." One more good deed and the more cynical among us might have started wondering what he was hiding, but as it was, Edward Paisnel was practically a saint in the eyes of his community.
What did Edward Paisnel do?
In 1957, Paisnel assaulted his first victim, a young woman waiting for a bus in the Monte a l'Abbe area, tying a rope around her neck and leading her into a field before raping her on the side of the road. You stick with what works, so for the next two years, Paisnel exclusively preyed on women near the bus stop, but he eventually grew tired of this routine. In 1959, he upped the ante and started breaking into victims' homes. Through the 1960s, multiple women and children---including, at one point, a mother-daughter pair---were awoken in the night by an intruder who led them out of the house and brutally raped, sodomized, and/or assaulted them before taking them back to their homes.
The consistency of the attacks is what tipped the police off that a single perpetrator was committing these crimes. The victims' injuries and accounts varied little, and all were attacked between 10:00 P.M. and 3:00 A.M. Across the board, they described a slight man about 5'6" tall in his forties with a strong, "musty" smell. Initial reports also mentioned a slight mustache, a partly covered face, and (in a slapdash red herring) an affected Irish accent as well as a tendency to mention cigarettes or a lighter. Paisnel was not Irish and did not smoke, but he clearly did want to cover his tracks. In later years, he added a homemade rubber mask, a women's wig of "spiky black hair," wristbands studded with nails, and a heavy coat that was also nail-studded at the lapels, although whether this was done to simply hide his identity or indulge a dramatic streak isn't clear. The overall effect was certainly terrifying: Built for function as well as fashion, the nails kept his victims from getting a good handle on him. They also created the distinctive, regularly spaced scratches and puncture marks that were found on his victims' bodies.
Who was Alphonse Le Gastelois?
As you'd expect in a small community (Jersey is only 46 miles across, and the population at the time was just 30,000), the police asked citizens for help. The local newspaper published the general description of "The Beast of Jersey," as he had begun to be called, and police requested fingerprints from every adult male on the island. Each had a right to refuse, but only 13 did. Edward Paisnel was one of them, but the prime suspect at the time was Alphonse Le Gastelois. Jersey locals were so certain of his guilt, in fact, that they burned his house down before his name was cleared. It was this event, ironically, that confirmed his innocence: After the suddenly homeless Gastelois left town and the attacks failed to stop, it was pretty obvious that he couldn't have been the perpetrator. "Our bad," Jersey residents presumably announced, but Gastelois permanently relocated anyway.
How Was Edward Paisnel Caught?
Between 1957 and 1971, Paisnel halted his activities on multiple occasions because everyone needs a break, even serial rapists. These pauses helped obscure the trail, but in 1966, Paisnel got cocky. In the proud tradition of serial killers, he wrote the police a letter "just to see if you can catch me" and followed it up with a brutal rape in September of that year, as threatened.
On July 10, 1971, officers John Riseborough and Tom McGinn noticed a car driving erratically and gave chase. The driver hopped curbs, sideswiped other cars, and ultimately slowed to a crawl in a tomato field after driving straight through a hedge. Slowed down but not stopped, the driver fled, but this being Europe, he was taken down in a rugby tackle and brought in. The authorities soon suspected that this was no ordinary reckless driver. There were a number of clues that they had the Beast on their hands: Paisnel's outfit, smell, taped out flashlight, and the pièce de résistance, a homemade mask that wouldn't be out of place in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Upon questioning, Paisnel insisted that his outfit was so bizarre because he had been on his way to an orgy. When they raided his home, however, they found a secret, smelly room filled to the brim with odd clothing choices, items of a Satanic nature, and a homemade black altar, so it was clear that he was not exactly your average orgy-goer, either.
And then what?
It took a jury less than 40 minutes to find Paisnel guilty of 13 counts of assault, rape, and sodomy and sentence him to 30 years in prison. He was denied an appeal, and it wasn't until 1991 that his reputation as a model prisoner got him released a whopping 10 years early. He tried to move back to Jersey, but we know what they did when they only suspected some guy of committing the crimes, so you can imagine how that went over with the locals. He moved instead to the Isle of Wight, where he died of a heart attack in 1994, only three years after being released.