Just 19 miles off the coast of Normandy lies the island of Jersey. At only 5 miles long and 9 miles wide, Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands and is home to roughly 101,000 people. The relatively affluent populace of the island makes it a virtual playground for wealthy Europeans, but for 11 years something far more terrifying than yuppies on holiday roamed the shores of Jersey.
Throughout the 1960s, Edward Paisnel was no stranger around the La Preference. Son-in-law to the owner of the children’s home, Paisnel was a regular visitor there, helping along with routine maintenance issues or even dressing as jolly ol’ St. Nick for a Christmas party. Florence Walden, the owner of the La Preference was an old but kindly woman according to many of the children who boarded there at the time. Paisnel and his wife, Joan, were a different story.
Mrs. Paisnel was a woman with a hot temper who seemed to delight in abusing the children. Often she would wait until the children were alone before unleashing the full force of her cane upon them, but Mrs. Paisnel’s cane was the least of the worries for the children at the La Preference.
As nightfall came the children would be nestled within their beds. Some sleeping, while others listening for the faint creaking of the floorboards as the boogieman roamed the halls and peered into upper loft bedrooms through peepholes carved through the walls. If you were lucky he’d just watch you sleep for a while, others awoke to find a real life Michael Myers dragging them outside to their doom.
No one suspected Edward Paisnel in the attacks. All eyes were on an eccentric fisherman by the name of Alphonse Le Gastelois known for going on late night walks. The police were forced to allow Gastelois free due to lack of evidence, but he was still subjected to monthly searches by police for nearly a year. With the public convinced that he was the culprit behind the sexual assaults, the residents of Jersey burned his home to the ground. Gastelois, in fear for his life, had no choice but go into self-imposed exile to the Ecrehous reef. His name was cleared only because the attacks continued in spite of his absence from the island.
It would be another decade before police were able to capture the real boogieman, Edward Paisnel. Nicknamed “the Beast of Jersey” Paisnel would dress in a long black coat, spiked cuffs on his wrist and a terrifying homemade latex mask, making him appear as the illegitimate love child of Michael Myers and Leatherface. At least 30 children awoke to find him dragging them to a field to be sexually assaulted and abused. He wouldn’t be caught until a routine traffic stop uncovered the mask matching the description of the child rapist’s hiding in the trunk of his car.
He was sentenced to 30 years for crimes related to the rape and sodomy of the children, but there are many who believe that Paisnel’s crimes were far worst than those he was convicted of. After his release he attempted to return to the island, only to be shunned by the community. Instead he spent the rest of his years on the Isle of Wight until his death in 1994.
In February of 2008, in spite of his death, Paisnel’s name began making headlines again. A scandal involving the Haut de la Garenne, another Jersey children’s home, and the skeletal remains of several children found lurking beneath the floor of the home’s cellar,exposed government and police officials’ unofficial policy of “turning a blind eye” to the abuse – and in this instance death – of the children boarded within these homes. This explains how someone like Paisnel could prey upon these children undetected for over a decade, even within a small island like Jersey.
It has been speculated that Paisnel may have had contacts within the Haut de la Garenne as well, allowing him access to other children he could sexually assault and abuse at his leisure. Though it has not been proven, many believe that the bodies found beneath the Haut de la Garenne may have been some of Paisnel’s unknown victims. By the end of the investigation on the Haut de la Garenne, bones and milk teeth belonging to anywhere between 10 and 65 children were unearthed from the cellar and adjacent field. At least five people were arrested and convicted as a result of the investigation, though none of them could conclusively be tied to any of the murders. The lack of murder convictions also leads many to believe that these bone fragments may be the only thing left of some of Paisnel’s unaccounted victims.