This is an interesting book about the crimes of Edward Paisnel known as Ted, who was imprisoned for thirty years in 1971 for a string of sex offences on the island of Jersey. Those of you who visit my blog regularly will know that this is where I live and of course I’d heard of ‘The Beast’ over the years but I hadn’t read this book, written by his wife (although it was ghost written by two journalists Alan Shadrake and John Lisners)
The crimes committed by Ted Paisnel (pronounced Paynel) spanned eleven years and as his later modus operandi was to sneak into the bedrooms of children and take them outside to assault them the islanders were, as you can imagine terrified with some allegedly going to sleep with guns under their pillows. As the island is only 9 miles by 5 it seems incredible to believe that it took the police so long to apprehend their culprit and this book is in many ways an explanation why Joan didn’t know or suspect what Ted was up to. Of course these crimes were committed throughout the 60s and into the early 70s and life was very different then, crucially in the fact that there was no DNA testing available to the officers and at that time, the dual police system that still operates was run by the Honorary Police who are volunteers from each parish and they are the ones who have to charge a suspect with an offence. The idea is that these volunteers know all the comings and goings within their parish and are therefore able to provide background information but it appears none of these men suspected Ted of the crimes being committed.
In the end Ted was caught by jumping a red light while being followed by a police car – when finally apprehended in what sounds like a terrifying car chase, but as a local and knowing the roads mentioned clearly couldn’t have lasted that long, he was found to have items on his person that were odd, the main one being the mask that so fetchingly adorns this book cover!!
The book isn’t by any stretch of the imagination well-written, it is littered with typos and often repeats itself (maybe as a consequence of the two journalists writing separate parts in a rush to capitalise on the recent lurid headlines?) There is a focus on the ‘black arts’ which Ted was supposedly a member of and apparently there was a big contingent on the island at that time, although no-one else was arrested and Ted never gave any names of other members of this supposed coven. I believe this aspect came from some of the books he owned and a supposed ‘alter’ in a hidden cupboard – which was probably just a space saving device and a convenient place to keep the clothes he wore on his night-time outings, a presence of an ornamental toad was explained by his mistress as a present she’d bought him in a gift shop. Another interesting element is the insistence of Joan that Ted must have suffered from schizophrenia, something that we now know doesn’t only manifest itself in supposedly Jekyll and Hyde behaviour, but probably bought her some comfort and allowed her to live as part of a small community where Ted’s name had become synonymous with evil. There are other interesting snippets to try to explain why when he was so nice to the children at the children’s home that Joan ran with her mother why he committed these awful offences but again unfortunately it is now widely recognised that men that commit these types of crimes don’t usually come with ‘monster’ stamped on their forehead.
I’m not sure that this book would appeal to many people but I did find it incredibly interesting from a local standpoint – I lived in Jersey when Ted was released from prison in the early 90s and remember the controversy caused by his return (as a consequence he moved to the Isle of Wight where he died a couple of years later) It was also interesting to see how difficult policing was forty years ago, even on a small island, because of the limitations of policing at that time without the tools now available nowadays they simply had a variety of descriptions from his victims to go on. That said they gave it a good shot even having detectives seconded to the island from Scotland Yard, ironic really that it was a motoring offence that solved the crime!