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Francis Joseph HUCHET





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 30, 1959
Date of birth: 1927
Victim profile: John Perrée, 45
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Bailiwick of Jersey, British Crown Dependency
Status: Executed by hanging at Newgate Street Prison on October 9, 1959. The last executed in the Channel Islands

Francis Joseph Huchet was the last convicted criminal to be executed by hanging in the Channel Islands. He was 32 years old.

He was sentenced to death on 10 September 1959 by the Deputy Bailiff of Jersey for the capital murder of John Perrée on the night of 30 March 1959. Perrée, a 45-year-old unmarried labourer from St Brelade, Jersey, had been killed by a shotgun blast after spending an evening drinking with Huchet. Perrée’s body was recovered from a shallow grave on the sand dunes near Mont à la Brune on 4 April 1959.

Several incriminating pieces of evidence – including clothing belonging to both Huchet and his wife - were found near the crime scene. Furthermore, tracks in the sand at the crime scene pointed to an attempt to free Huchet’s car after it had become bogged down in the dunes.

At Huchet’s trial, which began in September 1959, witnesses were to testify that Perrée had been carrying a wallet containing a considerable amount of money on the night of his death. The existence of a bogus confession to the crime – written on the fly-leaf of a book and smuggled out of Newgate Street Prison in Saint Helier where Huchet was being held – also came to light. It had been accompanied by a covering note requesting that the ‘confession’ be copied out in ink and forwarded to the police. It reached the hands of the investigating officers, helping to seal Huchet’s fate.

Huchet was hanged at Newgate Street Prison on 9 October 1959.

It was the first civil execution in Jersey for over 52 years and only the second execution in Jersey in the 20th century (excepting executions carried out by the German occupying forces in Jersey during the Second World War). All further death sentences in Jersey were commuted to life imprisonment until 1986, when the death penalty was abolished.


Francis Huchet

When the Heath family set out from their home for a picnic on Saturday 4th April 1959 they could not have imagined the horror that they were about to find. It was a warm, sunny spring day at the seaside near Mont a la Brune, Jersey, and the Heath's two children started digging in the dunes but soon stopped when they found a man's shoe - complete with foot. Mrs Heath took over digging and uncovered a male corpse with a gunshot wound to the face.

The body was that of 45-year-old John Perree, an unmarried drain-layer. Police deduced that, as his trousers were undone and his left hand was in his pocket, he was shot while relieving himself. Perree lived with his sister at Mont Les Vaux and had been killed on Easter Monday.

He had been seen drinking in the Horse & Hound in St Brelade with 32-year-old Francis Huchet. Perree had in his possession a considerable amount of money. The pair had driven out to the dunes in Huchet's car and Huchet had shot Perree while the older man had answered the call of nature. Huchet had buried the body but his car had got stuck in the sand when he tried to drive away and had to borrow a lorry to pull the vehicle clear.

While in jail awaiting trial Huchet wrote a letter, anonymously, blaming two other men. The letter was easily proved to be from Huchet and it sealed his fate. He was found guilty of murder and hanged at the Newgate Street Prison on 9th October


The last man they hanged

IT was, of course, anything but the first murder that Jersey had seen when, on the night of Easter Monday, 30 March 1959, John Perrée was killed by a shotgun blast. Nor was it to be the last.

It was, however, a landmark crime because it led to the Island’s last execution when, that same year, Francis Joseph Huchet was hanged in Newgate Street Prison.

The case against Huchet, a 32-year-old fitter who lived with his wife at Le Geyt Flats, was compelling and there can be very little doubt that a guilty man went to the gallows.

Indeed, the murder was committed in such a relentlessly incompetent fashion that the murderer virtually signed his own death warrant.

The victim, a 45-year-old unmarried labourer who lived with his sister and brother-in-law on Mont les Vaux in St Brelade, was missed the day after his death but it was not until Saturday 4 April that his body was discovered.

A shoe was seen protruding from what turned out to be a very shallow grave on the sand dunes near Mont à la Brune. A little digging soon revealed a corpse.

The police were called and it became apparent that the dead man had been shot in the face by a single blast from a shotgun. An examination of what clearly looked like a crime scene rapidly produced an extraordinary wealth of evidence.

The dead man’s glass eye was found not far from the improvised grave – which turned out to have been dug by hand – and nearby were two pairs of jeans, a woman’s coat and some bits of rope.

It also emerged that children had found a diary at the site, into which were folded three five-pound notes.

And tracks in the sand suggested that a vehicle had become bogged down and that another had been used to tow it free.

It was very quickly evident that the missing man had been found and inquiries about his movements on Easter Monday established that he had spent the evening drinking with Huchet, who was taken in for questioning on Sunday 5 April.

Huchet protested his innocence, saying that although he had been with Perrée he had last seen him when he dropped him off at the traffic lights at Red Houses, after drinking with him at La Pulente Hotel.

This was disputed by witnesses, who said that they had seen the two men leave the Horse and Hounds at the end of the evening and drive off together in Huchet’s Hillman car.

Witnesses also said that Perrée had been carrying a wallet stuffed with cash.

Matters looked increasingly bleak for Huchet when pieces of rope that matched those found near the body on the sand dunes were discovered in the back of his car.

The investigation, moreover, established that the woman’s coat found on the dunes belonged to Huchet’s wife, linked the two pairs of jeans to Huchet and discovered a double-barrel shotgun, contaminated with sand, which, it emerged, had been taken from the home of another of Huchet’s relatives.

It also became clear that on the night of the murder a lorry had been ‘borrowed’ from outside the home of a vraic gatherer and had been returned after – it ultimately emerged – it had been used to free Huchet’s car from where it had become stuck in the sand.

Unsurprisingly, Huchet was charged with murder and was tried in September 1959. The Deputy Bailiff, Cecil Harrison, presided, Advocate J C K H Valpy appeared for the defence, 44 witnesses were called, and for the first time in a Jersey murder trial women sat on the 24-strong jury.

The evidence amassed by the prosecution for a killing committed for Perrée’s wallet full of cash was already formidable, but the existence of an extraordinary letter, written on the torn-out fly-leaf of a prison library book, was revealed during the trial.

The letter, which amounted to a bogus confession by two men supposedly called Tom and Jim, together with a note requesting that it should be copied out in ink and sent to the police, had been smuggled out of Newgate Street.

However, before anyone had the opportunity to transform it into an even half-plausible document, it found its way into the hands of the investigating officers.

As the prosecution said, the prison letter and its covering note amounted to a signed confession.

On the final day of the trial, on 10 September, it took the 24 jurymen and women only 85 minutes to reach a unanimous guilty verdict and the Deputy Bailiff passed the only sentence then available in Jersey law, death by hanging.

According to the Evening Post report of the proceedings, the guilty man responded to the sentence calmly and was escorted from the court with a ‘half-smile’ on his face.

However, two women in the public gallery, one of them his wife, broke down in tears.
It was the first capital penalty imposed by the Royal Court for 52 years and there was to be no reprieve.

Huchet was hanged at Newgate Street at 7.30 am on 9 October 1959. A crowd of 100 people congregated outside the prison and was policed by three uniformed officers and all of the Town Centeniers but dispersed quietly when it was announced that no notice of execution would be posted.

A Home Office hangman and two assistants carried out the execution in the presence of witnesses who included the prison governor, F J Moon, and Deputy Keith Baal, president of the Prison Board.

An inquest was held at 8.30 am at the General Hospital and the prison medical officer, Dr P G Bentlif, offered the opinion that death had been instantaneous.

Death sentences continued to be passed by the Royal Court until 1986, when capital punishment in the Island was abolished, but all were commuted to life imprisonment.



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