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Channel Island Murders
By Nicola Sly
The History PressCopyright © 2013 Nicola Sly
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CASE ONE 1829
'NOW PICK YOURSELF UP'
St Helier, Jersey
Suspect: Philippe George Jolin
Charge: Wilful Murder and parricide
Philippe George Jolin endured a terrible childhood in St Helier, Jersey. His father, who was also called Philippe, suffered from severe gout and the constant, excruciating pain in his feet drove him to drink. The excessive drinking had a negative effect on his health as well as his finances and his expenditure on alcohol, coupled with his frequent inability to work, left the Jolin family impoverished. There was often insufficient food in the house, leaving young Philippe reliant on the kindness of his neighbours for sustenance. While drunk, Philippe's father would regularly beat him, using his fists or anything else that could be used as a weapon and when the boy was eight years old, he was so miserable that he tried to shoot himself with a fowling piece but was prevented from doing so by the family's lodger, Philip Jenne (or Jeune). If Philippe's mother, Elizabeth, tried to stop her husband from hurting their son, she too was beaten.
At the earliest possible opportunity, Philippe junior ran away to sea to escape his father's cruelty and, aged just fourteen years old, he quickly became addicted to drinking with his fellow crew members. Philippe became deranged after consuming alcohol but, when sober, was a mild-mannered but melancholy teenager, who seemed permanently depressed and often threatened to throw himself overboard. He eventually stopped drinking and, in 1825, earned an award for bravery for his part in rescuing the survivors of a shipwreck.
In 1829, Philippe returned to live at the family home. His mother had now died and he and his father reverted to the all too familiar pattern of drinking together, which was inevitably followed by violent arguments and fighting. On Monday 7 September, Philippe junior was due to start a job at a shop in St Helier owned by Phillip Binet. He reported for work at eight o'clock but, even so early in the morning, it was immediately obvious to Binet that his new employee was drunk and he was sent away to sober up. Philippe went home where, not surprisingly, he and his father started another drunken quarrel which resulted in a beating for Philippe junior. Chased out of the house by his father, a tearful Philippe shouted, 'I shall catch you again,' to which Philippe senior replied, 'And I shall catch you again; you are not yet free.'
The irate father shouted for his son to come back but Philippe junior refused, saying that if he did, one of them would surely die. The young man ran down a lane near his house to a pile of bricks, picked one up and broke it in two before returning to where his father stood cursing him on the doorstep. It was obvious that he intended to throw the half bricks and when onlookers Thomas Bertram and Jane (or Jeanne) Le Maistre begged him not to he told them, 'He has threatened me severely,' adding, 'If you do not get out of my way I shall throw them at you!'
Turning back to his father, Philippe took aim. Philippe senior stood his ground and his son threw the first of the two half bricks at his father. It was wide of its target and Jane had to duck to avoid being hit, but the second missile hit Jolin hard on his head and he immediately dropped to the ground. 'Now pick yourself up,' his son told him callously and, when his father did not move, the young man nonchalantly picked an apple from a tree in the garden, took a bite, and walked off towards St Helier Quay.
At two o'clock in the afternoon, Philippe Jolin returned to the shop where he should have started work that morning and told Binet and his assistant, Edward Le Feuvre (who was also Jolin's first cousin), that his father had just beaten him. He confessed that he had knocked his father down and said that he was very glad he had done so, adding that he sincerely hoped that the old man was dead. Binet told him that he was a very wicked fellow and suggested that, rather than reporting for work, Jolin should have fetched a doctor for his father. The young man began to cry, before falling asleep, sleeping for more than an hour.
Meanwhile, back at the Jolins' home, Philippe senior was semiconscious and bleeding heavily from his nose, ears and mouth. The badly injured man was carried into his cottage and put to bed and surgeon Edouard Thompson Dickson was summoned to attend him but by the time Dickson arrived, Jolin was weak from loss of blood. Dickson staunched the flow and bandaged the wound on Jolin's head and within fifteen minutes, he seemed much improved, sufficiently so for Dickson to consider it safe to leave him. Yet within half an hour, Jolin was dead and a post-mortem examination revealed that a large quantity of coagulated blood had collected beneath his skull and was pressing on his brain. There was no question in Dickson's mind that the blow to the head from the half brick had caused the ruptured blood vessel that was responsible for Jolin's death, although the doctor was later to state that, having known the deceased for many years, he was aware that his general health was so poor that, regardless of the injury, Jolin probably had very little time left to live.
Dickson notified Centenier Philip Winter Nicolle of Jolin senior's death, telling him that it was undoubtedly caused by a wound on his head, which had been inflicted by his son. Nicolle went in search of Philippe Jolin junior and, finding him on the quay, seized him by the collar and accused him of having killed his own father.
'I couldn't help it,' Jolin replied and when Nicolle reminded him that such an offence might lead to the gallows, the young man began to cry. The Centenier took him to the jail, before informing the King's Procureur of the death, so that an inquest could be held. Nicolle described Jolin as cool, calm and perfectly sober when he was arrested.
Philippe was prepared to plead guilty to the manslaughter of his father but the inquest found a verdict of wilful murder and parricide against him. In returning their verdict, the inquest jury specifically determined that, 'The prisoner killed his father by flinging a piece of brick at his head with a deliberate intent.'
When Jolin was tried on 28 September, before a jury comprising twenty-four jurors from the parishes of St Helier, St Saviour and St Lawrence, his defence counsel, Advocate Hammond, argued that, in spite of the inquest verdict that the killing was done '... with a deliberate intent', Jolin's offence was manslaughter rather than wilful murder. Hammond told the court that he could hardly deny that the deceased had unhappily fallen by the hand of his son but reasoned that, in order for Jolin senior's death to be classed as murder rather than manslaughter, his killer should be of sound mind and must be shown to have malice aforethought. Hammond stated that he hoped to demonstrate to the jury's satisfaction that the defendant's crime was not murder but the lesser offence of manslaughter.
It was evident that, over the years, the defendant's father had frequently ill-treated and abused his son but there was nothing to indicate that Jolin junior had ever previously shown any malice or ill-will towards his father. Hammond reminded the jury that the defendant was inebriated when he threw the missile that caused his father's death and, although drunkenness could never excuse the crime, it could perhaps explain the words spoken by Jolin at the time. The brick throwing, said Hammond, was obviously '... the effect of a momentary irritation, arising from the ill-treatment and violence of his father, who had just driven him out of the house and followed him as far as he could, threatening yet more violence.'
Hammond then told the jury that there was another essential to murder – it must either arise from a general hatred of mankind or a wicked heart. He made much of Jolin's commendation for bravery, calling it undisputed proof of his love of his fellow creatures since, at the time, Jolin was one of the few men who was prepared to risk his own life saving others from a certain watery grave. Hammond then went on to state that Philippe junior had shown no malice aforethought, nor any evidence of a wicked heart.
Manslaughter might be either voluntary or accidental, said Hammond, who then quoted several cases where death had occurred from mere scuffles, or as a result of impulses arising from momentary provocation. The law admits to a certain degree that human nature is frail by not attributing malice where there appears to be provocation, said Hammond, adding that he believed that this was the case here. His client had no intention of killing his father but, having been driven out of doors and pursued by his father, he took up the first thing that came into his hand and, with a view of preventing any more ill-treatment to himself, he threw the brick. Philippe Jolin senior's death was an unfortunate and wholly unintended consequence.
There seemed little doubt that the deceased was the aggressor, Hammond continued, and although this in no way justified his son's actions, he would appeal to the jury to find that there was sufficient provocation to merit the lesser charge of manslaughter. Finally, Hammond stressed how contrite and remorseful Jolin was '... for the offence of which he has been unhappily, though unintentionally, guilty.' Through his counsel, Jolin promised that, if his life was spared, his future behaviour would atone for his past follies.
Several witness statements were read to illustrate the extent of Philippe Jolin's violence towards his son, including that of blacksmith John Case, who had often witnessed the boy being beaten with a hammer or anything else that came readily to hand. According to Case, the majority of blows that Philippe received were on his head and Case sincerely believed that the young man's memory and intellect had been adversely affected by his years of unrelenting physical abuse at his father's hands.
Philippe Manuel, the Captain of the young man's ship Pelican, also gave a statement for the defence. Manuel had personally seen the marks and scars of violence on Jolin's head and knew that they came from being beaten by his father. Manuel had once actually witnessed Jolin's father hitting him with an iron bar, stating that the youth bled heavily as a result. The Captain went on to relate that young Jolin was so affected by the blows that he was unable to walk and had to be carried to his bed, yet his father refused to help him in any way. Not only that, but Manuel also stated that he had seen the father kicking his son many times, on different parts of his body.
A shipmate of Jolin's on Pelican testified to seeing Jolin ' ... in a state of derangement' at Buenos Aires. Philip Aubin said that he didn't know whether Philippe Jolin was mad or whether his derangement was due to the effects of drink but he recalled that, whenever the madness struck the young sailor, he wanted to throw himself into the sea and drown himself. According to Aubin, Jolin often said that he never wanted to see his parents again.
The Jolins' former lodger, Philip Jenne, also made a statement for the defence, in which he wrote that he had lodged with the family for seven years, leaving in approximately 1824. Jenne said that on numerous occasions he had seen Philippe junior 'in a passion', describing him at such times as '... like a person bewildered.' Jenne recalled snatching a fowling piece from the boy's hands when Philippe was on the verge of shooting himself. 'I don't know if it was through passion or derangement of the mind,' he remarked, adding that he couldn't recall if Philippe had been provoked at the time.
It was suggested that the beatings in the prisoner's childhood may have caused some brain damage but any possible mitigating circumstances bore no weight with prosecutor Attorney General John William Dupré, who maintained that drunkenness was no excuse for murder and that Philippe should have respected his father's authority and was duty bound to protect him and preserve his life.
The King's Procureur, Mr Thomas Le Breton, rebutted Mr Hammond's speech in defence of Philippe Jolin junior. Philippe must have known that the half brick he hefted at his father would prove fatal, if it connected with its intended target. There were at least two people present at the time who implored the accused not to throw the bricks but Jolin's only response was to tell them to get out of his way. He had ample time for reflection, in walking to the pile of bricks and selecting his weapon, in turning and walking back to his father's house, and in ignoring those who had the good sense to recognise the most probable outcome of his actions. Then, having thrown the bricks, instead of going to his father's aid, which common humanity would have expected a stranger to do, he walked away with the utmost sang froid, calmly eating an apple, having dismissively told his victim, 'Now pick yourself up.' Furthermore, he then boasted to others about what he had done, showing absolutely no remorse whatsoever.
Le Breton ridiculed the defence's claims that the deceased was continually striking his son on the head with an iron bar, a hammer or any other like instrument, insisting that instead of producing trifling wounds, such brutality should have killed the prisoner a long time ago. Le Breton also remarked that it had by no means been proven that Jolin was actually drunk at the time if his father's murder.
The Bailiff then summed up the facts of the case for the benefit of the jury, remarking, 'The defence that has been set up in the acts of extravagance and violence that have been alleged, cannot, in my opinion, either excuse or even palliate the crime that has been committed and which, I think, has been most fully proved.' The Bailiff went on to say that the jury was to judge for themselves, after duly examining the papers and evidence, before continuing to advise them to perform their duty, however painful that might be, unencumbered by emotion of the heart.
The jury deliberated for half an hour before returning to announce that they were unanimously of the opinion that the defendant was guilty of the murder of his father. The Bailiff then addressed Jolin and asked if he had anything to say.
Hammond spoke on his client's behalf, reiterating his contrition and his promise that, if his life was spared, his future conduct would atone for his past. Hammond asked that the facts of the case be sent to the King for His Majesty's gracious consideration but the King's Procureur felt unable to recommend such a course of action, since the prisoner had been found guilty first by an inquest and now at trial.
The Bailiff asked for the opinion of the court, whose personnel were almost unanimous in their support of the Procureur. One jurat declared that he personally would be inclined to spare Jolin's life if he could see any benefit from doing so but, given that this would only prolong a life of misery, he was prepared to vote with his colleagues for execution. Another said that he believed that the death penalty should apply but with a fortnight's respite. With his punishment decided, Jolin was ordered to fall to his knees while the Bailiff pronounced the death sentence.
Urged by the court to spend his remaining time on earth making peace with the God he had so sorely offended, Jolin was led away to gaol to await his execution. He took the words of advice to heart and spent his days in conversation with members of the clergy and reading his Bible. 'I had no intention of killing my poor father,' he insisted.
In going home, I found no victuals ready so I went into the garden and took a pear. My father came out and abused me for it and took me by the throat; my blood recoiled at this and, overheated by the effect of several glasses of liquor I had drunk during the day, I lost all command of myself and in a moment of exasperation, seized the fatal brick, broke it in two and thus unintentionally became a parricide. [sic]
Shortly after one o'clock in the afternoon 3 October 1829, Jolin left the gaol supported by two clergymen, Reverend Gallichan and Reverend Hall. More than 200 halberdiers escorted them to keep order at what was to be the last execution to be held at Jersey's Gallows Hill (now Westmount).
Jolin showed no fear as he shook hands with several of the prison officials before kneeling in prayer with Reverend Gallichan. He then mounted the steps to the scaffold and turned to address the large crowd of more than 6,000 spectators.
Excerpted from Channel Island Murders by Nicola Sly. Copyright © 2013 Nicola Sly. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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