The room where Francis died. Courtesy Jersey Heritage Trust
The Jersey Archives have received an intriguing set of 19th century photos telling the story of a notorious local crime of passion.
A set of 11 photos was uncovered at the start of 2007 by the island’s Judicial Greffe, who provide administrative support to Jersey’s courts.
“They were having a clear out of old documents,” explained Linda Romeril, Senior Archivist at Jersey Heritage Trust. “When they came in we weren’t sure what they were about apart from there were some annotations about a murder. So we had a look through the newspapers and court cases to see what we could find and we pin-pointed what case it was about.”
It turned out that they were an early example of photographic evidence being used in an infamous 19th century Jersey case – the Francis murder.
Francis' cottage in L’Etacq. Courtesy Jersey Heritage Trust
“The photographs show the area where John Francis, a resident of St Ouen, was found after being assaulted about the face and head with a blunt instrument while walking home from Pooley’s Hotel at Greve de Lecq on December 22 1894,” explained Linda.
“He was discovered unconscious the following morning and was taken back to his cottage at L’Etacq where he died on Christmas Eve.”
Frenchman Ernest Leonard was charged with the murder on January 5 1895.
The prosecution argued that Leonard had been motivated by jealousy – Francis had been the family friend of a girl that Leonard had been engaged to. The girl’s family forbid her to marry Leonard and the engagement was broken off.
“One of the most interesting things was that [Leonard] was acquitted and we don’t know what happened afterwards, if there was a retrial or eventual conviction, so it is an unsolved mystery really,” added Linda.
Mont Pinel, Francis' route home on the fateful night. Courtesy Jersey Heritage Trust
“We couldn’t find anything more about Leonard, we don’t know if he stayed on the island or went back to France.”
The photos show panoramic views of St Ouen’s Bay as well as shots of interior and exterior pictures of his cottage. One has a note on it pointing to behind a tree, saying that this was where the murderer must have been hiding.
Jersey Archives is not sure if the cottage still exists, but St Ouen’s Bay, in the north west of the island, has escaped major development, and the photos of the area show a relatively unchanged view.
The archives have had a busy January with 14 new collections donated or deposited with the Jersey Heritage Trust. They include political papers of the late Norman le Brocq, theatrical programmes, the archive of De La Salle College and a collection of papers of a Miss Jouan, who lived in Jersey for 95 years and ran a small shop from her home in Grouville.
If there are any descendents of Leonard or Francis on the island today who know any more about the story the archives are keen to find out more. You can get in touch with them on 01534 833300.