The murder of Esther Le Brun

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By Le Brun descendant Paula Diane Stucki Anderson

On 4 May 1866, a neighbour found Esther Le Brun, age 62, lying in bed, dead. Esther appeared to have been strangled. La Frontiere, Esther's small thatched cottage in St Peter, Jersey, was home to Esther and her imbecilic older brother, Charles.

The cottage had been ransacked. There was blood on Esther's nightdress, on the bed, on the floor and throughout various parts of the cottage.

Frenchman arrested

Francois Bradley, a young Frenchman in his early twenties, was arrested for Esther's murder. Bradley had been arrested several weeks earlier for a burglary in the parish of Grouville but escaped from the police. After he was apprehended by the police, Bradley bragged to his cell-mate about the murder of Esther Le Brun.

It was quickly established by the authorities that Francois Bradley was an alias but he was arrested and brought to trial under that name. During the trial he was openly scornful and defiant. He referred to the legal authorities as assassins and thieves. These remarks did not win him any sympathy with the jury, who only deliberated for a few minutes before finding him guilty of murdering Esther Le Brun.

News of the murder was reported in newspapers throughout England, Ireland and Scotland, as well as the Channel Islands. A poem was even composed in French concerning Bradley's death which appeared in local newspapers 14 days after the execution.

Execution

Francois Bradley was publicly executed on Saturday 11 August. The gallows had not been used for 37 years in Jersey and workmen started building the scaffold the Wednesday before the day of the execution. The hangman, accompanied by his assistant, his 17-year-old son, arrived from England two days before the execution.

The scaffold was constructed against the outer wall of the prison in Newgate Street in St Helier. One hundred and fifty halberdiers were summoned from landowners in the Fief de la Reine in the Parish of Saint Martin.

This was their feudal duty and most were given new pikes. Thirty halberdiers were assigned to guard the scaffold, the remainder formed two rows in Newgate Street.

Crowd control was maintained by the Honorary Police of St Helier, assisted by the paid police.

Speculators built viewing platforms from the houses opposite the gallows. Windows with the best views were rented for high prices. By the time the hanging took place there were an estimated 8,000 spectators.

Esther Le Brun's brother, Charles, outlived his sister by about three years. Since he was the heir of Charles Le Brun and his wife and left no descendants, the inheritance was divided among relatives.

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