Walter John Lake's court appearances

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Walter John and Aimee Lake's

Court appearances


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Despite the impression given by this family photograph, married life for Walter John Lake and Aimee, nee Queripel, was not always happy, and they were somewhat removed from the sophisticated middle class family their portrait suggests


Walter John Husband Lake was born in St Helier in 1872, the son of David (1840-1919) from Wales, and Elizabeth Jane, nee Ivey (1843- ), born in St Helier to English parents.

The family moved several times. David and Elizabeth's first child, Hannah, was born in Alderney in 1861, followed by Emmanuel (1863-1938), William Richard (1865-1865), David Arthur (1866-1889), William (1868-1895), all in Guernsey; and then George Thomas (1870- ) and Walter John, in Jersey; and then Ernest Archibald (1874-1899), Mabel Violet (1878-1961) and Alfred Augustus (1880-1936) back in Guernsey.

Marriage and children

Walter John served with the 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry in the Boer War from 1899 to 1902, and on his return to Guernsey he married Aimee Henrietta Queripal at St Peter Port Registry Office on 5 November 1904. She was the daughter of Alfred James (1852- ) and Henrietta Betsy, nee Mahy (1854-1903). [Although the spelling of the surname is given as Queripal in several online family trees, the usual spelling is Queripel - Ed].

Aimee already had a daughter, Henrietta Lily Le Poidevin Queripel, born in 1902, probably not fathered by Walter Lake. After their marriage they had five further children: Florence Irene (1905-1937) and Walter David (1910-1989) who are in the photograph along with Henrietta; Amy Ivey (1912-1986) and Edward John (1914-2002), and an unnamed baby born and died in 1916.

In late 1913 or early 1914, before Edward John was born, Walter John went to Canada, knocked five years off his true age and enlisted with the 16th Battalion Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in September.

Medical discharge

That adventure did not last very long, because by 25 November he was back in Guernsey, having been discharged from the army as medically unfit and, described as a pensioner of the 17th Canadian Highlanders, appearing before the island's Police Court, accused of assaulting his wife and mother.

He pleaded guilty, expressed contrition and said that if he was liberated he would sign the pledge and never commit an offence again. He took an oath to keep the peace and was released under the First Offenders Act.

But only four months later he was back in Court, having again assaulted his wife, and daughter Florence, after arriving home drunk. Mrs Lake said that her husband was 'queer in the head'. He had been in a Canadian regiment at the start of the war but had been sent home as medically unfit after after being in hospital at Tidworth Camp.

After evidence about Lake's instability and threats to cut his wife's throat, he was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment with hard labour.

Not long after being freed he was back in Court on 29 June 1916, again accused of assaulting his wife and children. Evidence from PC Gallienne revealed that Lake was drunk, and 'acting as if he were insane'. He had struck two of his little children, thrown one across the room, and assaulted his wife.

She asked the Court for a separation order. She was receiving £1 a week from the Canadian Government and nothing from her husband, who was working on the ss Pembroke between Guernsey and Weymouth. He was sentenced to two months in prison with hard labour and his wife was granted a separation order with custody of the children. Lake was ordered to assist with their maintenance.

However, 17 months later he was back in Court, charged with neglecting his family. Mrs Lake said that in two years she had only received 5s from him. She was again given custody of the children and her husband was ordered to pay 12s 6d a week towards the children's maintenance, and to refund the Procureur of the Poor the cost of boots which had been bought for the children.

He failed to comply with the order and was brought before the island's Royal Court in January 1918, when he said that he could not afford 12s 6d a week out of his 30s earnings. The amount was reduced to 10s a week.

Witchcraft trial

These were not the only Court appearances for the Lake family, because Aimee Henrietta had the dubious honour of being the last person tried for witchcraft in Guernsey.

In January 1914, while she was pregnant with Edward John, and after her husband left for Canada, she appeared before the Royal Court charged with fortune telling, interpreting dreams and practising witchcraft from August 1913 to January 1914.

The main evidence against her was supplied by Mrs Marie Outen, who, in an agitated state, had earlier demanded police protection while sobbing in terror because "a spell of witchcraft had been put on her", for non-payment of a £3 debt and unless she paid immediately she had less than a week to live. She did not have the money to pay and was hysterical. She testified that she had consulted Mrs Lake on the advice of a neighbour after the death of her cattle the previous October, and had been told by tea cup divination that her husband, Jean Marie Francois Outen, who had died at the age of 61 on 14 April 1912, had been the victim of sorcery and that she herself was under a spell, to counteract which she had buried a number of "charmed packets" she had bought from Mrs Lake for £3 10s.

She had also been convinced by Mrs Lake that a metal box she contained was full of "Little Devils" and that she would soon follow her husband to the grave unless she made a substantial payment for the protection powers of the sorceress. The packets that had been buried were found to contain cornflour, flour, brown starch, salt and baking powder. Offering to refund the money, Mrs Lake pleaded that people came to her of their own free will and were normally quite satisfied when she "read the cups" for them.

She was sentenced to eight days in prison for disorderly conduct.

Mrs Lake protested her innocence vehemently and with her husband being in Canada asked what would become of her fatherless children. The Sheriff told her not to worry as he would look after them personally until her release. He was determined that she should go to prison for practising witchcraft. HM Comtroller said that Mrs Houtin had suffered misfortunes and Mrs Lake had gone too far in demanding money with menaces from stupid and gullible people.

The Royal Court regretted that eight days was the maximum sentence possible for witchcraft and that a heavier sentence could npt be imposed, before requesting HM Procureur to ask for an increase in prison terms for all furture crimes of witchcraft. This might have happened had the Great War not been just round the corner.

Ancestors

One of Mrs Lake's ancestors, Alechette Queripal was burnt at the stake for witchcraft in 1598 at the foot of Tower Hill, where all burnings took place. There was another Queripal burning, Jean Queripal in 1624 also for witchcraft.
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