1st April 1935

Guernsey’s first female murderer goes on trial

Gertrude Elizabeth de la Mere stood trial for the murder of Alfred Brouard. She was a 27-year-old housekeeper and he was a 76-year-old farmer from St Andrews. He was also her employer.

Brouard died on 6 February. Someone had cut his throat with a 12.5in bread knife, the serrated blade of which had cut through all three arteries. He was found in bed at Camp Joinet beside an apparent suicide note, which told the police that his housekeeper had nothing to do with his killing. Coincidentally, he’d also made over his will in her favour.

Guernsey’s first female murder trial

Gertrude de la Mere was arrested, and held for two months awaiting trial. She protested her innocence on both charges, but police had convincing evidence against her. They found blotting paper in her bedroom which, they claimed, bore the impression of the suicide note. In her eyes, this prove that she’d forged it. They also pointed out that while Brouard had been an English teacher the note included spelling mistakes. It seemed unlikely he would have written it.

The prosecution called 40 witnesses, against some of whom the defence objected. Chief among them was Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the doctor who had examined Brouard’s wound. He wasn’t licensed to practice on Guernsey. The defence claimed that on this basis he shouldn’t be allowed to give evidence either. It was a feeble attempt, which the court over-ruled.

Damning blood stains

De la Mare’s dressing gown was the star exhibit. It was spattered with ten bloodstains and hair from the victim’s beard. The prosecution claimed that de la Mare had wiped the knife on it after slashing Brouard’s throat. She countered that the blood got on it from a cut finger.

The trial ran for thirteen days, and de la Mare was found guilty. The decision was unanimous: each of the 11 Jurats sided with the prosecution. They were then asked if she was sane – a question that would determine her fate. Five said they believed she was not, but six said that she was. This majority of one was enough to earn her the first death sentence since John Tapner had been hanged.

She escaped the gallows in the end. Her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. She was transferred to Southampton on 29 May to serve her sentence in a mainland jail.

 

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Other events that occured in April

Guernsey’s first female murderer goes on trial 1st
A French fisherman is arrested and escorted to St Peter Port 2nd
Guernsey’s new population law comes into force 3rd
Guernsey’s oldest resident dies, aged 110 4th
An occupation-era minefield is discovered at L’Ancresse 5th
Birth of Stone de Croze, the original Guernseyman 6th
The first ever Guernsey stamp is issued 7th
Antiquarian William Collings Lukis was born 8th
Guernsey hosts its first Parkrun at Pembroke 9th
Alderney residents lined the coast to watch Titanic pass 10th
Norfolk pupils spend a week in Guernsey 11th
A plane hit a car while landing at Guernsey Airport 12th
Battery Mirus was test fired for the first time 13th
Royal Guernsey Light Infantry fights at Ypres 14th
Guernsey Mormon Sampson Avard dies in Illinois 15th
Lieutenant Governor, Lord Ruthven, died in Bath 16th
Death of the Vicar General of the Channel Islands 17th
TV’s Jeeves is rushed to hospital on Guernsey 18th
Guernsey Airport’s new terminal opened for business 19th
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie film opened 20th
Death of Guernsey-born footballer Len Duquemin
Three Jewish women are deported from Guernsey 21st
Guernsey bigamist got married for the second time 22nd
Aurigny pilot Ray Bowyer spots a UFO near Alderney 23rd
The States of Guernsey registers the gov.gg domain 24th
Guernsey-set film The Sea Devils hits cinemas 25th
Hydrofoil Condor 1 completed its final sea trials 26th
The first Muratti football match takes place 27th
Guernsey passengers stage a ferry sit-in 28th
Guernsey abolishes the death penalty for murder 29th
Murder suspects steal visitor’s boat from St Peter Port 30th