Murder suspects steal visitor’s boat from St Peter Port

The theft of a boat from St Peter Port alerted authorities to a pair of potential murderers.

The 42ft luxury yacht, called Memel, had been moored in Guernsey by its German owner, who was holidaying on the island. Nobody saw who had taken it, but a white Citroen car was abandoned close to the site of the theft.

The car had been seen leaving the scene of a murder in Surrey the previous week. It was then spotted on the ferry from Weymouth.

Murder suspects

The chief suspects were antique-dealing brothers, Jason and Nicholas Richards, both in their early 20s. The victim, Thames Water engineer John George, had been tied up and shot in woodland near Dunsfold. The suspects were also being sought in connection with two armed raids on restaurants using a .22 rifle and a sub-machine gun.

Interpol, the navy and French coastguard were all called in to help with the search for the £60,000 boat, which had sufficient fuel onboard to sail 600 miles.

That wasn’t enough to get them as far as their parents’ house in Minorca, but Surrey police nonetheless travelled to the island to interview them.

Interception, arrest and trial

The brothers’ escape didn’t last long. They ran into trouble on a sandbank off the coast of Brittany and were arrested by three lorry-loads of French police.

The Foreign Office immediately put in an application for their extradition to the UK. Magistrates at Guildford approved the warrant 10 days later, but it still took until 22 August for them to be flown back to Britain.

When the trial reached court, the brothers pleaded not guilty. They claimed they’d gone for a walk and returned to their car to find some of their clothes missing. They hadn’t reported the theft to police because their illegal firearms were still in the vehicle. When they repacked their car, they noticed that the barrels of the weapons had been sawn off. At that point they decided to leave the country, taking the weapons with them.

They claimed to have first heard about John George’s death on the stolen yacht’s radio.

Ultimately the brothers turned against each other in court, and their claims of innocence were unsuccessful. They were jailed for life on 8 May 1980.

Guernsey abolishes the death penalty for murder

Guernsey abolished the death penalty for murder in 1964. It was one year ahead of the United Kingdom.

Although convicts had been sentenced to death in the interim, nobody had been executed on Guernsey since John Tapner’s hanging 110 years earlier.

The States of Deliberation held a two-hour debate on its new Homicide Act on 29 April 1964. The vote on abolishing hanging for murder had come at the end of its reading. 34 voted in favour of bringing the practice to an end. Nineteen voted to retain it.

The move had been instigated by the Bailiff, Sir William Arnold, who proposed that it be replaced by life imprisonment. He called the principle of hanging “untenable” and, as reported in the Birmingham Daily Post, noted that “the trend in most civilised countries is against such a spectacular form of retribution”.

Death penalty officially abolished

The exact wording of the abolition, as included in The Homicide (Guernsey) Law of 1965 is,

1 (1) No person shall suffer death for murder and a person found guilty of murder shall, subject to the next succeeding subsection, be sentenced to imprisonment for life.

(2) Where a person found guilty of murder appears to the Royal Court to have been under the age of eighteen years at the time the offence was committed, such person shall not be sentenced to imprisonment for life under subsection (1) of this section but in lieu thereof the Royal Court shall sentence him to be detailed during Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Anyone who had already been handed a death penalty immediately had it committed to life imprisonment. According to a report in the Daily Mirror on 30 April 1964, five people had been sentenced to death in Guernsey over the previous three decades.

Guernsey technically retained hanging as an available punishment for other crimes until 2003.

Guernsey passengers stage a ferry sit-in

The 1970s are remembered as a time of strikes and discontent. It’s not normally customers who go on strike, but that’s exactly what happed on one Guernsey-bound ferry.

Around 700 passengers on the Sealink ship Earl Godwin staged a sit-in at the end of April 1976. They refused to move until British Rail, Sealink’s owner, transported them and their cars to the Channel Islands. They had been stranded at Weymouth, Dorset, since the previous day, when the ship stewards had gone out on strike.

The stewards were protesting staffing levels on the ships. They returned to work provisionally, while negotiations continued, on 29 April – the day after the passengers’ sit-in.

The Channel Islands were effectively cut off from the mainland during the strike, as it prevented vehicles being unloaded from another Sealink ferry, the Maid of Kent, which was sitting in port at Cherbourg.

Just the previous month, passengers had been stranded at Weymouth when the same ferry – the Earl Godwin – had developed a generator fault and been unable to put to sea.

Earl Godwin’s history

Earl Godwin had been built in Sweden in 1966 under the name Svea Drott. She was 99.5m long, and 17.8 wide. Her cruising speed was 18.5 knots (21mph). She served the Channel Islands, on and off, for 13 years between 1976 and 1989, and in October 1985 ran aground just outside St Helier harbour, Jersey.

Sealink had originally leased the ship from Trave-Line but bought it outright in 1975. At that point it renamed it Earl Godwin, after the Earl of Wessex, who had been one of the most powerful earls in England under the rule of King Canute. In 1990 the ship was purchased by Moby Lines, who renamed it Moby Baby.

The first Muratti football match takes place

The Muratti is an annual football competition played between Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney. The teams play for the Muratti Vase, which was named after the Muratti cigarette brand produced by Philip Morris. Although Muratti cigarettes were the tournament’s first sponsor, the brand is no longer sold in the Channel Islands.

The first match took place in 1905, at Springfield Stadium on Jersey. It has been played every year since then during peacetime, with breaks between 1915 and 1919, and again from 1940 until 1946, due to the First and Second World Wars.

Straight in to the semis

Each event consists of two matches. The first is the semi-final, in which either Guernsey or Jersey plays Alderney. The winner of that match plays in the final against whichever of the larger islands didn’t take part in the first. In the first tournament, Guernsey beat Alderney 6-0 in the semi-final, and went on to beat Jersey 1-0 in the final.

None of the games – either semi-final or final – have been played on Alderney since before the occupation, although previously they did cycle between all three islands. Each team wears its traditional colours. For Guernsey, this is a green shirt and socks with white sleeves and white shorts; Jersey wears a red shirt and socks with white shorts, and Alderney wears all blue.

Excluding Alderney’s win in 1920 and the three-three tie between Guernsey and Jersey in 1937, the two larger islands have been fairly well matched. Over the first 90 years of the Muratti’s existence, Guernsey won 45 games, and Jersey took home the vase on 52 occasions. Jersey’s eight consecutive wins between 1958 and 1965 is the record for the longest un-broken streak.

Centenary Muratti

The 100th final was played between Jersey and Guernsey on Sunday, 14 May 2006. Jersey won 1-0 at home, after each side had one player sent off.

Although it was exclusively played by men at its launch, the core Muratti competition has been broadened. It now includes allied matches for female teams, under-21s and under-18s.

Hydrofoil Condor 1 completed its final sea trials

Condor Ferries might not have been the only company to run hydrofoils in the English Channel, but it did have one of the largest fleets. Its Condor 1 through Condor 5, plus Condor 7 were all hydrofoil craft. The odd one out was Condor 6, which was a catamaran.

The first craft, built in Sicily, entered service on 1 May 1964. Less than a week earlier, it was going through its paces in a series of rigorous sea trials by Captain Robinson.

Rough demonstrations

Publicity runs carrying newspaper, television and radio reporters between Guernsey and Jersey had been particularly rough. However, Condor 1 was said to be impossible to capsize because of its skids. It was unsinkable, too, as the space between the hulls was filled with polystyrene. This was enough to keep it on top of the water, even if all of the internal compartments flooded.

The diesel-powered Condor 1 was capable of a top speed of 45mph. It would carry a maximum of 140 passengers between Guernsey, Jersey and St Malo. The Jersey to France crossing took around an hour. Guernsey to Jersey, if everything went according to the timetable, took 35 minutes.

Condor promoted the service largely on the benefits of its high-speed, claiming that “Condor gives you more time for your money than any other form of transport”. It described the craft itself as a “luxury get-up and go hydrofoil”.

There were plans to extend the service to other Channel Islands, including Alderney and Sark, if there was sufficient demand.

Early hydrofoils

The first hydrofoil to cross the Channel went not from the Channel Islands to France, but from Calais to Dover. Named Shadowfax after a mythical flying horse ridden by Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, it had two gas turbines, three crew and a passenger compartment with room for 50.

Guernsey-set film The Sea Devils hits cinemas

Name a Guernsey film, and The Sea Devils probably isn’t the first one that comes to mind.

Yet the film, which starred Rock Hudson, Yvonne de Carlo and Maxwell Reed, does recycle some of the names from Victor Hugo’s Guernsey-set book, Toilers of the Sea. It opened in UK cinemas on 25 April 1953 (and in the US almost a month later, on 23 May).

The Sea Devils plot

Gilliatt is a fisherman, who helps Drouchette (a name remarkably similar to Deruchette in Hugo’s book) escape to France. England and France are at war at the time.

It looks like she might be a French agent for a while, but it turns out she’s actually working for Britain. She is captured, and Gilliatt rescues her. They kiss, but it’s not clear whether they have a happily-ever-after following their escape.

The plot thus bears little similarity to Hugo’s invention, unless Deruchette could, despite her name, actually be a stand-in for the Durande. This was a ship, whose engine Gilliatt saved in Toilers of the Sea. The film’s title – Sea Devils – is also a play on Devil Boat, which is the name given to the boat in Hugo’s book by the local fishermen.

A Channel Islands film

The film made no effort to hide the fact it was set in the Channel Islands – indeed, it made a virtue of it. The trailer was overlaid with the promise, “Over the horizon of the historic Channel Islands, into NEW and exciting worlds of spectacle and thrill come adventure and romance presented in vivid colour by Technicolor”.

The film, which runs for 91 minutes, was directed by Raoul Walsh for Coronado Productions, an independent British film company. It was distributed by RKO Radio Pictures.

The Sea Devils was also the name of a storyline in the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, although this was unrelated to Hugo’s book or the Rock Hudson film.

The States of Guernsey registers the gov.gg domain

The States of Guernsey registered its now-iconic gov.gg domain on 24 April 1997. In doing so, it established its recognised home on the web. Gov.gg was one of the earliest .gg domains registered.

States of Guernsey homepage

The .gg top-level domain had only been opened up for registration the previous autumn, under the administration of Alderney based Island Networks Limited. Founded by Nigel Roberts, Island Networks also administers the .je domain for Jersey. Perhaps more surprisingly, it’s the registration authority for the .as (American Samoa) domain, too.

Alderney itself doesn’t have a domain of its own. However, as it forms part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the most appropriate local top-level domain for it to use would be the same .gg as its larger neighbour.

States of Guernsey homepage

Most visitors the States of Guernsey website will be looking for practical information, like benefits, school catchment areas and refuse collection timetables. The level of detail is exhaustive, covering everything from tattooing and piercing to sustainable transport and the minimum wage.

Proceedings of the States are published on the site.

Domains for the world

Although .gg domains were originally intended for use by people and businesses in Guernsey, there is no restriction on who can register them. Over the years they have therefore become popular with online gaming and electronic sports companies. For them, the .gg suffix can serve as a shorthand for Good Game.

Google also registered its own .gg domain in 2003.

Three second-level domains have been opened up beneath .gg. This allows registrants to register .net.gg, .co.gg and .org.gg as well as unadorned domains immediately followed by .gg.

Prior to being granted its own top-level domain, Guernsey (and Jersey) companies had to satisfy themselves with broader, less descriptive domains in domain spaces like .co.uk or .com.

Aurigny pilot Ray Bowyer spots a UFO near Alderney

The Channel Islands hit international headlines in 2007 when Aurigny Captain Ray Bowyer spotted a UFO. He was flying a Trislander from Southampton to Alderney at the time, and wasn’t the only person who saw it.

Both he and his passengers spotted what looked like a compact disc or DVD hovering to one side. It was described as brilliant yellow, with light emanating from the interior and a graphite grey section around two thirds along its length.

Bowyer first spotted the UFO from around 40 miles away, while flying at 4000ft. It was 3pm and the sky was clear with good visibility all around, so it certainly wasn’t the sun shining through an unusual cloud.

A second witness

Neither were the occupants of the Trislander the only ones to see it. Another pilot, flying a Blue Islands aircraft over Sark, spotted it at the same time.

Bowyer used binoculars to examine the craft in more detail, and later said it was long, with a length to height ratio of around 15:1, and bearing no similarity to any normal aeroplane. This doesn’t even hint at its remarkable size, though.

When interviewed on TV, Bowyer said the object could have been a mile long. It was sitting absolutely still at an elevation of around 2000ft. His sighting lasted for around quarter of an hour and was backed up by official, technical records.

Jersey airport radar was picking up “traces” of the object at the same time, which remained detectable for almost an hour. However, Jersey couldn’t actually say what it was or how big the thing making the traces might be. Its radar equipment relied on objects to be moving for definitive detection.

And a second UFO

As he approached Alderney, Bowyer spotted a second unidentified object. This one was closer to Guernsey, and remained visible for about nine minutes.

The sighting is particularly interesting as it came a little over two months after 20 to 25 unexplained lights were spotted flying in formation over Alderney’s north cost at 6.15am on 14 February 2007.

Guernsey bigamist got married for the second time

Herbert Stanton, a labourer from Guernsey, committed bigamy when he married Hannah Thomas on 22 April 1916.

The 47-year-old had told her he was single, and even in court he maintained his belief that this was true – under Guernsey law. His first marriage had been to a Guernsey widow in 1890. The marriage had lasted 22 years, until Stanton left when her drinking became too much.

Left one wife, then a second

He moved to Cornwall, leaving behind four children from his first marriage, and met his new wife at church. They married within the year, but 14 months later he’d left her, too. They’d had a child together by that point. Both the baby and Hannah had to resort to charity to support themselves.

Unfortunately for Stanton, he had pleaded guilty when brought to court in 1919. This somewhat negated his claim that he was free to marry under Guernsey law. When the judge, Mr Justice Lawrence, asked him for a copy of the relevant law, he was also unable to produce it.

He was sentenced to three months’ hard labour. In part this was due to the fact that he’d lied to his second wife. As the judge pointed out, if he really had believed he was free to remarry he should have told Hannah Thomas this rather than claiming to be single. At least then she’d have been able to make up her own mind.

Penal servitude

Hard labour was a particularly cruel form of punishment in which convicts were set physically demanding but often entirely pointless tasks. One of the most common was working the penal treadwheel. This was a large wooden wheel with paddles on the outside. Prisoners walked on the wheel for up to six hours a day, in silence, with only short breaks.

Some prisons used the wheels productively to grind corn. Many, though, were not connected to anything other than belts and weights to make the work even harder.

Three Jewish women are deported from Guernsey

It wasn’t only in mainland Europe that Jewish people were sent to concentration camps.

Marianne Grunfeld, Therese Steiner and Auguste Spitz were deported from Guernsey by Germans forces during the occupation. They were initially sent to St Malo, in the occupied part of France, where they were allowed to take up jobs. However, their time there was short.

Within three months they had been sent to Auschwitz, in Poland, where all three died. They were sent to the gas chamber as soon as their train arrived at the camp.

Authorities alerted

The German authorities had initially been unaware that there were Jews living on Guernsey. They were only alerted to the fact when Therese Steiner approached the German High Command for information. At the time, she was working as a nurse on the island, and was hungry for news about her family in Austria.

The authorities initially seemed to be quite helpful. However, her approach prompted them to ask who else on the island might be Jewish. They required every Jew to register themselves, after which there was no possibility of escape.

Therese Steiner had originally come to Britain to escape anti Semitism in her native Austria and, when the war broke out, moved to Sark as a nanny. At that point, she was trapped, being unable to move back to the mainland as the German forces positioned themselves to occupy the Channel Islands because she was not natively British. She subsequently moved to Guernsey before the Germans arrived.

Auguste Spitz worked alongside Steiner and, like Marianne Grunfeld, had no choice but to register as Jewish with the authorities. From this point on, none of the women had any chance of hiding from the occupying forces.

Memorials to the deported

A plaque in their memory was unveiled on St Julian’s Pier in St Peter Port on 27 January 2001. This was vandalised in 2010, and following its restoration it was attacked again in August 2013. On this occasion, a saw was used to cut it from its mounting on the wall.

In total, more than 1000 Guernsey and Sark residents were deported to either Germany or France during the Second World War. Many of them had committed only minor offences. Sixteen of them are remembered on a separate plaque in St Peter Port, which was erected to their memory in 2010.

Another plaque, in the Bordage, St Peter Port, remembers the members of the Guernsey Underground News Sheet. They had been distributing news from the BBC, contrary to German regulations. Five of them were sent to prison in Germany, only two of whom made it back to Guernsey alive.

For the avoidance of doubt

All of the characters, organisations, publications and narrative of the Sarnian series, any related publications, products and web sites are fictitious. Characters, events, organisations and publications are not intended to refer to actual entities or events and any similarity is unintentional and entirely coincidental.

What's this all about?

This web site, and its contents, are here to support The Sarnian, a series of books set on and around the Channel Islands, and Guernsey in particular. It started as a means of keeping track of each character so that their features, loves, desires, abilities, looks and so on didn't change from book to book and has grown to become a complete encyclopedia of the series. Unless otherwise stated, the images included on this site were taken by The Sarnian author, Nik Rawlinson, who is also the author of the content.

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