The Jean-Pierre Vaquier case

Mabel Theresa Jones.

Mabel Theresa Jones.

1924: Blue Anchor Hotel Byfleet poisoning: the Jean Pierre Vaquier case: Press cuttings and copy-correspondence regarding press interference with witnesses are held at the Surrey Record Centre. The story is of a vain Frenchman who poisoned his mistress's husband, Alfred Jones.

Meeting Mabel Theresa Jones, wife of a Surrey hotel owner, whilst she was on holiday in France in 1924, Vaquier followed her back to England. In March of the same year he went to London to purchase poison. He signed the register with a false name but put the address of the Jones' hotel.

When Mr Jones died, investigations led police to the chemist who identified Vaquier; charged with murder by strychnine and appeared at Surrey Assizes Guildford in July 1924 where he was found guilty and later hanged.

The crime was investigated by Superintendent Boshier of Woking Division and DCC Kenward. One officer who had charge of the prisoner was PC H Minter, later Superintendent, the one man in the force to work continuously in plain clothes in the county.

Jean-Pierre Vaquier was only forty five years old when he was sentenced to death. His trial took place at Guildford Assizes on the 5 July where he was convicted of the murder of Alfred Jones. It had all begun while Vaquier was in France and had met up with the wife of Alfred Jones. They had enjoyed an affair but instead of it being just a holiday romance a few weeks after Mrs Jones had returned from holiday to the Blue Anchor Hotel, which she ran with her husband, Vaquier once again turned up only this time as a guest. Obviously Alfred Jones was unaware of the fact that his wife and Vaquier were already lovers.

Jean-Pierre Vaquier

Jean-Pierre Vaquier.

Vaquier informed Mr Jones that he was in the country on business and intended to use the hotel as a base. He stayed for six weeks without paying, every time Mr Jones asked for money he would tell him he was waiting on a cheque from a business deal.

Every morning Mr Jones would start the day by drinking a glass of health salts. He did this as usual on the 29 March but it did not taste right and he complained about the bitter taste; he was to die in agony a few hours later.

Due to the suddenness of the death the police had the body analysed and it was found to contain strychnine. Vaquier and Mrs Jones were both questioned and a photograph of the Frenchman appeared in the evening newspaper. This photograph was recognised by a chemist from a nearby town who contacted the police to tell them that he remembered the man in the photo as a customer who had purchased poison.

Vaquier protested his innocence throughout the trial but was convicted on overwhelming evidence. He was sentenced to death and hanged.

The Scotsman reported: Hotel Keeper's Body Exhumed: A sensational development in connection with the Byfleet tragedy occurred on Friday night when the body of Mr Jones a former licensee of the Blue Anchor Hotel, Byfleet was exhumed. A representative of the Home Office, the deputy chief constable of Surrey and Police Superintendent Boshier were present. Digging operations at the cemetery began at 11.20 and the coffin was drawn up just before midnight. It was taken on a motor hearse to the mortuary at West Byfleet about one and a half miles distant. The key to the mortuary had been lost and it became necessary to force the padlock before the body could be taken inside. During the exhumation the cemetery was surrounded by constables and the public were not allowed to enter. After the post-mortem where the DCC and Superintendent Boshier were in attendance, Sir Bernard Spilbury took with him two hand bags containing it is believed certain organs of the body.

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