Post by Graveyardbride on Jan 24, 2014 22:12:37 GMT -5
January 24, 1941: The White Mischief Murder
Around 3 a.m. on the morning of Friday, January 24, 1941, at a crossroads in the affluent Karen section of Nairobi, the body of Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll, was discovered beneath the dashboard of his Buick. Someone had shot him, ending the life and career of one of the most colorful characters in Kenya’s notorious Happy Valley Set and creating one of the most talked about murders of the 20th century. Numerous books and newspaper and magazine articles have been written about the murder and the case was the subject of the 1987 movie White Mischief. More recently, Julian Fellowes (creator of Downton Abbey), included the Earl of Erroll case in his Julian Fellowes Investigates series.
At 6'2", the blond-haired Erroll possessed the chiseled good looks of a Nordic god and was popular with both men and women. At the time of his death, he was likely the most well-known man in Narobi. As Lady Diana Delves Broughton, his current lover, and Idina, his former wife, rushed to Erroll’s bungalow to retrieve certain of the dead man’s possession – including the Erroll family pearls – Alice, Countess de Janzé, asked to be taken to the mortuary. Alice had been involved in an on-and-off relationship with Erroll for years. Now his body was stretched out on a slab, his pale features drained of all animation and life. As her friend Lizzie Lezard looked on, Alice bent down, kissed the cold, dead lips of her lover and whispered, “Now you are mine forever.” Alice’s visit to the morgue and strange declaration were bizarre, but then Alice was known for her bizarre behavior and unpredictable moods and many considered her dangerous.
The autopsy revealed a .32 caliber bullet had entered Erroll’s neck just below the left ear and black powder marks confirmed a close-range shot. The slug that killed him was lodged in the right side of his neck and a second bullet was discovered under the accelerator of the Buick. It was assumed Erroll was able to avoid the first shot, but the second had killed him almost instantly. The doctor who performed the examination suggested the body could have been pushed into its curious position so the vehicle could be driven off the road. A bloodstained hairpin was found in the front seat area of the car and there were white scuff marks in the back seat. The funeral took place the following day at St. Paul’s Church in Kiambu, where Erroll was laid to rest beside his former wife, Molly, who had died two years earlier. Lady Diana was too distraught to attend the services, but wrote a note, which her husband, Sir John “Jock” Delves Broughton, placed in the coffin.
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Josslyn Hay, born May 11, 1901, was a Scottish peer in line for a string of titles – and nothing else. From 1920 to 1922, he was Honorary Attachâe and Private Secretary to the Ambassador to Germany. Hay was also a notorious womanizer in search of a wife to keep him in the manner in which he hoped to become accustomed. In 1923, he scandalized society by eloping with Lady Idina Sackville, an infamous twice-divorced woman. Hay could not have cared less about Idina’s notoriety because she was rich and money was what he wanted – and needed. Idina had been awarded property in Kenya as part of her divorce settlement and in 1924, the newlyweds arrived in Nairobi. Within a very short time, the pair had become the “king and queen” of the Happy Valley Set. They christened their new home Slains, for Slains Castle, the former family seat of the Earls of Erroll.
Idina was a party girl who often entertained guests from her huge bathtub and those who attended her affairs enjoyed champagne, drugs and wife-swapping. Nevertheless, between bed-hopping, Idina managed to give birth to a daughter, Diana, born January 5, 1926, the only child of the 22nd Earl of Erroll. Joss and Idina tolerated each other’s indiscretions and from all appearances, their marriage seemed to be amiable, however, Idina finally grew tired of her husband’s indiscriminate spending of what was, after all, her money, and divorced him in 1930. By this time, Hay, now Lord Erroll, had inherited his father’s titles and wasted no time pursuing another woman of means. He set his sights on Edith Maude “Molly” Ramsay-Hall, wife of actor Cyrl Ramsay-Hall. The Ramsay-Halls lived in a fabulous Moorish home called Oserian on the shores of Lake Navivasha. It didn’t take long for Erroll to convince Molly to leave her husband, after which Ramsay-Hall cabled him saying: “You’ve got the bitch, now buy her the kennel.” Erroll, of course, had no money, but Molly got the house in the divorce settlement. The Errolls changed the name of Oserian to “The Djinn Palace,” ostensibly because of the new Lord’s fondness for large gins. Molly was soon a willing participant in the hedonistic Happy Valley lifestyle. During a visit to England in 1934, Lord Erroll joined Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and a year later, became president of the Convention of Associations in Kenya. He attended the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1936 and was elected to the legislative council as member for Kiambu in 1939. When World War II started in Europe, Lord Erroll was made a captain in the Kenya Regiment and accepted the post of Military Secretary for East Africa in 1940.
Molly died in 1939 after consuming a concoction of alcohol, morphine and heroine and Erroll was free to pursue and marry another rich woman, but oddly, he took up with Diana, the new bride of 57-year-old James “Jock” Delves Broughton, 11th Baronet Broughton. Diana had no fortune of her own and was totally dependent on her husband. More than likely, the affair with Diana was nothing more than a passing dalliance on Erroll’s part until he could find a suitable (read rich) wife, but the affair, which had begun in late 1940, was still going hot and heavy in late January 1941.
The Delves Broughton marriage was unusual, to say the least. Before the wedding, Jock agreed that should Diana meet, and fall in love with, another man, he would not stand in her way. He also agreed that should their marriage end in divorce, he would pay alimony sufficient for her to live comfortably for a period of seven years. Additionally, because Diana was 27 years his junior, Jock expected her to cheat and initially had no problems with her liaison with Erroll.
When Erroll was murdered, many members of the Happy Valley Set suspected Alice de Janzé, but because he had spent the last night of his life with Diana (above right), suspicion soon fell on Sir Jock (above left). On the night of Thursday, January 23, 1941, Erroll, Sir Jock, Diana and a friend, June Carberry, all dined together at the Muthaiga Club outside Nairobi. When Diana and Erroll left to go dancing, Delves Broughton asked Erroll to have his wife home by 3 a.m. There appeared to be no animosity between the two men. Erroll had Diana home by 2:30 and after seeing her inside, drove off toward Nairobi. Within a half-hour, he was dead.
Delves Broughton was ultimately charged, tried and acquitted in what many regarded a blatant miscarriage of justice, but there was no proof to convict him. The murder had taken place 2.4 miles from the Delves Broughton house, Sir Jock, suffering from thrombosis, had a problem walking and dragged one of his legs. Additionally, he denied owning a .32 caliber pistol and the murder weapon was never recovered. Sir Jock and Diana were no longer together by the time the trial ended and he returned to England. On the night of January 5, 1942, he was discovered in his room at the Britannia Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool dying of a self-administered dose of morphine.
Diana remained in Kenya where she married Gilbert Covile, a shy rancher and one of the richest men in the country. Covile indulged his new wife, buying her jewels and courtier clothes – he even bought her Djinn Palace, the home where Erroll had lived with his second wife Molly. As the wife of Covile, Diana was once again socially acceptable. Then she fell in love with Lord Tom Delamere and married him after divorcing Covile in 1955.
To this day, many believe Delves Broughton was guilty and as recently as 2007, author Christina Nicholls claimed to have acquired a set of tapes proving his guilt. According to the tapes, Delves Broughton, who was wearing a pair of white plimsolls, had slipped into the back of the Buick while Erroll was seeing Diana safely indoors after bringing her home. When Erroll drove off and turned on to the main road, Sir Jock shot him. Then he was picked up farther along the road at a prearranged spot by a car driven by his neighbor, Dr. Athan Philip, a refugee from Sofia in Bulgaria. Whether Dr. Philip knew why he had to be at a certain place at a certain time isn’t clear on the tapes, but the reason Sir Jock had told Erroll to bring Diana home by 3 a.m. was so that he could put his plan into action. Additionally, according to the tapes, on the morning following the murder, a servant of the Delves Broughtons observed Sir Jock burning some items of clothing and “a pair of good white plimsolls,” implying the mysterious white marks inside Erroll’s car were made by the white rubber soles of the shoes. The tapes themselves were recorded by Dan Trench, whose parents were farming partners with June Carberry’s family. Carberry told the Trenches, including Dan, how the murder was committed, but they never spoke to the police.
But would Sir Jock have actually killed a man, whom he knew was more interested in money than he was in love, over a dalliance with his much younger wife? After all, he knew she had a wandering eye, this wasn’t her first affair and he had agreed if she fell in love with another man, he would not stand in the way of her happiness. There were also rumors that Diana was more interested in Erroll than he in her and she was nothing more than a diversion until he could latch on to another woman with money. There were also rumors that it was Diana, not her husband, who killed the notorious philanderer after he made it clear she wasn’t what he considered wife material. Julian Fellowes offered yet another theory of the murder. He claimed Diana was in the car when Sir Jock fired the shot and one of the bullets wounded her in the neck. Afterwards, he said, she always wore high-necked clothing or a scarf to cover the scars.
But Alice de Janzé was the first person suspected by the Happy Valley Set even though everyone knew Erroll was currently besotted with the beautiful, blonde Diana Delves Broughton – and they had reason. Alice was born Alice Silverthorne September 28, 1899, in Buffalo, New York, the only child of a rich textile industrialist. In 1921, at the age of 22, Alice married Frédéric Jacques, Comte de Janzé, member of an old aristocratic family in Brittany and a well-known French racing car driver. Two daughters were born of the marriage, but Alice wasn’t the motherly type and paid them little attention. In 1925, the couple met Josslyn Hay and his wife Idina, who subsequently invited them to Nairobi. The de Janzés liked the Happy Valley and took a house near the home of Hay and his wife. Compte de Janzé documented his time in Happy Valley, including all the eccentric personalities he encountered in his book Vertical Land, published in 1928. The Comte provided several non-eponymous references to members of the Happy Valley set, including a psychological portrait of his wife that alludes to her suicidal tendencies: “Wide eyes so calm, short slick hair, full red lips, a body to desire. The powerful hands clutch and wave along the mandolin and the crooning somnolent melody breaks; her throat trembles and her gleaming shoulders droop. That weird soul of mixtures is at the door! her cruelty and lascivious thoughts clutch the thick lips on close white teeth. She holds us with her song, and her body sways towards ours. No man will touch her exclusive soul, shadowy with memories, unstable, suicidal.” Even among the scandalous residents of Happy Valley, Alice was soon known as “the wicked Madonna.” Famous for playing the ukelele and her obsessive love for animals, her beauty, sarcastic sense of humor and unpredictable mood swings caused a sensation wherever she went and before long, she was embroiled in an affair with Josslyn Hay, openly sharing him with Idina.
Alice’s notoriety continued after she and her husband returned to France and on March 25, 1927, she shot her current lover, Raymond de Trafford, in the stomach, then turned the gun on herself. The gunshot punctured de Trafford’s lung, but both survived. Alice was subsequently charged with attempted murder with premeditation, but her defense attorney insisted chronic melancholy and tuberculosis had “deadened her intelligence” and she received a suspended sentence. She returned to Kenya in 1928, but in light of the public scandal, was branded an “undesirable alien” and ordered to leave the country. But while she was there, she resumed her affair with Josslyn Hay.
Back in France, Alice created another scandal when it was discovered she and de Trafford had resumed their relationship even though she had tried to kill him. The pair finally married in February 1932, but by November, Alice was already seeking a divorce. By 1937, she had returned to Africa, where she read, partied, resumed her relationship with Lord Erroll, cared for her animals – which included lions, panthers and antelopes – and became addicted to drugs, particularly morphine. By this time, many members of the Happy Valley crowd avoided Alice as much as possible because of her rapid and unpredictable mood swings. Later her friend, aviatrix Beatrice Markham, wrote: “Loneliness fixed Alice. Everyone was frightened of her.”
Noel Case, Alice’s former housekeeper, was interviewed in 1998 by Paul Spicer while he was writing The Temptress. “It could have been Alice who shot Erroll,” Mrs. Case admitted. “Why she would want to do this is a mystery because she was madly in love with Erroll and surely it would have been more motivating to kill Diana and not Erroll. But, on the other hand, with her belief in the occult and her firm belief about the other side, it is possible that she thought that if she could send Erroll to heaven, where he might just have qualified for entry, she could join him there.” In the French courts, when Alice was being tried for attempted murder, she told the judge she had shot Raymond de Trafford because she wanted to join him in the “Great Beyond.” If she did kill Erroll, then this desperate act must be considered in the same context. But if Alice intended to join Erroll in the afterlife, why didn’t she shoot herself immediately as she did after shooting de Trafford? Instead she waited more than eight months.
On September 27, 1941, the day before her 42nd birthday, Alice asked her staff not to disturb her, which wasn’t unusual. She then went out into the garden and collected armloads of flowers and proceeded to decorate her room, placing flowers on both the furniture and bed. The large room was painted with a mixture of green oil and water paint, creating an effect that was both peaceful and striking, particularly with the added touch of the flowers. She then attached the names of close friends to the various items of furniture, including the large Knole settee, which she had brought from France (one of her favorite possessions), and two huge African drums that she used as bedside tables. She had already written five letters, two of which were addressed to her children, a third was a suicide note and the other was addressed to the police. The fifth letter was to her friend Dickie Pembroke, wherein she described the beauty of the African morning as she sat writing him by a pool in her garden, surrounded by sunshine, colorful flowers and a sense of peace. Alice locked her bedroom door and wrapped a bandage around her chest. By now, it had begun to rain. She donned her best nightgown and climbed into bed. Next, she swallowed 10 grams of Nembutal – a huge dose – placed a revolver to her heart and before she slipped into unconsciousness, pulled the trigger. Alerted by the gunshot, her African servants forced the door open and looked upon a truly horrifying scene. Although she was still alive at this point, she died shortly thereafter.
Yet another theory is that Erroll, who was the Assistant Military Secretary of Kenya and, at one stage, a member of the British Union of Fascists, was assassinated by the War Office on grounds he was a security risk. In support of this theory, Eroll Trzebinski, author of The Life and Death of Lord Erroll: The Truth Behind the Happy Valley Murder, cites the fact Erroll was murdered on the eve of the Abyssinian Campaign in which British troops invaded Kenya’s Italian-occupied neighbor. Other sources have suggested Erroll actively sold secrets to Mussolini’s forces and was earmarked to be gauleiter of Kenya if an Italian invasion succeeded.
Sources: The Temptress by Paul Spicer; White Mischief by James Fox; The Life and Death of Lord Erroll: The Truth Behind the Happy Valley Murder by Erroll Trzebinski; Julian Fellowes Investigates; The Daily Mail; The Telegraph; and "The Ugly Secret of World War Two" by Henry Makow Ph.D.