Who murdered Josslyn Hay?
Joss Hay, Lord Errol, enjoyed living. He enjoyed loving too so when he was found shot in the head, most people presumed he had been murdered by a jealous husband or a spurned mistress. But which?
At the time of his murder, he was involved in a curious love triangle. He was having an affair with the rather beautiful Diana – a young woman who was married to the much older Jock Delves Broughton. The trio lived in the so-called Happy Valley in Kenya as part of a fashionable community of wealthy or titled British ex-pats who lived a life of parties, sex and fun.
On 23rd January 1941, Joss had enjoyed dinner and champagne at the Muthaiga Club with friends, including Diana and Jock. Jock had resigned himself to the fact that his marriage was over and when Joss and Diana decided they wanted to go dancing at the nearby Claremont nightclub, he raised no objections.
After their evening at the nightclub, Joss dropped of Diana at her marital home. He started to drive back to Muthaiga to his bungalow at about 1.30 in the morning.
At about three o’clock two African dairy workers were driving along the Ngong Nairobi Road when they discovered a Buick hanging precariously over a gravel pit, with its headlights still on and with blood splattered on the windscreen. Going closer, they saw that a man was motionless on the floor of the car. They drove quickly to the nearest town to tell the police.
When the officer arrived, they assumed that the car had been involved in an accident. They noticed that there were the tyre tracks of another vehicle in the muddy road. It looked as though it had recently headed off in the direction of Nairobi. It was only when an ambulance had transported the man to hospital that it was discovered that this was the body of Joss Hay. He had been shot in the head.
The most immediate suspect was Jock Delves Broughton. It was common knowledge that his wife had been having an affair with the murdered man. But people who knew the trio well were aware that Jock appeared to have no grudge against Joss. He was much older man and realised that his marriage had been a mistake. The police drew up a list of suspects but Jock’s name was always right on top. But Jock wasn’t the only cuckolded husband – Joss had not been a one-woman man.
And what of the women themselves? Rumours started that Diana had murdered Joss because he had refused to marry her once she was divorced. And what about his former mistress, Alice de Janze? Her affair with Joss had been on and off for almost twenty years – was she jealous about his new relationship?
The police had the rather unorthodox method of ruling out one husband because he ‘wasn’t the type’, ruling out Diana because she was so distressed and accepting Alice’s alibi that she had been in bed with another man at the time of the murder. So with the idea of the jealous husband firmly in mind, they decided that Jock Delves Broughton should be charged with the murder.
Although Jock seemed to fit the bill on paper, reality was somewhat different. It would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him to have reached the spot on the Nairobi Road when the murder took place. When Joss had dropped Diana off at her home, Jock and a friend were in the house. Also a ballistic specialist proved that the bullet could not have come from any of the guns owned by Delves Broughton. He was acquitted.
So who had killed Lord Erroll?
It was clear that for some reason, Joss had stopped his car. Had someone flagged him down? There were two shots fired at him at close range – as though the murderer had leaned into the car through an open window or sat in the passenger seat. One bullet had missed and was lodged in the interior bodywork of the car but the other had killed him instantly.
The car had either rolled to its position hanging over the gravel pit or had been pushed there. It’s extremely likely that the tyre tracks the police had noticed at the scene had been made by the murderer fleeing in his or her own car. It’s reasonable to assume that Joss had been stopped by someone standing in the road – more than likely someone he knew. Apart from pushing the car – and remember that it could have rolled under its own steam – the murderer needed no physical strength and could have been even the smallest of women.
But the case was never solved. I think the most likely suspect as Alice Janze – you can read about her here or see the first three links lower down this page to find out more about the Happy Valley set.
I’m not alone in thinking that Alice was the guilty party. So does the author of the book you see on the right. The author, Paul Spicer, has what we might call inside knowledge too. His parents lived in the area where the murder took place and his mother and lice were close friends.
Paul had the benefit of being able to hear her memories and read family papers and letters. Furthermore, he later moved to the area himself and lived in the house once inhabited by Diana and Jock Delves Broughton.
The book tells a great deal about the life of Alice and the curiously hedonistic members of the Happy Valley set.
It’s fascinating read about times gone by and about a strange but enthralling society set in the countryside of East Africa,