By Amos Kareithi
When rebellious sons and daughters of London’s finest families commune with drug addicts and bootleggers bathing in the African sun, they can only breed lords of impunity, capable of committing classical crimes of passion.
Seven decades ago, Kenya colony was transformed into a crucible of moral decadence where orgies of explosive sexual affairs were carried out with supplies of heroine being flown in. To date, echoes of the relationships linger along the slopes of Aberdare and, where pleasure seeking Europeans and Americans flew frequently.
Despite this passage of years, crime busters still scratch their heads in wonder, trying to figure out who killed the undisputed lord of debauchery. The echoes of the merrymaking and treachery committed decades ago have been deadened by the passage of time. But memories still linger in Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi and Wanjohi, Nyandarua, the headquarters of the Happy Valley.
The whole saga had started sometime in 1916 when an attractive son of an aristocrat, Josslyn Hay then aged 17 years, was kicked out of the prestigious Eton after he misbehaved.
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His father, Victor Lord Kilmanorck was the godson to Queen Vitoria and was at the time an envoy in Berlin, a career he wanted his son to adopt after his expulsion from Eton.
However, Josslyn blew his chances of being a diplomat when at 22 he fell in love with a married woman, Indina Gordon, who was twice divorced, was eight years older and kept a string of boyfriends.
The couple was banned from London’s high society and was forced to relocate to Kenya in 1923, a place John Fox describes in his book, White Mischief as “beyond the reach of society’s official censure”.
The couple settled at the slopes of Aberdare Ranges in Wanjohi, at the heart of the White Highlands where they established a kingdom of uninhibited sex and wild parties.
In 1925, the couple moved to a house named Clouds that was to become the headquarters of unregulated sexual encounters where alcohol and drugs flowed freely.
During the parties, couples swapped sex partners and some colonialists were so scandalised that Indina was banned from ever setting foot at Government House, now State House.
Under Indina’s patronage, the White Highland settlers coalesced in her home; partying for days to a point that some whites would later accuse her for setting a bad example among Africans and motivating the Mau Mau to rise up against the white rule.
Series of love affairs
Josslyn, who was a womaniser carried a series of love affairs that were consummated in his matrimonial home, as his wife watched and encouraged.
Although Jossyln was free with his love and affections to multiple women, he was very mean to his African servants who would go for six months without pay. Some of the couples frequent guests included Alice De Janze who had left a trail of broken hearts and to prove how tough she was, she kept a lion cub, Samson, as a pet. It was fed two zebras a week.
In Paris, Alice wrote her name in blood after she eloped with a lover Raymund De Trafford, whom she later attempted to murder by shooting him with a gun as she kissed his lips for saying he could not marry a divorcee, as he was staunch Catholic. She also tried to kill herself with the same gun.
This even with the standards in Kenya was too much and Alice was declared unwanted. At the same time, Paris authorities handed her a six-month suspended sentence for the attempted murder and suicide.
When she was later allowed to return to Kenya, she teamed up with Indina and Josslyn to liven up things at the happy valley where illicit love affairs were carried out in plain view of spouses.
Jossyln became Lord Erroll in 1928 after his father; Lord Kilmanorck died, leaving him the title that he marked by divorcing Indina and was momentarily attracted to Alice.
One day, Jossyln was horsewhipped by Major Cyrill Ramsay-Hill at Norfolk Hotel after he snatched his wife Molly Ramsay Hill from Naivasha. The Casanova revenged by marrying Molly in 1930; he was ordered to pay a fine of 3,000 sterling pounds by a divorce court to compensate for debts the couple had incurred in the major’s name. Molly died in 1939 of a broken heart and overdose of heroine.
While not romancing, Jossyln was active in politics and was elected first as President of the colonialists’ Parliament, The Convention of Associations in 1934. He was later elected as Member for Kiambu legislative Assembly.
Despite his many conquests in the field of love, he bit more than he could chew when he fell in love with Diana Broughton, wife of an eccentric settler, Jock Broughton who had just come to Kenya on November 1940.
At the time Jossyln and Diana fell for each other, she had been married to Jock for only three months but nevertheless they carried on with a steamy affair right under the nose of her husband. It later emerged that Nairobi mayor, Lady Gwlady’s Delamere who had previously had a love affair with Josslyn, had fueled the affair. Lady Delamere would extract intimate details of the couple’s sexual escapades and whisper them to the devastated husband, Jock.
She was also suspected of having authored secret notes taunting Jock, demanding to know how he planned to handle the issue, as his wife was madly in love with another man.
On January 18, 1941 when Gwladys, Jossyln, Diana and a third woman held a celebratory party at Muthaiga Golf Club, where Jock surrendered his wife and toasted for the couple’s happiness. After the dinner and drinks that went up to about 11am, Diana and Josslyn left while Jock had to go home in Karen. Earlier on, he had promised to release his wife with no hard feelings.
When two dairymen discovered the lifeless body of Josslyn the following at 3am at a crossroads near his home in Nairobi with a bullet wound behind the ear, the matter was reported to the police in Kilimani.
Broughton was immediately arrested as the prime suspect for the murder although he swore he had been asleep at his house.
There was speculation and suspicions about Lady Delamere, Indina, Alice and a host of husbands that any one could have killed Josslyn, who was described as a heartless heart and home breaker.
Immediately after the death was made public, Diana was inconsolable in her grief for she had lost a lover and her husband was now a murder suspect. Alice is reported to have rushed to the mortuary where her former lover of 10 years was.
One of Josslyn’s ex-lovers heard her whisper as she kissed the cold lips: “Now you are mine forever.”
During the trial, details of sexual orgies were retold in graphic detail, although Broughton was acquitted of the murder charges but lived a miserable life after the epic trial until he committed suicide.
Broughton’s death did not close the matter. According to a recent a book, The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice, Countess De Janze by Paul Spicer, the world condemned the wrong person.
Spicer’s reconstruction of Alice’s life found that she committed suicide eight months after the murder, on September 27, 1941. Although nobody paid heed, Alice, according to Spicer had confessed the murder in a letter to the police that was among five others addressed to her two daughters and a former lover.
The police never disclosed the contents, embarrassed that they had prosecuted the wrong person although doctor William Boyle, who responded to Alice’s distress call, had read it and digested confessions.
For 70 years, the secret of Lord Erroll’s killer remained in the grave of the murderess until Spicer visited one of the Boyle’s daughters, Alice Fleet who disclosed that her father had read the letter and revealed the content to her mother.
The daughter told Spicer that the letter to the police was tantamount to a confession. It adds one of Alice’s neighbours, Mary Leslie-Melville had recovered a gun similar to the one used to shoot Lord Erroll but decided not to pursue the matter as Alice and her lover were long dead.
An article by the Daily Mail of UK revisits the riveting saga: “Now that 70 years have passed, the evidence against Alice is likely to remain circumstantial. But it does appear overwhelmingly probable that she did indeed murder the man she loved, goaded beyond endurance by his love for her rival.