BY NYAMBEGA GISESA
The decadent Happy Valley was notorious for many things. But one of the most shocking ended this week when Juanita Carberry died of lung cancer.
The 88-year-old was a key witness in the shooting of the womanising Earl of Erroll, the uncrowned king of Kenya’s Happy Valley set – the place of cocaine, booze and sex.
Juanita was just a 15-year-old schoolgirl when she played a role in one of the most celebrated murder cases of the 20th century that became a gripping and glamorous scandal that later on inspired the Hollywood film White Mischief in 1987.
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The murder that took place in 1941 marked the beginning of the end for Kenya’s hedonistic colonial elite.
In those days, the colonial settlers were known for heavy drinking and cocaine-fuelled adulterous liaisons filled with casual adultery and the debauched behaviour of the spoiled and dissolute upper classes living in colonial Kenya between the 1920s and 1940s.
Other than the book and movie White Mischief that dramatised the trial of Sir ‘Jock’ Delves Broughton, the killing also inspired Happy Valley, an account of Juanita’s adolescence and her involvement in the Broughton case, and The Bolter, a biography of Idina Sackville that included stories of the origin of the Happy Valley.
Other books and movies that highlighted the murder included Christine Nicholls’ Red Strangers: The White Tribe of Kenya, a history of white colonisation in the country, In The Life and Death of Lord Erroll, and A Most Mysterious Murder - The Case of the Earl of Erroll, a movie by Julian Fellowes.
The death of Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll, was intriguing and shocking raising questions if his murder was as a result of Erroll’s notorious womanising or a political execution carried out because of his Right-wing connections.
The Earl of Errol, who was also inveterate gambler, specialised in seducing rich married women. He was loathed and feared by husbands.
On the night of January 24 1941, Erroll was found shot dead in his car on a lonely road in Karen. The CoastWeek publication termed his death a “horrible murder committed in cold blood.”
Juanita claimed the chief suspect in Erroll’s murder, Sir Broughton (whose wife, Diana, was Erroll’s mistress and a friend of Juanita’s stepmother) confessed his guilt to her shortly after he committed the murder during a lunch party he hosted at his house in Karen.
“By the way, Juanita, I don’t want you to be afraid, but the police are following me,” Broughton allegedly told Juanita. The lunch party was attended by Juanita, her stepmother, June, and her governess.
Later on she said that when police asked her to testify at Broughton’s trial for murder, she pretended to “act as a stupid child” and later on was branded an “unreliable witness.”
A month later after a court in Nairobi acquitted Broughton, he committed suicide in England’s Adelphi Hotel located in Liverpool.
According to Juanita even her stepmother was probably informed about the murder because a gun used in the shooting of Errol was found many years later in a shoebox in Malindi, at a workshop that was owned by her father.
Juanita first revealed the details in 1971 during an interview for The Sunday Times to journalist Cyril Connolly. However, she hid the details of Broughton’s confession from Connolly.
She revealed none of these until 1980 after Connolly’s death saying “There is no mystery. He [Broughton] did it. I can tell you that now. He told me himself the following day.”
Broughton told the young girl that he had shot Errol and had thrown the gun into the Thika falls.
Craberry believed that Broughton shot Errol because he had an affair with his wife Diana.