White Mischief 2. / 70-year-long mystery finally solved.
Happy Valley ?
The White Mischief Murderess: 70-year-long mystery over murder in debauched Happy Valley set finally solved
By TASHA COLIN
, 23 September 2010 in The Daily Mail on line http://www.dailymail.co.uk
During her heyday, Alice de Janze kept a pet lion in her house and was seldom seen without a small monkey on her shoulder.
Rich and exquisitely beautiful, she captivated men from London to Nairobi with her dreamy grey eyes, bee-stung lips and fashionably boyish figure.
Nor was the exotic American heiress averse to their attentions. In an age when the average Englishwoman guarded her reputation like a priceless jewel, Alice was famed for being a party-girl who drank eye-wateringly strong Absinthe cocktails and could lure any man she wanted to her bed.
And there was plenty of opportunity for sex in Kenya's Happy Valley, the decadent Shangri-La created by upper-class white colonials between the wars.
White Mischief Murderess: Alice de Janze is now thought to have murdered Lord Erroll in Kenya.
As a key member of the Happy Valley set, she thrilled to the continual round of louche parties, fuelled by alcohol and sexual intrigue - where one daring after-dinner game involved male guests sticking their appendages through holes in a sheet so the women could vote on their favourite.
For all that, Alice would have been long forgotten but for one detail: her passion for Josslyn Hay, the Earl of Erroll.
Not because their affair, which outlasted two marriages on both sides, caused any great scandal - but because he was cut down in his prime at the age of 39.
The shockwaves caused by the violent death of this good-looking aristocrat have continued to reverberate to this day.
At least half-a-dozen books have been published about his murder at a deserted crossroads in the dead of night, and a movie about it - White Mischief - even featured Alice as a minor character, played by the actress Sarah Miles.
No one, however, has yet come close to solving the mystery of who killed Lord Erroll. Until now.
The breakthrough, 70 years after the event, comes not from a professional historian or forensic investigator but a retired international businessman who has doggedly pursued fresh leads for the past 12 years.
Paul Spicer started his quest with a considerable advantage: not only had he lived for two extended periods in Kenya himself but his mother, Margaret, had been a good friend of Alice since meeting her in 1925 when they both arrived in Kenya.
Patiently, he returned again and again to see the very few remaining survivors of the Happy Valley era, collecting ever more compelling evidence.
To his astonishment, it all seemed to point to just one culprit: the fun-loving Alice de Janze. Far from being little more than a footnote in history, it appeared that she had literally got away with one of the most celebrated murders of the 20th century.
So why would Alice have wanted to kill her lover? And how can Spicer be so sure that she pulled the trigger? To answer these questions fully, we must go back in time to her first marriage - to a French count.
Alice Silverthorne - as she was then - was the daughter of a millionaire from Buffalo, New York, and had been packed off to Paris at 21 when her relatives grew alarmed at her growing closeness to a young mobster.
There, she soon met and married Frederic de Janze, a mild-mannered French count who remained steadfast and loyal to her until the end of his life.
For Alice, though, the marriage was a disappointment. The unfortunate de Janze lacked the powerful masculinity and sexual chemistry that she was later to find with other lovers, and she was soon casting her dreamy gaze elsewhere.
It had been Count Frederic's idea to whisk his young wife off to the balmy valleys of Kenya - then called British East Africa - after the birth of two daughters in quick succession left her feeling listless and trapped.
And their host there was none other than Lord Erroll and his new wife, Idina, whom they had met briefly in Paris.
Alice was a party girl who could lure any man to her bed
In 1925, Erroll was already a pivotal figure in the new community of British aristocrats and rich socialites, who left their black servants to tend to their farms and their kitchens while they hunted, partied and played polo.
Blond, clever and an ace card and polo player himself, the Earl had begun devoting a good deal of his energy to seducing women, especially those who were married.
Everything conspired to intoxicate the previously listless Alice: her sexy host, the hot sun, the high altitude and the carefree bohemianism of her hostess.
Far from the restrictions of British society, Idina and Erroll had cast old repressions aside with abandon, sometimes throwing parties that would last for days at a time.
It was even rumoured that every person had to sleep with someone other than the one they'd arrived with before the party could finish.
For now, though, Idina was pregnant and she preferred to titillate her houseguests by inviting them to watch her take her daily bath or by asking them to dress in pyjamas and dressing-gowns for dinner.
As for Alice, she quickly swapped her Paris designer wardrobe for the loose shirts and corduroy trousers favoured by her hostess. And she was soon having secret sexual rendezvous with her host.
By all accounts, Lord Erroll was an extremely accomplished lover, so he may well have been responsible for her sexual awakening. Certainly, Alice could not hide her new-found joy.
Her forgiving husband decided to wait patiently till she came to her senses. Idina, meanwhile, positively encouraged the affair as she grew ever larger: better that Erroll bedded someone she knew and liked than an outsider, she reasoned.
Not surprisingly, Alice decided that she wanted to live in Kenya, and persuaded her husband to buy a nearby property, Wanjohi Farm. The affair with Erroll continued sporadically for nearly 20 years. Not that Alice let it cramp her style.
A year after her arrival, she fell wildly in love with the 26-year-old youngest son of a British baronet, who had decided to try his hand at big-game hunting and farming in East Africa.
The darkly handsome and athletic Raymund de Trafford was also a gambler and a cad, who had already left a trail of broken hearts. And once again, he behaved true to form.
After first promising Alice he would marry her if she left Frederic, he abruptly changed his mind a year later while they were both on a visit to Paris. Deaf to her anguish, he told her he'd be leaving on the evening train.
She shot her lover but it was seen as a 'crime of passion'
That afternoon, Alice went into a gun shop and calmly bought a 3.8 pearl-handled Colt revolver and shot him in the chest, before turning the gun on herself.
The scandal made headlines all over the globe as the lovers hovered for weeks between life and death.
But they both pulled through; and at the ensuing trial, Alice received a six-month suspended sentence for what was viewed by the French as a magnificent crime of passion.
The sweet-faced Alice de Janze had definitely proved that she was capable of shooting a lover.
Afterwards, she returned to Africa, where Lord Erroll had by now divorced his wife and acquired another - apparently more for her money than her beauty.
Alice resumed her affair with the dashing Earl, though she also pined for Raymund, pursuing him to England for regular visits.
In the end, her long- suffering husband agreed to a divorce and Raymund finally agreed to marry her. It was a pyrrhic victory, however.
Marriage, it seemed, brought out the worst in her new husband, who within weeks was gambling away her money and rowing with her in the street.
They quickly agreed to part, and she returned alone to Kenya to resume where she'd left off with Lord Erroll.
Perhaps Erroll and Alice would have continued their liaison for years had it not been for the sudden arrival in November 1940 of a new couple in their midst: Sir Jock Delves Broughton and his bride Diana.
Almost immediately, 27-year- old Lady Diana - who was 30 years younger than her husband - became the new reigning beauty of the Happy Valley. Everything about her conspired to irritate Alice.
Not only was the newcomer much younger than herself, but she was Alice's exact opposite in looks: blonde, blue-eyed and so voluptuous that there was much comment on her blatant sex appeal.
Nor did it contribute to Alice's peace of mind to discover that one of her potential beaux, a dashing Coldstream Guards officer called Dickie Pembroke, was completely smitten - though Diana evidently turned him down because he didn't have a title.
Lord Erroll, though, was another matter.
By Christmas, he and Diana were regularly being seen dancing together at the Muthaiga Club in Nairobi, in a manner that some members considered indecent. And very soon it became obvious they were having a raging affair.
Within weeks, Diana's husband, Sir Jock - a friend of Erroll's - gracefully bowed to the inevitable and agreed to a divorce. But Alice, who had never known her lover to be so enthralled, was consumed with jealousy.
At 40, she suddenly became aware that the powers of seduction that she had always taken for granted were finally on the wane.
Perhaps to prove to herself that she could still attract a man, she took Diana's leavings and threw herself into an affair with the snubbed Dickie Pembroke.
She was in bed on the night of January 23, 1941, when he rolled in from a night out at the Muthaiga club and reported to her that Sir Jock had just proposed a toast to the future of his wife and her lover.
He had then told Erroll to make sure his soon-to-be ex-wife was back at the marital home by 3am.
So Alice planned her revenge. She knew when Lord Erroll was likely to be driving his Buick back alone to his own house.
No one can be exactly certain about what happened next, but we do know that he was persuaded to stop at a crossroads leading to his home.
Two shots from a .32 calibre revolver were then fired at close-range. His body was discovered by two African dairy workers not long afterwards, and they alerted the police.
Even after everyone had trampled over the scene of the crime, it was still evident that there was a second set of tyre tracks that were peculiarly thick. No one appeared to make the connection with Alice's DeSoto car, which had enormously wide tyres.
When news broke of the murder, Diana was inconsolable - but Alice, far from breaking down, immediately demanded to see the body at the mortuary.
An ex-lover who accompanied her there remembered her passionately kissing Erroll's cold lips and declaring: 'Now you are mine for ever.'
Kissing his lips, she said: 'Now you are mine for ever'
The most obvious suspect, of course, was the cuckolded husband, Sir Jock Delves Broughton.
He was duly charged with murder - even though many could have attested that he was drunk on the night, had a broken wrist and suffered from night blindness.
Alice, who had never previously shown any desire to befriend him, became one of his most regular visitors in jail as he awaited trial. He could not possibly be found guilty, she assured him, because there was no evidence.
To her friends, however, she talked incessantly about how worried she was that the trial might go against him. Was she dreading that she might have to confess in order to save him from the death penalty?
When the trial finally got under way, Alice attended court every day, always arriving early to secure a good seat and taking copious notes.
Among those who gave evidence was her lover Pembroke, who had been brought in by the Crown to rule her out as a possible suspect, and duly testified that he'd been in bed with her at the time of the murder.
The prosecutor, meanwhile, had been sent two anonymous letters suggesting that the killer might be a discarded mistress, for whom Erroll would naturally have stopped his car. He chose to ignore them.
In the end, Sir Jock was found not guilty. At least two authors who have written about the case since believe he did commit the murder, and one writer is even convinced that Sir Jock's wife Diana was responsible.
In virtually every depiction of the Erroll murder to date, Alice is described, suspected and cleared of suspicion.
Eight months after Erroll's death, Alice told several friends over lunch that the first of her two 'deep wishes' had already come true, and now she wondered if the second would occur. She then drove straight to the graveyard where her lover was buried.
Twelve days later, on the morning of September 27, 1941, she went into her garden to collect several armfuls of flowers. Returning to her bedroom, she placed some in vases and scattered the rest over her outsized bed.
Then she wrote out tags with the names of close friends and attached each to a piece of furniture - including two large African drums that served as night-tables.
Finally, after putting on her best nightgown, she swallowed a huge dose of Nembutal, lay down on the bed and shot herself through the heart.
Alerted by her hysterical servants, her doctor, William Boyle, arrived to find five letters at the scene: one to Pembroke, two to her daughters, one a suicide note and one to the police.
No one knows where the one addressed to the police is now. The contents were never officially released, possibly because the coroner was so shocked at their implication that he handed the letter to the attorney general.
If so, the attorney general - who also happened to be the prosecutor at Sir Jock's trial - may well have decided not to re-open that particular can of worms.
But Alice's friend Dr Boyle had already read the letter before handing it to the police, and he had also shown it to his wife. It contained nothing less than her full confession to Lord Erroll's murder.
Paul Spicer had known about the existence of this letter, but was unaware of its explosive contents until he tracked down Dr Boyle's daughter, Alice Fleet.
Only after meeting him several times did she decide finally to reveal what her mother had told her about the letter.
It made perfect sense. After all, Alice had the motive. She had the knowledge of Erroll's movements. She had the nerve, having already tried to shoot a previous lover dead. She had always been a good shot and seldom left home without her revolver.
Her route to the crossroads would have been swift, and Erroll would have immediately recognised her slim figure in his headlights.
But what of her alibi that she was with her lover Pembroke at the time? Spicer believes that it's certainly possible that Pembroke slept through her departure and return on the night of the murder.
And even if he'd heard her coming back, he loved her enough by then to want to protect her.
Other small pieces of evidence also slotted neatly into place.
Julian Lezard, another of Alice's lovers, had always suspected her, and had said as much to friends in later years.
Mary Leslie-Melville, a neighbour of Alice's, had told her daughter-in-law that a few years after the murder, a revolver of the exact calibre used to shoot Erroll had been found under some rocks on the border between their properties.
What did you do, asked her daughter-in-law. 'Nothing,' said Mary. 'Erroll was dead. Alice was dead. What good would it have done to tell anyone?'
Spicer was plagued with one unanswered question: why didn't Alice kill her hated rival instead of her lover? He discovered the answer after finding Alice's old housekeeper, Noel Case.
Alice, recalled Case, had been obsessed with the occult and firmly believed she would meet all her loved ones on 'the other side'.
Suddenly, the meaning of Alice's words to her friends about two 'deep wishes' was illuminated. Her first deep wish had clearly been to kill Erroll. Her second was to kill herself so she could join him on the other side.
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.
Certainly, any remake of the film White Mischief could no longer get away with featuring Alice de Janze as a bit-part player.
Adapted from The Temptress: The Scandalous Life Of Alice, Countess De Janze by Paul Spicer, to be published by Simon & Schuster on April 29 at £14.99.
Seventy years after the Earl of Erroll was shot dead, author Paul Spicer claims to have unmasked the true culprit
Elizabeth Grice 27 Apr 2010 in The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk
There is nothing like the cocktail of money, aristocracy, sexual intrigue and unsolved murder to keep a story fizzing in the public imagination long after it should have expired from lack of oxygen. How else to account for the pull of Kenya's Happy Valley set, the vividly decadent colonials whose amorality was almost a condition of residence?
Even so, it is bizarre that nearly 70 years after Josslyn Hay, Earl of Erroll, was shot dead at the wheel of his Buick at a crossroads in the middle of the night, we're still interested in who killed him. Film-makers, biographers, amateur sleuths, they just can't leave it alone. Convention has it that the killer was Sir Henry "Jock" Delves Broughton, in a fit of jealousy over Erroll's affair with his young wife, Diana. He was acquitted of the murder in 1941 but later committed suicide, which was considered tantamount to an admission of guilt. Another theory is that Diana herself put the gun to his head because Joss, one of whose wives was the insatiable Lady Idina, refused to marry her. (Being married was never regarded as a complication.) An odder one is that M16 assassinated the peer because he had fascist leanings.
Now along comes Paul Spicer, retired deputy chairman of Lonrho, a man with connections to some of the key players, who claims he has solved the murder more or less by accident. He started researching a biography of his mother's scandalous friend, the American heiress Countess Alice de Janze, and gradually found he was looking into the cool, wide-apart grey eyes of a murderess. She was a rich, beautiful basket-case who kept boredom and melancholy at bay with a string of dubious lovers, in full view of her tolerant French husband, Count Frederic de Janze.
"Her technique with men, I'm told, was to gaze at you and move her head from side to side, looking up in wonderment. It was a sort of hypnotism of a man, really," he says.
Aware of her deficiency as a mother, Alice left her two daughters to be brought up by their grandparents in Paris. A lion cub travelled with her luggage. For kicks, she would ride out alone among wild animals, and kept a Nile crocodile in her bathtub. Crucially, she had form with a gun, having shot both her lover, Raymund de Trafford, and then herself, in a rather ostentatious display of crime passionnel at the Gare du Nord in Paris. They both survived their injuries and eventually entered into a disastrous marriage but the scandal was immense and Spicer recreates her dramatic court appearance, on a charge of manslaughter, with great brio.
"The courtroom was packed with French women," he says. "I think they were all rooting for her because they thought her lover, Raymund, was such a shit, which he was." She was given a suspended sentence and later, on appeal, her name was cleared. How on earth did she get away with it?
"Well," says Spicer, "in France they understand crimes of passion totally. We don't. It was a crime committed for love. The tribunal reflected this belief by fining her 100 francs (about £1), less than she would have had to pay for shooting a deer out of season."
Though Alice had an on-off affair with Joss Hay over many years, her role in the White Mischief mystery, albeit colourful, has been fairly peripheral until now. Spicer puts her in the frame. He believes she killed Erroll (while still in love with him) because he had taken up with the 22-year-old Diana Delves Broughton, and she realised that her own days as a femme fatale were over. If she couldn't have him, no one else would. He establishes convincingly that she suffered from cyclothymia, a strain of bipolar disorder, which increasingly skewed her judgment.
"She had the motive and she certainly had the nerve," says Spicer. "She would not fear carrying out that act. She was consumed with jealousy. She had shot a man before. There wasn't a precise moment when I knew, but gradually the clues, one by one, began to stack up. You get your moment."
What clinched it for him was finding Alice Fleet (née Boyle), whose father, Dr William Boyle, was called to the scene of Alice de Janze's suicide. Dr Boyle (another of Alice's old lovers) found five letters and distributed them to the addressees. One was addressed to the police. It was submitted to the original coroner's inquest but its contents were never released and it has since disappeared. Boyle showed his wife, Ethnie, all five. The fifth, she related to her daughter in unforgettable terms. It contained a confession that Alice de Janze murdered Erroll. "And she told me," says Spicer.
Through Mrs Fleet, Spicer tracked down Alice de Janze's former housekeeper, a white-haired old lady by then living in Norfolk. Noel Eaton-Evans readily agreed that Alice, with her belief in the occult and in "the Other Side", could have killed Erroll, intending to kill herself, too, so they could be united in the afterlife.
However, it was several months later that Mrs Eaton-Evans (then Case) found Alice, barely alive, in a bedroom filled with flowers, her chest heavily bandaged. Spicer reconstructs the scene with forensic dedication. "After putting on her best nightgown and swallowing a huge dose of Nembutal," he says, "she lay down and shot herself in the heart. Her housekeeper told me she had put a large bandage round her bosom. I think she was conscious of the fact that blood would be going everywhere and she wanted to stem it, not make a nasty mess."
Why then, asks Spicer, did Alice not kill herself at the same time as she shot Joss? The answer lay with yet another lover. On the night she purportedly flagged down Erroll in his Buick, put a bullet through his head and returned home, a rather sweet man called Dickie Pembroke was fast asleep in her bed. Pembroke was Alice's alibi on the night of the fatal ambush. Much too loyal to let her down in court, he testified that Alice was indeed with him. No one seems to have doubted it. But then Alice had an astounding track record in influencing lawyers.
"She was very fond of Dickie. And he was madly in love with her."
James Fox, who first laid bare the reckless hedonism of the Happy Valley set in his 1982 book White Mischief, praises Spicer for bringing "an extraordinary character" out of the shadows, but prefers to stick with the theory that Delves Broughton shot Lord Erroll.
Paul Spicer, 82, who grew up with stories about Alice, and as a boy met the hapless Raymund de Trafford, makes a fascinating psychological case for the prosecution. He thinks there was a serious failure of imagination in arraigning Jock Delves Broughton. "The prosecutor had a conventional outlook on life: You steal my wife, I'll get you for it. It was not so simple. Jock was a man accustomed to losing. When he realised he had lost Diana, he wrote her off. He had backed the wrong horse and he lost. There was no question of murder in his mind."
By way of illustration, he tells a delicious story of how Jock saw his friend Erroll holding a towel out for the naked Diana as she emerged from a swimming pool. " 'Joss', he shouted from a window. 'It's my turn to dry Diana today.' They had that sort of camaraderie."
For someone with a new theory to air, Spicer is unusually insouciant about whether he is believed or not. He has talked to people who knew Alice – including one daughter and two lovers – studied her illness, and investigated her life in four countries with the dogged persistence of a private detective. What would his mother, Margaret, have thought of his verdict on her friend? "She would probably be horrified."
'The Temptress' by Paul Spicer is published by Simon and Schuster.