Josslyn Hay – The Murder Of The 22nd Earl Of Erroll

Josslyn Hay

On 24th January 1941 Josslyn Hay, the 22nd Earl of Erroll was found dead. Slumped in the front seat of his car the Earl of Erroll had been killed. A single bullet wound to his head was the cause. Hay was a member of the notorious Happy Valley set. A group of British wealthy elite outcasts who called the area of Kenya home. Famously the focus of the movie White Mischief (based on James Fox book of the same name), the murder remains unsolved to this day. Here Unsolved Casebook looks at the mystery.

Josslyn Hay and Idina Sackville

As a young man, Josslyn Hay was something of a wild child. Already gaining a reputation for his love of women and troublesome behaviour. His behaviour saw him expelled from Eton, along with his family growing ever tired of the young man’s actions.

At age 22 Hay became besotted with a married older woman. Idina Sackville, a wealthy and attractive woman, would go on to leave her second husband. She would then tie the knot with her young lover in 1923.

The couple’s behaviour mixed with the manner of Idina’s divorce soon led to them been ostracized by the aristocratic and social elite in England. By 1924 the two left the United Kingdom to start living there lives away from the judgemental eyes that had blighted their lifestyle in the UK.

At the time of there leaving Josslyn Hay was practically broke. Luckily for him, Idina was anything but. The couple moved to Kenya to take up residence. Idina had land there which was included in the divorce settlement from Idina’s second marriage. 

The land was at the heart of the Happy Valley community, around 100 miles from the capital city Nairobi. Happy Valley consisted mainly of members of the aristocracy. For whatever reasons they were shunned or couldn’t hack life with any responsibility in the UK.

Idina thrusts herself into the role of the party host. She soon became infamous within the Happy Valley set for the drug and sex-filled parties she would put on. It was said the party wouldn’t end until every woman had had every man. One notorious game Idina would play involved blowing a small white feather into the air. Whomever’s feet the feather fell at would be her sexual partner.

Divorce and A 2nd Wife

By 1930 the relationship had hit the rocks. The Earl of Erroll’s philandering ways and spending had started to get to Idina (even though she was no better). Idina also had come to believe her husband Josslyn Hay had been cheating her out of her fortune. The couple were divorced soon after. 

Josslyn Hay didn’t brood for long about his broken marriage. In fact, the Earl of Erroll would soon marry again.

Molly Ramsey Hill was another wealthy divorcee and also a member of the Happy Valley set. After the pair were married Hay soon went about spending his new wife’s wealth. Along with sleeping with any woman with a pulse he could seduce.

The marriage was an unhappy one. After failing to fall pregnant Molly Ramsey Hill turned to drink and drugs. In 1939 her indulgences would lead to her death when she died from an overdose.

New Arrivals In Happy Valley

The Happy Valley set shortly after welcomed it’s newest members. Sir Henry “Jock” Delves Broughton and his young wife Lady Diana Delves Broughton (formerly Caldwell). Jock Delves Broughton was aged 58 and of great wealth. His wife (of just two months) Diana was much younger at just 26 and very attractive. Jock was besotted by the beauty of his young wife and saw her as something of a trophy on his arm. For Lady Diana, the wealth and a title were the main attraction.

Lady Diana Broughton
Lady Diana Broughton

Diana soon found herself seduced by the Earl of Erroll and the two began an affair. Although illicit affairs were commonplace amongst the Happy Valley set the affair between Josslyn and Diana was far more brash and bold than most. Affairs were normally kept discreet, whether common knowledge or not. However, Josslyn and Diana were far from discreet even in front of Diana’s husband Jock Delves Broughton.

Jock, however, found himself unable to do anything about the affair. Oddly he had agreed when he married Diana that he would not stand in her way if she was to meet a younger lover nearer her age. Furthermore, he agreed that if that be the case and they divorce he would give her an allowance of £5000 per year (at the time this was a massive amount) for seven years. Despite the embarrassment and pain the affair must have caused him Delves Broughton put on a brave face publically.

The Final Night Of Josslyn Hay

On the night of January 23, 1941, Josslyn Hay dined with Lady Diana. Her husband Sir Jock Delves Broughton and a friend June Carberry were also in attendance. During the meal, Jock Delves Broughton made a toast in which he wished Josslyn and Diana the best for the future.

As the night wore on Lord Erroll and Lady Broughton left Sir Jock Delves Broughton and June Carberry to go dancing at a Nairobi nightclub. Lord Erroll agreeing to return Diana home later that night. Lord Erroll kept his word and at around 2 30 am he drove his Buick back to Sir Jock’s home. He said his goodnights to Lady Diana and headed back home.

Early that morning, at around 3am, two local dairy workers noticed a car seemingly dumped at a crossroads. This was just two miles from Lord Broughtons home in Karen. The workers took a closer look and made a shocking discovery. Inside kneeling in the footwell of the front passenger seat was the deceased Josslyn Hay.

A Bungled Investigation

The initial investigation was an appalling mess. The body was removed from the scene without any examination. The scene was trampled across by numerous officers without care, ruining another set of car tyre tracks which could have related to the case. By the time the Lord’s Buick was dusted for prints so many officers had touched it since the murder it became a pointless endeavour.

Despite the investigation been an awful calamity on March 10 police made an arrest. Sir Jock Delves Broughton was charged with the murder of the 22nd Earl Of Erroll Josslyn Hay.

The Trial Of Sir Jock Delves Broughton

Sir Jock Delves Broughton
Sir “Jock” Delves Broughton

The trial began on May 26, 1941. The prosecution’s case rested on two pieces of evidence.

The first was a cigarette butt found inside Josslyn Hay’s Buick. Hay did not smoke, however, Sir Jock Delves Broughton was a known smoker. It was a flimsy link at best.

The second key piece of evidence was the bullet which had killed Josslyn Hay. A .32 Colt had been found in the home of Sir Jock Delves Broughton which police believed was the weapon which killed Lord Erroll. At the trial, a ballistics expert said otherwise. His evidence stated that the bullet which killed the Earl Of Erroll could not have come from such a weapon. An interesting sidenote on guns is that Sir Jock Delves Broughton had in the days prior to the murder reported a number of guns stolen. A coincidence? Or was Jock Broughton already covering his tracks?

The poorly presented case for the prosecution was left in tatters. It took a mere three hours for the jury to acquit Sir Jock Delves Broughton. This in itself was not without its controversies. Amongst the jury were several people known to Sir Jock including the foreman who just happened to be his barber.

The Trial Aftermath

Despite the not guilty verdict Sir Jock Delves Broughton became an outcast among the Happy Valley set. His wife Lady Diana, who throughout the trial had claimed him innocent, divorced him. She was soon shacked up with another man of great wealth named Gilbert Colville (who she married in 1943). Lady Daina Broughton was now stating publicly that she believed Sir Jock had killed her lover (who it didn’t take long to get over) Josslyn Hay.

Alone and shunned Sir Jock took his leave and returned to England. On December 5, 1942, several days after his return, he was found in his hotel room at the Britannia Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. He had seemingly taken his own life with a morphine overdose. Was this a final admission of guilt, unable to live with what he had done? Or was it the act of a man who was crushed by the feeling that the world had turned against him despite knowing he himself he was innocent?

Countess Alice De Janzé

Due to the promiscuous ways of Lord Erroll, many have speculated another theory about who may have murdered Josslyn Hay if not Sir Jock Delves Broughton. The most popular of these is the act of a lover. One theory is that Lady Diana was the person responsible. Turning a gun on her lover after he refused to consider marriage. A more popular theory, however, is that of a jealous-ex.

Of the jealous-ex theories, Alice deJanzé stands out. De Janzé and Lord Erroll had sexual liaisons over the years. Although for the Earl it was merely sex it is theorized Alice de Janzé took the relationship more seriously. Hay’s relationship with Lady Broughton enraged de Janzé and built to the crescendo of murder.

Alice de Janzé Past Murder Attempt

Alice de Janze
Alice de Janzé in 1919.

The reason Alice de Janzé stands out as a possible suspect is that she had history. In 1927 her lover Raymond de Trafford had originally agreed he would marry Alice if she left her husband. However, as his family were strict Catholics he backed out of the agreement. Alice, fearing she would lose him forever purchased a gun and planned to kill herself.

Whilst saying goodbye at a Paris train station Alice decided she would shoot de Trafford too. So they could be together in the afterlife. Alice pulled the trigger and shot him in the stomach. She then did the same to herself. Raymond de Trafford was in a critical condition for a while but both survived the incident.

Alice de Janzé was treated exceedingly leniently by the courts in France. She received just a six-month sentence (which was suspended). Bizarrely, despite the shooting, the couple did eventually marry several years later in 1932. They separated the same year, though their divorce wasn’t official until 1937.

One final note on Alice de Janzé is her visit to see Josslyn Hay in the mortuary. It is said de Janzé gave the Earl Of Erroll a final kiss on the lips before gently telling him:

“Now you are mine forever”

In September of 1941, just nine months after the murder of Josslyn Hay, Alice de Janzé took her own life.

Did The Secret Service Kill Josslyn Hay?

A final theory is that the 22nd Earl Of Errol was murdered by the secret service. Rumours have persisted for decades that M16 had a role in Josslyn Hay’s murder. It is, however, the book by Erroll Trzebinski titled The Life And Death Of Lord Erroll which has reinvigorated the claims.

In 1934 Josslyn Hay became a member of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) for a year. Amongst its ranks were supposedly several other notable aristocrats. Although he officially rebuked the Nazi’s and the BUF later could he have really been a member of their ranks? And if so could the British Government have ordered his murder? These are the claims made in the book.

The author claims that the murder was carried out because Lord Erroll knew too much secret information pertaining to the war that would destroy many influential people if it were to leak. The Earl Of Erroll was known to be anything but discreet and so it was decided he was too big of a risk.

The Sallyport Papers

This was revealed in a twenty-five-thousand-word document given the name “The Sallyport Papers”. The author of the paper was a former intelligence agent named Tony Trafford. However, the story was told to him by an unnamed group led by a retired naval commander known only as Edmund.

According to the report, the mission was named Operation Highland Clearance. Two agents, given the identities Mary Shaw and Richard Murrey were sent to complete the mission and murder Josslyn Hay. It is claimed that Mary Shaw seduced the Earl in order to gather intel.

Days prior to the murder Mary Shaw had her appearance changed. Local make-up artists made her look like she was an attractive middle-aged woman.

On the night of the murder, the agents parked there car near the crossroads at which Josslyn Hay was murdered and awaited word from the surveillance team that the Earl Of Erroll was on his way. The male agent got out, pulled the bonnet and pretended to be fixing the motor. The female agent went out into the middle of the road with a flashlight to wave for help. As expected Lord Erroll pulled over accordingly to see if he could be of help.

At this point, the male agent requested that Josslyn give his wife a lift to the New Stanley Hotel. He would stay to fix the vehicle. Hay obliged and the female agent got into Hay’s Buick. Lord Erroll set off but within seconds there was a flash of light. The female agent pulled the trigger and shot Josslyn Hay behind the left ear.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Josslyn Hay was murdered by the British Government. It is, however, a theory I find hard to believe. Other people were privy to similar information (if not more) yet lived through the war so why would Josslyn Hay have been such a threat.

The murder of the 22nd Earl Of Erroll Josslyn Hay remains unsolved almost 80 years on.

Sources And Further Reading

White Mischief By James Fox

The Life And Death Of Lord Erroll

Leader Of British Society Named On Murder Charge

Countess Shot Englishman And Self In Paris

Weds Man She Shot

Altitude, Alcohol And Adultery (Documentary)