Murder Mystery in Kenya

1941, Josslyn Hay, Earl of Errol, was shot dead in Kenya. The death of the debauched jet-setter at the heart of Kenya’s Happy Valley set gave the tabloids a heyday and headlines to spare. Rumors were ripe, contradictory, and mostly completely false. The murderer was never apprehended. A new book tries to pin down a new suspect.

Earl and Countess of Errol


by +Lucas Dié on Books

Between the two world wars, Happy Valley in Kenya was the playground for the rich, the louche, and the bored. At the center of the jet-setting crowd gathered were the Earl and the Countess of Errol (the Earls of Errol, by the way, are related to Conservative leader David Cameron which seems quite appropriate the way he's ruining the country). Their parties were famous, going on for days at a time. Party games included guess the penis; and male guests would take their drinks in the bathroom while the countess took a bath. And the Tories and most notably David Cameron are bemoaning broken Britain today?

Alice de Janze and Josslyn Hay

The son of one of those long gone jet-setters is author Paul Spicer. He spent years collecting data on the murder while trying to implicate one of the central figures of the Happy Valley set with the murder: Alice, Countess de Janze. He interviewed late survivors as well as descendants of people involved with the Happy Valley set and built a case upon the evidence he collected.

Alice de Janze

Alice Silverthorne, Countess de Janze, was the daughter of a Buffalo millionaire in a time when being a dollar millionaire still meant something. She was shipped off to Paris by her family over the fear of a local misalliance. Once there, she noticed that as an American heiress she was nobody in polite circles, but that the doors to become a titled somebody were wide open. She lost no time in marrying Count Frederic de Janze.

Alice de Janze

After producing him two daughters in short succession, he sent her off to Happy Valley to recuperate from the stress and strain after receiving an invitation by the Earl and Countess of Errol to that intent. The de Janzes were acquainted with the Hays through the Paris set. After becoming the mistress of Josslyn in Kenya, she persuaded her husband to buy a property in Happy Valley.

Alice de Janze trial

Once settled in, she fell madly for Raymond de Trafford, younger son of an English Baronet and a compulsive gambler who was trying his luck in Happy Valley. She started to think about divorce from Count Frederic de Janze and traveled to Paris with Raymond de Trafford in tow to pursue this end. But her beau had other ideas and told her so upon arrival in Paris (after she had paid for the tickets, obviously).

Alice de Janze

She went out to buy a colt, came home and shot Raymond in the chest before shooting herself. Tabloids the world over were frantic with news and updates while the two recovered in hospital because, obviously, she was not a very good shot. Once recuperated, she was handed a six months suspended sentence as even the judges went all mushy over the French favorite form of violence: a crime of passion.

Alice de Janze

She finally got her way, her divorce, and her marriage to Raymond de Trafford. Despite their return to Happy Valley, the marriage was made in hell, and she lost no time in divorcing him as well. As a consequence, she took up her entanglement with the Earl of Errol again.

Happy Valley Set

The arrival of Sir Jock Delves Broughton and his wife Diana brought upheaval into the Happy Valley and with Diana a new player in the game of change the husband. The Earl of Errol lost no time in fixing his interest with her, and in consequence Diana refused all suitors who weren't at least titled, leaving to Alice nothing but the jetsam and flotsam to pick her lovers from.

Grave Earl of Errol

The night Sir Jock announced his intention to divorce his wife at a party with a backhanded toast to Errol and Diana was the night Errol was shot at a crossroad after bringing Diana home (her home that is, not his). Sir Jock was charged with and consequently cleared of the murder. Alice was never even considered to be a suspect due to the alibi provided by her then current lover. She committed suicide some time later, leaving letters to her lover and her daughters on her desk, as well as a suicide note and a letter addressed to the police. This last letter has disappeared and has so far not been found again.

The Temptress

The Temptress: The Scandalous Life Of Alice, Countess De Janze by Paul Spicer was published by Simon & Schuster. In it, the author builds a good case for his theory but fails to solve the puzzle completely. The book offers fascinating insights into the times and the places, though, and crime lovers should get it and have a try at unraveling the puzzle themselves. On the other hand I have to admit that I find books problematical that are published after all the witnesses cited are safely dead, as I stated in Reincarnated WWII Hero.