The story of the Happy Valley Murder begins with the somewhat eccentric and colourful figure of Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere, or 'D' as he was commonly known. Apparently bored with his attempts at drinking the pubs of Britain dry, he decided to move to Kenya in 1903 with a view to making his fortune. In the following year the British colonial administration signed a treaty with the Masai elders in which they surrendered ownership of much of the Rift Valley. In 1906 Cholmondeley purchased much of the former Masai land around Lake Elementeita, which he proceeded to transform into a successful cattle ranch and with the encouragement of Charles Elliott, then Governor of Kenya, he persuaded a number of friends to join him, and within a few years Kenya was awash with sundry old Etonians. These new settlers acquired land in the central highlands of Kenya and the Great Rift valley, with a particular concentration in the Wanjohi Valley, just north of Nairobi, which became known as the Happy Valley.
"Are you married, or do you live in Kenya?"
By the 1930’s a distinct community of upper class white English settlers had emerged who became known as the Happy Valley Set. Fuelled by cheap gin and the ready availability of more exotic substances such as cocaine and morphine, the Happy Valley Set attracted a reputation for loose morals and wild behaviour, with the scene of much of these frolics being the Muthaiga Country Club in Nairobi.
One of the more recent arrivals on the Happy Valley scene was Joss Erroll, otherwise known as Josslyn Victor Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll, who soon became the "uncrowned king of the Happy Valley set". A womaniser and a compulsive seducer of other men's wives, Erroll was once attacked with a horsewhip on the platform of Nairobi train station by one particularly enraged husband. At the beginning of 1941 he was joined by Henry John Delves Broughton, commonly known as ‘Jock’ Broughton, the 11th Baronet Broughton, with his new wife Diana Caldwell. Only recently married on the 5th November 1940, this was the second marriage for both parties. Diana had previously been his mistress and was her husband's junior by some years.
Their marriage seems to have been largely one of convenience; Jock appears to have felt it wise to leave Britain behind, given that his name had been mentioned in conjunction with the odd case of insurance fraud, and thus his arrival in Kenya with a new wife in tow gave an outward sheen of respectability for his visit. It also appears that even at this early stage in their marital relationship they had made an arrangement whereby each party would consent to a divorce should the other require their freedom, and that Jock Broughton had even promised his wife a generous financial settlement, despite the fact that he lacked the money to fund any such settlement.
Not long after the Broughtons arrived in Kenya, the nominal Mrs Broughton perhaps inevitably began an affair with the Earl of Erroll. It appears that Jock Broughton was perfectly aware of the situation, and happily hosted a dinner party at the Muthaiga Country Club where he sat down with his wife and her lover, with June Carberry, a friend and confidante of Diana, completing the foursome. Erroll and Diana appear to have spent much of the evening dancing together, whilst during the course of the festivities Broughton proposed a toast to the happy couple, expressing the wish that their forthcoming marriage would be blessed with a son and heir. At the end of the evening Erroll went home alone, whilst the others made their way back to the Broughton household.
None of which would have caused that much comment within the Happy Valley Set, were it not for the fact that on the following morning, the 24th January 1941, the Earl of Errol was found in his Buick parked out on the Nairobi-Ngong road in the Nairobi suburb of Karen with a bullet lodged in his brain.
Jock Broughton was the fairly obvious prime suspect and was duly arrested by the authorities and placed on trial for murder. It was decided to dispense with a jury, and have the case tried by a judge and assessors. Since the general opinion held of the Earl of Erroll amongst the Happy Valley Set was that he was "an appalling shit who needed killing" it was widely believed that any jury would be disinclined to convict whatever the evidence.
At the trial it was the contention of the crown prosecutor Walter Harrigan, that Broughton had climbed down the drainpipe at his home, walked the two and a half miles to the murder scene, shot Erroll with his revolver, returned to his house and climbed back up the drainpipe to his bedroom. (The scaling of the drainpipe being necessary since Broughton's movements would otherwise have awakened the other occupants at his home, which at the time included his wife, the aforementioned Mrs Carberry as well as the inevitable servants.)
For his part Broughton engaged a South African lawyer named Harry Morris to conduct his defence. During cross examination Morris was able to demonstrate that Erroll had been shot with a five-groove gun, and that the ballistic evidence showed that a bullet with these characteristics could not have come from Broughton's own Colt revolver. Morris also contended that his client was both lame and suffered from night blindness, which combined with the fact that he had been very obviously blind drunk on the evening in question, meant that it was quite impossible for him to have walked five miles in the dark, let alone climb up and down a drainpipe. In the circumstances the prosecution was clearly a long way from proving their case beyond reasonable doubt and Broughton was acquitted.
Jock Broughton subsequently returned to Britain and was found dead from a morphine overdose at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool on the 5th December 1942. All the evidence pointed to suicide.
White Mischief and beyond
Naturally the case attracted considerable interest at the time, both in Kenya and back in Britain, where it provided a welcome measure of relief in an otherwise gloomy and war-torn country, although very naturally the public's attention was soon diverted to other topics and the fate of the 22nd Earl of Erroll was quite forgotten.
Interest in the case was later revived in 1969 when Cyril Connolly wrote an article which appeared in The Sunday Times Magazine. Connolly reached no particular conclusion regarding the true identity of the Earl of Erroll's killer but rather blamed it all on the lethal combination of altitude, alcohol and adultery. Connolly however employed a young researcher by the name of James Fox, and when Conolly died in 1974 he bequeathed all his notes on the case to Fox who subsequently used them as the basis for his novel White Mischief (1984). This book which was later made into film staring Greta Scacchi as Diana Broughton and Charles Dance as the Earl of Erroll with Joss Ackland playing the part of Jock Broughton (1). Both the book and the film generally followed the line that Jock Broughton had indeed been guilty of the murder of the Earl of Erroll.
This conclusion was however challenged by Leda Farrant in her Diana Lady Delamere and the Lord Erroll Murder (1993) (2). Farrant had access to Broughton's private papers and sought to exonerate him from the charge of murder. In particular she revealed (or at least alleged) the tasty tidbit that Diana was having a lesbian relationship with her friend June Carberry and put on record the apparent widespread belief amongst the Happy Valley set that it was Diana who did the deed, acting very probably in cahoots with her friend June.
The argument in favour of Diana's guilt does have some merit, since it seems highly unlikely that Erroll had any intention of actually marrying Diana (he had shown no sign of marrying any of his other conquests), he had another mistress on the go at the time, and the pair apparently had a blazing row shortly before he was killed. In any case during her lifetime Diana indulged herself with "an impressive string of heterosexual affairs which would almost qualify her for the record books", appears to have been the jealous type and is known to have subsequently shot at three of her subsequent lovers and even hit one of them (in the balls apparently).
Then again Juanita Carberry (step-daughter of the aforementioned June Carberry) wrote Child of Happy Valley (1997) where she put on record her allegation that she had met Jock Broughton at her parents' stables some three days after the murder, and that during their conversation he casually admitted to her that he was responsible for killing his wife's lover. According to Juanita, Broughton "was merely chatting away about it", mentioned that he was suspected of killing Errol and then remarked "Well I did, actually". Of course Juanita may have misheard (the words "did" and "didn't" are easily confused particularly when uttered by someone who habitually drank as much as Broughton) and it is just the sort of thing that someone with a certain sense of humour might well say to a fifteen year old schoolgirl purely for effect. One Simon Courtauld who had been the first to disclose Juanita's testimony (in an article for The Spectator of 13th February 1993), later recorded the story that Broughton's personal servant, Onyango, had some time after the murder claimed that he had been told to burn his master's bloodstained clothes on the morning after Erroll was killed. Although crucially he doesn't mention who issued the instruction to Onyango, whilst the story only arrives at third hand via an unamed individual who later employed Onyango.
But whilst Courtauld was convinced by Juanita Carberry's account and so persuaded of Broughton's guilt, Israel Aaron Maisels (1905-1994), another South African lawyer, who was initially approached to conduct Broughton's defence and who later retained an interest in the case, did not believe a word of it. He favoured the notion that the murder was carried out by at least two people, citing Harry Morris's view that "At least two persons must have taken part in this job". The two people that Maisels had in mind being Diana and June Carberry.
However perhaps the strangest solution to the mystery was provided by Errol Tyzebinski (3) in the The Truth Behind the Happy Valley Murder (2000). She painted a rather different picture of the 22nd Earl of Erroll claiming that he was a hard-working settler and "almost teetotal". Her most interesting claims however were based on a document known as the 'Sallyport Papers', compiled by one Tony Trafford, a Kenyan born intelligence officer which was based on the testimony of a former naval commander and Kenya expatriate, named only as "Edmund", who claimed to have "personal knowledge of exactly how the 22nd Earl had died". Specifically 'Edmund' alleged that the Earl of Erroll was assassinated by the Special Operations Executive because he was a fascist sympathiser in possession of certain unspecified information which could have endangered the war effort. Whilst it is true that the Earl had earlier been a supporter of the British Union of Fascists, it seems unclear as to why if the British Government wanted to assassinate fascists it would choose to begin with the Earl of Erroll way out in Kenya, when it saw many much more important fascists closer to home.
It is now unlikely that the truth behind the Happy Valley murder will ever be known. All the major participants are now dead, no one left a deathbed confession, no new evidence has emerged. Still the case continues to fascinate, not because there is anything particularly noteworthy about the murder itself, but simply because of who was involved. As Juanita Carberry put it, "If they'd been Mr Smith and Mr Jones it would have died long ago, but because it was Sir Jock Delves Broughton and Lord Erroll, it lives on. Personally, I'm sick to the eyeballs with it."
(1) There was also an earlier made for TV movie The Happy Valley which appeared in 1987.
(2) The Lady Delamare in question being none other than Mrs Diana Broughton the former Diana Caldwell who later married the 4th Baron Delamare. Her step-daughter Elizabeth, the eldest daugher of the 4th Baron Delamere was later married for a time to Evelyn Delves Broughton, 12th Baronet Doddington, previously her step-son.
(3) Despite her name, Errol Trzebinski is in fact of British origin; her surname arises as a result of her marriage to a Polish émigré named Sbish Trzebinski.
- Did MI5 Kill Lord Erroll? Tatler March 2000
- Jonathan Clayton A bullet in the heart of Happy Valley, The Sunday Times May 01, 2005
- Simon Courtauld, White Mischief continued, The Spectator May 24, 1997
- Some assistance also provided by the IMDB and Burke's Peerage