Sir Jock Delves Broughton

Sir Henry ‘Jock’ Delves Broughton (1883-1942) has the misfortune to be remembered as the prime suspect in the infamous, unsolved murder of Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll in Kenya in 1941. The Happy Valley Murder sent shockwaves through an Empire at war and has continued to fascinate following a best-selling 1982 book by James Fox entitled White Mischief and the subsequent 1988 film starring Charles Dance as Erroll, Greta Scaachi as Diana and Joss Ackland as Sir Jock Delves Broughton.

Delves Broughton was born at Doddington Hall in Cheshire and inherited the baronetcy in 1914 a year after his first marriage to Vera Griffith-Boscawen. As Captain of the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards, Sir Jock did not see active service during World War I due to ill-health. A gambler and man of the turf who was part of the consortium that owned Ensbury Park race course in Dorset, Sir Jock sustained repeated losses and was forced to sell-off the lion’s share of the family estates to settle bad debts.

In 1939 Sir Jock was suspected of insurance fraud having reported the theft of Lady Vera’s pearls and several important paintings from Doddington Hall though he was never formally charged. Within months of the incident Sir Jock, who was fifty-six, divorced Lady Vera and married twenty-six-year-old platinum blonde beauty Diana Caldwell. White Mischief intimates that the newlyweds had an arrangement whereby if Diana fell in love with another man she would be released with a stipend paid by Sir Jock. The couple emigrated to Kenya in 1940 on the eve of World War Two and fell-in with the louche, aristocratic ex-pat community known as the Happy Valley Set.

The Earl of Erroll, whose charms were magnified because he was wearing the khaki uniform as Assistant Military Secretary of Kenya, was Nairobi’s most infamous swordsman. The Earl had bedded countless willing wives and daughters in the colony following the death of his first wife Lady Molly from an overdose of heroin and alcohol. By 1940 he was living alone in his villa the Djin Palace having divorced second wife Lady Idina. The scandalous Lady Idina was the ring master of the Happy Valley Set for whom sex, opiates and liquor dulled the boredom of colonial life.

Diana Delves-Broughton succumbed to the Earl’s charms on sight and, unusually for the amorous Erroll, he resolved to make her his third countess. Sir Jock gave his blessing to the union over dinner at the Muthaiga Club on the night before the Earl of Erroll’s murder. He and fellow guest June Carberry left the Earl and Diana at the Muthaiga Club on the condition that Erroll brought Diana home before 3am. This he did at 2.30am but the next morning was found on the road from Sir Jock’s estates in his car with a bullet to the temple miles from the nearest dwelling.

June Carberry’s daughter Juanita visited Sir Jock’s compound on the morning the body had been discovered. She told the police that she’d witnessed an inconsolable Diana arguing with her husband and a bonfire in the grounds with what looked like men’s clothing and a new pair of plimsoll shoes being consigned to the flames. She would later write in her memoir that Sir Jock had confessed to her that he had shot the Earl.

Though there was no shortage of suspects for the murder of the Earl of Erroll – jealous husbands, jilted former flames such as Alice de Janzé and Diana Delves-Broughton – it was Sir Jock who was arrested and tried. Giving evidence, Sir Jock told the court that a few nights before the Earl’s death a burglar had stolen a silver cigarette case, some money and two of his pistols from his home. The fundamental question was how the murderer had made his escape with the absence of tyre tracks anywhere near the Earl’s abandoned car. Also there were mysterious scuff marks on the back seat of the Earl’s car that appeared to have been made by white shoes.

Sir Jock was acquitted there being insufficient evidence for a conviction though he was ostracised by the ex-pat community and returned to England leaving Diana in the arms of her second husband the wealthy land owner Gilbert Colville. In December 1942 Sir Jock was found dying from a morphine overdose in the Britannia Adelphi hotel in Liverpool. The inquest recorded a verdict of suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed.

The conspiracy theories persist but from Juanita Carberry’s evidence it appears that Sir Jock had secreted himself in the Earl of Erroll’s car when he dropped Diana off at 2.30am, shot Erroll in the head from the back seat of the car and organised his neighbour Dr Athan Philip to pick him up at a pre-ordained spot which is why he insisted Erroll bring Diana home by 3am sharp.

Diana Delves-Broughton was the only member of the Happy Valley Set to emerge relatively unscathed from the scandal. Colville was one of the wealthiest landowners in Kenya and, on his death, left her a not inconsiderable fortune. Her fourth and last marriage made Diana Lady Delamere and in the 60s and 70s she, her husband Tom and Lady Patricia Fairweather lived in a ménage-a-trois. She became known as ‘the White Queen of Africa’.

(c) James Sherwood

 

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