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Last Clue to 1941 Kenya Murder Dies With Aristocrat

September 20, 1987|MICHELLE FAUL | Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — Lady Diana Delamere took with her to the grave any secrets she possessed about the unsolved murder of her aristocratic lover, an English earl whose death scandalized colonial Kenya 46 years ago.

"With her death, history has been robbed of the last witness to the events surrounding the murder of her lover, Lord Erroll," author James Fox wrote in London's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Lady Diana was 76 when she died of a stroke Sept. 3 in Ascot, England.

She was buried in the shade of a fig tree in a small cemetery she built at Soysambu Ranch, about 100 miles northwest of Nairobi.

Last to See Erroll

Born Diana Caldwell, she was married to the man accused of the murder and was the last person who acknowledged seeing Erroll alive. She did not testify at the trial of her husband, Sir Jock Delves Broughton, who was acquitted for lack of evidence.

Wellborn women, envious of her beauty and her attraction for men, cited her commoner background. To them, she was a scarlet woman who shamed society.

She was a striking beauty with cool, pale-blue eyes and a mass of blond hair, Fox wrote in his book "White Mischief," which concluded that Broughton killed Erroll.

The victim was the Right Honorable Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll, Baron of Kilmarnock and High Constable of Scotland. His slogan, "To hell with husbands," may have led to his death, Fox conjectures.

Movie-Idol Looks

The earl--blond, with movie-idol looks--was at the center of a small, wild group of Britons who whooped it up in Kenya during World War II years.

Their sexual exploits, drunken brawls and endless rounds of parties--interspersed with horse racing and big-game hunting--shocked a community of settlers toiling to carve farmland from African bush.

When Erroll met Diana in 1941, he already had scandalized British aristocracy by eloping to Kenya with a married woman, Lady Idina Gordon, whom he later married.

She apparently did not mind his many love affairs. "Idina was only happy . . . if all her guests had swapped partners, wives or husbands by nightfall," Fox wrote in his book.

Divorced Over Debt

The two were divorced amid rows about debts he ran up in her name.

By 1941, Erroll was the widower of an older and richer woman, Molly Ramsay Hill, who had supported him until she died of drink and drugs. Diana had been married for six months to Broughton, a 57-year-old divorced man who had signed a peculiar marriage agreement with her.

Broughton agreed not to stand in the way should Diana fall in love with a younger man and to provide her with a comfortable income for at least seven years after a divorce.

On Jan. 24, 1941, Erroll's body, with a bullet wound behind the ear, was found jammed under the steering wheel of his car just outside Nairobi.

Toasted Union

Diana had told Broughton the day before that she loved Erroll and wanted a divorce. The night that Erroll died, the three dined at Nairobi's exclusive Muthaiga Club, where Broughton toasted the union between Diana and Erroll with champagne.

Armed with reports of quarrels between Broughton and Erroll, police arrested Broughton and brought him to trial.

He was acquitted, and Diana later left him. He committed suicide the same year.

A month after Broughton died, Diana married Gilbert Covile.

Odd Match

Few people understood the attraction.

Covile, one of the richest men in Kenya, was a taciturn, lonely cattle rancher who would not even talk to women.

But he oversaw Diana's rehabilitation into society. Noted for being close-fisted, he indulged her passion for jewels and couturier clothes. He bought her Djinn Palace, once Erroll's home.

Then Diana fell in love for the last time, with Lord Tom Delamere.

Left With Millions

Covile agreed to an amicable divorce in 1955. When he died, he left Diana estates worth millions of dollars.

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