a pimple on the arse of the empire

Sir Harry Oakes (1874-1943) was a wealthy goldmine owner who earned his fortune in Canada and moved to the Bahamas for tax purposes.

Sir Harry and the Duke of Windsor found here

On the night of 7 July 1943, Sir Harry Oakes went to bed in his magnificent home in Cable Beach. The next morning one of his house guests found the millionaire had been battered to death and his partly burnt body strewn with white feathers.

bearded white tit found here

The case that followed resulted in one of the most famous trials – and acquittals – of the day. His death is one of the great unsolved murders. It had everything: the involvement of the Duke of Windsor, who was governor of the Bahamas at the time; the Mafia; crooked lawyers; corrupt police; fake aristocrats and greedy playboys. There was even a walk-on role for the novelist Ernest Hemingway, and one of the American journalists sent to Nassau to cover the case was Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason.

Ernest Hemingway found here

Suspicion fell on Sir Harry’s son-in-law, Count Alfred de Marigny, a French Mauritian. The “Count” was not popular among the Bahamian set. He was considered a cad, a fake aristocrat, and a gold-digger. Married twice before, he had eloped with Sir Harry’s teenage daughter, Nancy, the day she became old enough to inherit her father’s fortune. The Duke of Windsor despised De Marigny, describing him as “an unscrupulous adventurer with an evil reputation for immoral conduct with young girls”. De Marigny was equally rude about the Duke, dismissing him as “a pimple on the arse of the Empire”.

Count Alfred De Marigny found here

Sir Harry had been struck twice on the skull with a sharp instrument. There had also been an attempt to set his bedroom on fire, using inflammable insecticide. The case against De Marigny centred on discovery of his fingerprints on a screen in Sir Harry’s bedroom. But the defence proved the fingerprint had been lifted and placed in the bedroom, almost certainly by the Miami detectives. Despite being acquitted, De Marigny was deported. He fled with his bride to stay with their friend Ernest Hemingway in Cuba.

1940s Cuban postcard found here

The lack of a conviction led to speculation, including talk of a Mafia hit in revenge for Sir Harry’s opposition to the legalisation of gambling on the islands. His friend Harold Christie, a former rum smuggler as well as a property speculator, was also a suspect. Others named the tycoon’s lawyer, Walter Foskett, as the man responsible for the killing.¬†Further evidence suggests the Duke may have stifled the murder inquiry, possibly to save his reputation and to protect two of his friends who fell under suspicion.

Duke and Duchess and friend found here

Oakes’s murderer was never identified by official investigation, and there were no subsequent court proceedings after de Marigny’s acquittal. The case received worldwide press coverage at the time, with photos of the beautiful and charming Nancy de Marigny in court. It has been the subject of continuous interest ever since, with several books and films, even into the 21st century.

Nancy Oakes found here

De Marigny and Nancy separated in 1945, and were divorced in 1949. Nancy left Cuba in the late 1940s, and lived in Hollywood, where she had a long love affair with 1950s actor Richard Greene. They remained close friends until his death.

Richard Greene found here