A ‘Royal’ In the Murder of Sir Harry Oakes by Giovanni Di Stefano and Caroline Bayford

Nothing but white sands, turquoise seas, and sparkling sunshine have made the Bahamas a paradise for many years for millionaire tourists.

But on the night of 7th July 1943, while World War II was raging, the thunder of a tropical storm rocked the capital Nassau, lashing the city with high winds and pelting rain. The following morning the dawn light played upon the burnt and battered corpse of Sir Harry Oakes – one of the island’s most prominent citizens.

Alfred (Freddy) De Marigny –  Duke of Windsor

Axel Wenner-Gren    –        Harold Christie

Sir Harry’s body was found in bed at his palatial home in Nassau. His skull had been fractured by four blows from a heavy object with one or more sharp points. The body had also been partially burnt as charred remnants of his flimsy pyjamas were clung to his flesh.

He was still alive when he was set on fire, or the flesh would not have blistered as it did, a fact that was obviously not taken into consideration by the murderer. Unaccountably, feathers from a pillow had been scattered over the corpse.

Set as it were in a millionaire’s playground, the case was too become even more colourful through association with British Royalty, Mafia interests, an aristocratic French playboy, black magic rituals, and a suspected Nazi Spy. It was no wonder that the Oakes case was billed, in its day, as the Crime of the Century.

Oakes was aged 69 at the time of his death. The American born businessman had made his fortune as a gold prospector in Canada to strengthen his connection with the Canada Oakes renounced his US citizenship and became a Canadian.

He moved to the Bahamas, at the time a British Colony, because of tax advantages. Subsequently, he poured millions of pounds into the island through tourist developments and charitable works. In 1939, Oakes was made a Baronet in recognition of his services to the British Empire.

He was regarded by many as the uncrowned King of the Bahamas. In August 1940, when the Duke of Windsor was appointed Governor-General of the Islands, Sir Harry Oakes was among the first to welcome him, and, of course, Mrs Windsor nee, Wallis Simpson, the woman whom the Duke had renounced the throne.

The fascination by Sir Harry Oakes with the Duchess of Windsor started in the late autumn of 1940 when the Windsor’s were the guests of Sir Harry while the Government House was under renovation. Both Sir Harry and the Duchess were self-made people and had much in common. On the Island where the original settlers had been pirates, it would be this svengali-type fascination that the Duchess was able to sway over men that would ultimately be the death knolls for Sir Harry.

The Duke was the former King Edward VIII of England, had provoked a constitutional crisis within the British Empire when he abdicated his throne to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson whom Sir Harry Oakes found more than interesting and the said interest from the outset seemed reciprocated.

Harry Oakes in white on the left

The Duke of Windsor was appointed Governor-General of the Bahamas to isolate him from the intrigues and perils of wartime Europe. Sir Harry Oakes, the self-made millionaire, became good friends with the outcast Duke and the Duchess and with the Duke regularly played golf. During the Duke’s regular ‘nap’ he would talk and entertain Wallis.

Duke of Windsor at Polo match with Sir Harry Oakes

On the morning of the tycoons battered and burnt corpse was discovered, the Duke of Windsor, was roused immediately from his sleep by an equerry.

The Duke’s actions on that fateful day were decidedly odd and indicative of grave suspicions regarding his involvement in the death of Oakes. The Duke immediately invoked his authority under the Emergency War Powers Act to impose press censorship to try and hush the case up.

In this though he was frustrated, for the news had already been cabled out of the Bahamas and was making headlines around the world. Some hours afterwards, notably late in the day, the Duke opened enquires. Again, the Duke acted in an odd manner creating even greater suspicion by not handing the case over to the Bahamas Police or Scotland Yard as would have been the norm but instead to a personal contact named Captain Edward Melchen from the Miami police department.

The Duke’s instructions were indeed puzzling. He instructed Captain Melchen using an even odder phrase: –

“I think one of our leading citizens has committed suicide. Can you come and confirm this?”

US Detectives Baker, Conway and Melchen called in by the Duke of Windsor

No way could Sir Harry Oakes have committed suicide. When Captain Melchen arrived with a colleague named Barker to investigate the case, he came quickly to the point. “Face up to it,” Melchen told the Duke. “This is no suicide.”

Harry Oakes had made many enemies on his road to riches, but the two American investigators settled very quickly on one man as a prime suspect: Sir Harry Oakes’s son-in-law, Alfred (Freddie) de Marigny. This tall and dashing native of Mauritius had a reputation as a shiftless womaniser and was widely believed to have married Sir Harry Oakes’s eldest daughter only for her money.

The murdered tycoon had quarrelled vigorously with the playboy Freddie on many occasions.

Freddie had been near Oakes’s house on that fateful night while driving two dinner guests home late. He had the opportunity for murder. Moreover, the American detectives discovered singed hairs on the suspect’s arms, which they took as a result from the fire that had burnt Sir Harry.

The detective’s most damning piece of evidence was fingerprints of de Marigny on a Chinese screen in the murder bedroom. What the detectives did not reveal, and newly discovered documents now show, that the fingerprints of the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor were also found on various places in the bedroom.

But in the course, however, of the very much publicised trial it became clear that the detectives had bungled badly or, more sinisterly, fabricated evidence to frame de Marigny obviously to ensure no real acute suspicion would fall on the Duke of Windsor.

The significance of the singed hairs on the playboy’s arms was quickly dismissed by the defence counsel with a witness’s testimony that de Marigny had scorched himself while trying to light a candle inside a lantern at the dinner party he had hosted that night which included, of course, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The defence demonstrated that the supposedly damning fingerprints could not have been taken from the Chinese screen as claimed, but must have come from a smooth, clean surface, probably a glass or cigarette packet that the detectives handed to de Marigny during interrogation. Those were only the tip of the defence iceberg.

The trial against Freddie de Marigny began on 18 October 1943 at the Bahamas Supreme Court. The proceedings were greeted with great interest from around the globe. Reporters and eager spectators, from every socio-economic status imaginable, formed a crowd around the courthouse throughout the trial. They waited in anticipation to hear any word of what was happening within the walls of the courthouse. Moreover, reports on the trial were being conducted daily and dominated the news. In fact, the proceedings received more media attention than the war news.

Freddie had chosen barrister Godfrey Higgs to lead the defence team at trial. However, he was not Freddie’s first choice. Shortly following his arrest, Freddie had asked the police to contact his lawyer at the time, Sir Alfred Adderley. He was Nassau’s most revered barrister with an impressive history of successful cases behind him. Strangely, Adderley claimed to have never been contacted by the police subsequent to Freddie’s arrest. He would have taken the case for the defence. However, the Crown beat Freddie to the punch and enlisted Adderley to head the prosecution team.

The jury selection consisted of 12 men in total, most of whom were working-class Bahamian citizens.

Members of the jury were taken to Sir Harry Oakes’ home located in Westbourne to view the site of the murder before witnesses gave testimony. One of the more significant testimonies given at the onset of the trial was from Harold Christie.

Christie gave his account of the events that took place prior to and following the discovery of Oakes body. He told the court that he was a close friend of Oakes and that he would often spend time at his estate. Christie would sometimes sleep in the guestroom next to Oakes if the evenings at the house drew long.

In the evening before the murder, Oakes entertained several guests at his estate. Christie’s niece and her friend were at the house, along with Christie himself and two other acquaintances of Oakes. The two acquaintances were Oakes neighbours’ Mr. Charles Hubbard and Mrs. Dulcibelle. They had both been previously invited to come to the house for drinks.

Godfrey Higgs

Christie’s niece and her friend left sometime around 00:07 pm that evening, and the other three guests, including Christie, Hubbard, and Dulcibelle stayed on for dinner at the house. Christie told the court that after dinner they all played checkers until Hubbard and Dulcibelle left around 11:00 pm. Christie said that soon after all the guests had left, Oakes retired to his bedroom to read his newspaper. Christie had accompanied him, and the two chatted briefly until about 11:30 pm. Christie then went to the guestroom for the evening to read before going to sleep.

Christie said that he awoke twice sometime during the night, once to ward off attacking mosquitoes and the second time he was awakened by the raging storm outside. In both incidences he was awake for only several minutes before falling back to asleep. He claimed to have heard nothing else that evening and remained asleep until dawn the next morning.

That morning Christie ventured into Oakes room after eating breakfast. He greeted Oakes but got no reply. He claimed to have noticed upon entering the room that the mosquito net that surrounded Oakes’s bed and a portion of the bed itself was blackened and burnt. Christie went on to tell the court that he rushed over to the bed and found Oakes lying at a slant on his bed, he was half burnt, and his head was bloodied.

Daughter of Sir Harry Oakes Nancy stood by her husband

Leasor said that Christie, not fully realizing Oakes was dead, lifted Oakes’s head and proceeded to give him water from a bottle off the night table. He also tried to wipe his friend’s face with a towel from the bathroom. Christie claimed that he then ran to the bedroom porch and screamed for help. He hoped that the servants would hear his plea, but he did not know that they were off that day. Then he said that he went downstairs to call for assistance on the telephone.

Christie further claimed to have seen burn marks on the stairs and to have also noticed a little smoke coming from Oakes’s bedroom. He searched the rest of the house for signs of a fire but found none. Christie was then questioned by Sir Godfrey Higgs, Freddie’s lawyer.

During Higgs’ questioning of Christie, he asked why he had parked his car out of sight from the house when he usually parked it in clear view. Higgs suggested that Christie had done so on purpose in order to conceal the car and make a secretive journey on the night of the murder. Christie exclaimed, that his reason for parking the car a distance from the house was because he wanted to conserve gasoline and that it seemed like the “logical” thing to do at the time. Higgs pressed on the point of the car because he believed that Christie was not coming clean about the actual events of that night.

Higgs stated to the court that Christie had been seen on the fateful night as a passenger in someone’s station wagon. The defence called Captain Edward DeWitt Sears, the Superintendent of the Bahamas Police Force, to take the stand. He stated that he saw Christie as a passenger in an unknown station wagon with an unknown driver coming from Marlborough Street in Nassau around midnight. It was believed that the car Christie was traveling in came from the area of the harbour.

Sir Harry Oakes and the Duke of Windsor

What the jury didn’t know was on the evening prior to Oakes body being found, there was rumour of a strange boat having been seen tied up in Nassaus harbour. According to Leasor, a night watchman working at the harbour saw the powerboat with two strange men in it leaving the boat and getting into an unknown car. It was suggested that Higgs was one of those men. However, Christie denied that he left the house on the night of the murder. Strangely, the night watchman was unable to give his testimony at the trial because he had mysteriously drowned soon after Freddie was incarcerated.

Dr. Hugh Quackenbush took the stand and gave testimony for the defence. He stated that when he went to examine Oakes body shortly after being discovered, he noticed that a portion of the mattress was still smouldering from the fire. During his inspection, he also noticed blisters located at various points on Oakes’s body: on the neck, on one foot, on one leg and the chest area. He stated that the blisters most likely formed before death, suggesting that some other trauma other than the fire produced them. Dr. Quackenbush further stated that he believed the time of death to have occurred sometime between 2 am and 5 am in the morning of 8 July 1943. There was no clear indication as to what could have produced the blisters on Sir Harry Oakes’ body.

Dr. Laurence Fitzmaurice, who performed the post mortem on Oakes, was called to testify. His findings were similar to Dr. Quackenbush’s. However, he described in greater detail the wounds on Oakes’ head.

Dr. Fitzmaurice told the court that he saw that Oakes’ skull had been cracked, most probably by a heavy blunt object. He found triangular-like wounds a few inches in diameter, which were concentrated on and behind the left earlobe. The wounds indicated that the blunt instrument had a “well defined edge.”

Following the doctor’s testimony, there were several other witnesses who told of encounters that they had with Freddie de Marigny. One of the witnesses was Constable Wendell Parker of the Bahamas Police Department, who said he saw Freddie on the morning of the murder. He said that Freddie had walked into the police station, looking very distressed and asking if the police could inspect his car, which had recently been changed into a truck. The constable said that Freddie came to the station sometime around 7:30 am, which he considered unusual because most people inquiring at the station came around 9 am.

Leasor writes about Mr. Thomas Lavelle who testified that he overheard a conversation between Freddie and Oakes. He said that they were standing in front of Freddie’s house when he and a colleague passed by. He claimed that Oakes seemed upset with Freddie and overheard him say not to write letters to his wife. Oakes also allegedly called him a sex maniac.

There was another character witness who testified against Freddie, mostly confirming the stressed relationship he had with Oakes. However, some of the most interesting testimony came from the two detectives, Captain Melchen and Captain Barker. Their testimony gave more insight into how poorly the investigation was conducted.

During Barkers and Melchens testimony, it became clear that the investigation was incompetent. There was even speculation that the two investigators were attempting to hide something. However, exactly what they were allegedly hiding, if anything, was never revealed.

We now know it was the involvement of the Duke of Windsor.

One of the main things called into question by the defence was the collection and identification of fingerprints at the scene of the crime. Barker claimed he discovered Freddies fingerprint on the Chinese screen located in Oakes’s bedroom on 9 July. Barker told the press of the positive identification of the print, which lead to Freddie’s arrest. Interestingly, Melchen claimed that Barker never informed him of the fingerprint being positively identified as Freddie’s until Oakes’s funeral on July 15th. Even more bizarre was that Melchen contradicted himself under oath, because he had previously told the court during the preliminary hearing that he was unaware that the fingerprint belonged to Freddie until 19 or 20 July.

Another of the more important items brought into questioning was the timing of the interview with Freddie. Melchen claimed to have interviewed Freddie between 3:00 and 4:00 pm on the day after Oakes’ body was found. Testimony given by two other police officers supported his statement. However, the timing of the interview was contradicted by a report made by Lieutenant Douglas of the Bahamas Police Department, who claimed that Freddie had left the house somewhere around 1:30 and 2:00 pm, Melchen later admitted to making a mistake about the time. Ernest Callender, another lawyer for the defence scoffed at Melchens mistake and said that he found it to be highly coincidental that he and the two police officers made the same mistake.

Matters became worse for the prosecution when Barker was asked to take the stand. While under intense questioning by the defence team, Barker was found to have employed an unusual method of lifting the alleged print of Freddie from off the Chinese screen. Normal practice for lifting a print would be to first dust the print with black powder to make it more visible, photograph it with a special latent-fingerprint camera and then lift the print from the surface with scot

ch tape. This prevents damaging the evidence on the surface, as well as on the lifted print. However, Barker used a piece of rubber to lift the print from the screen, destroying the actual print in the process.

Higgs claimed that Barker did not actually lift Freddie’s print from off the screen, but from a smoother surface, such as the water glass that Freddie was drinking from during the interview. Barker refuted Higgs statement and said that he obtained it from the screen. Surprisingly, when Higgs presented the Chinese screen to Barker in the courtroom, Barker could not remember exactly where he found the print.

The actual print on the screen was destroyed when Barker lifted it using rubber and he was the only witness to have claimed that it came from there.

During additional testimony from Barker, the court learned that he had made more errors at the crime scene. Barker failed to conduct a thorough investigation by not dusting for fingerprints on the footboard of the bed and other key areas of the room. Moreover, Barker failed to obtain the fingerprints of all the people who visited the room for purposes of elimination following the body’s discovery. In fact, he lied in the beginning of his testimony and said he obtained everyone’s fingerprints that visited the scene, only to change his story and admit that he did not. Barker was also questioned as to why he withheld from Melchen the discovery of Freddie’s print for such a long period of time. Barker was unable to answer. Barker’s testimony proved to be severely damaging to the prosecution and to his own credibility.

Freddie gave insightful testimony when he was called into the witness box on the same day. Freddie spoke of his marriage and the difficulties they experienced with his father and mother-in-law. He said that Oakes often seemed enraged at him, and he was unclear to the exact reasons for it. It was believed that Oakes never forgave Freddie for marrying their daughter.

Freddie told the court that on the night prior to the murder he was entertaining several guests at his home.

He said that most of the guests left around midnight, and he drove one other guest home at around 1:00 am. He returned home at about 1:45 am, Freddie claimed that he was not alone in the house. His friend Georges and his girlfriend were also there in another room. Freddie retired sometime around 2:00 am but was awakened by his friend’s cat sometime around 3:00 am. During that time, he also heard his friend Georges car leave the house, taking his girlfriend home and returning back at around 3:15 am.

When Georges arrived home, Freddie called to him to get his cat from his room, which he did. Freddie then went back to sleep, waking up only briefly to take some medicine for indigestion. He claimed to have awakened around 6:30 am.  At 10:30 am that morning he learned of Oakes’ death from a friend named Mr. Anderson. Freddie, Mr. Anderson and Georges went to Oakes’s home shortly thereafter. They arrived at the Oakes estate and noticed that several other people, including neighbours of Oakes, were viewing the crime scene. Freddie stated that he and his companions left after they learned details about the death. He then sent a telegram to his wife to come home and went to Mr. Anderson’s home for lunch to discuss the shocking news.

Freddie said that he went back to Oake’s home, where he was questioned by Melchen and Barker. They inspected Freddie’s hands and found evidence of singed hairs, which they also found on his beard. Freddie told them the singed hairs came from lighting his cigars and from cooking on his gas stove at home.

Barker and Melchen then asked to see the clothes he wore the previous evening and they accompanied him to Freddie’s home. While there, Freddie showed them several shirts from the laundry basket, not remembering the exact one he wore on the night in question. The investigators inspected the shirts, found nothing, and left. Lt. Douglas, who also accompanied the investigators to Freddie’s house stayed behind on Freddie’s request.

Freddie’s friend Georges testified next. Adderley, representing the prosecution, asked Georges for his account of the events that took place on the evening of the murder. George’s account was consistent with Freddie’s. Georges claimed that he had spoken with Freddie at around 01:30 am that evening and had also gone into Freddie’s room around 03:00 am to retrieve his cat. Then Adderley read from a statement Georges had made to the police in which he stated he did not see Freddie between 11:00 pm that night and 10:00 am, the next morning. The court was shocked by the inconsistencies with the two statements.

The defence team’s Ernest Callender cross-examined Georges and learned that the details of the night had been slightly skewed by the prosecution. Callender read Georges statement verbatim to the court, where he claimed that Georges spoke with Freddie through the door to his room at 1:30 am, but had not actually seen him. In other words, the defence was able to show that Freddie was actually home on the evening in question during that time.

One of the last witnesses to be interviewed was Nancy de Marigny. She told the court of her parents’ disagreeable attitude towards her husband and how she disapproved of it. She also told the court that she decided to not communicate with her parents as long as their behaviour towards her husband persisted. However, the most interesting part of Nancys testimony was when she claimed to have been approached by Barker and Melchen after her father’s funeral.

According to Nancy, the two investigators paid her and her mother a visit. During the visit, the investigators exclaimed that the prints, referring to more than one, had been positively identified as Freddie’s. She told the court how Barker and Melchen said that they were found on the Chinese screen in her father’s bedroom. Her statement grossly contradicted the confused testimony given earlier by Melchen and Barker concerning their knowledge of the print identification.

On 12 November 1943, a little more than a month after the trial had begun; the defence and prosecution teams rested their cases and awaited a verdict. Hundreds of people crowded before the courthouse waiting to hear of Freddie’s fate.

Other disquieting features of the investigation emerged. It transpired that the Commissioner of the Police in the Bahamas had not believed in the case against de Marigny and had stated as an aside to a colleague that the “murderer was probably closer to Royalty” but would have a “devilish of a job to prove it.”

The Duke of Windsor as Governor-General had him transferred to Trinidad with the result that he could not testify at the trial. Vital fingerprint evidence had been destroyed or ignored, including a bloody handprint on the wall which was invariable that of the Duke of Windsor or his equerry.

Camera film of the handprint was mysteriously exposed to the light and ruined.

Two watchmen who might have shed light on the murder one who was in the grounds of the Oakes house and another in the adjacent Nassau Country Club simply vanished without a trace.

It took the jury only two hours to reach their verdict: – NOT GUILTY.

No one else was ever charged with the crime. But many theories were allowed to fester in order to defray from the real killer.

One theory points to a Mafia connection through a tough, intelligent gangster called Meyer Lansky who ran the Mafia operations in Florida and Cuba. Lansky badly wanted to open a gambling casino in Nassau, a city close to Miami and already well known to the mafia’s powerboat skippers, who had once used it as a base for running the Joe Kennedy bootleg alcohol into the United States.

Meyer Lansky

Gambling was illegal in the Bahamas, but perhaps that could have changed, through the influence of Sir Harry Oakes and the Duke of Windsor. There were, however, exceptions and one could apply for gambling licenses. These were introduced coincidentally in 1940 when the Duke of Windsor arrived as Governor-General.

The first anti-gambling law in the Bahamas was passed in 1901 and was gradually strengthened to create an absolute ban on the operation of lotteries and gaming houses for a profit. But in 1940 the law was amended to allow exceptions to this rule.

This change was prompted by the opening of a small casino on a seasonal basis at Cat Cay, and the realisation by those in government at that time that this venture and a casino which had been openly operated since 1920 at the Bahamian Club on the western outskirts of Nassau were quite illegal.

The amendment was piloted by a young lawyer named Stafford Sands, a friend of both the Duke of Windsor and Sir Harry Oakes, allowed the government to exempt any person, club, or charity from the law’s provisions. The effect was to create a licensing procedure, and the two small foreign-owned casinos were immediately regularized.

The finances of the Duke of Windsor were not what they were. His expenses were high, and standard of living required substantial capital that he did not have, having renounced much when he chose Wallis instead of the throne of England.

Was Sir Harry murdered on the orders of the Duke to ensure all the gaming profits would be kept by him? Did the Duke murder Sir Harry for other reasons? It was well known that Sir Harry Oakes had made a play for Wallis Simpson which according to polite society seemed reciprocated.

The ritualistic elements of the murder the fire and feathers were seen by some as a trademark of the Mafia and a contract killing.

It is interesting to note that Captain James Barker, one of the two Miami policemen brought into the case by the Duke of Windsor, was to die in 1952 corrupt, a drug addict, and on Meyer Lansky’s payroll.

He was about to expose the real killer and the role of the Duke of Windsor when he ‘died.’

Suspicion also fell on Harold Christie, a Bahamian property developer who was Sir Harry Oakes best friend. Christie had dined with Sir Harry on that fateful night and slept in a bedroom just down the corridor from the murder bedroom. In fact, it was he who discovered the body and raised the alarm.

He and Oakes were the only two people in the house that night, and Christie swore on oath that he never left the building after going to bed at 11:00 pm. However, a local traffic policeman, Captain Edward Sears, testified that he saw Christie in George Street, Nassau at 01:00 am, on the day of the murder travelling in a car speeding away from Nassau harbour.

Sears had known Christie all his life and had no apparent motive to lie. Although Christie was widely thought of as a public-spirited, kindly man, he may have had some involvement with alcohol running to Florida during the Prohibition.

He may well have known more about Harry Oakes case than ever emerged at the trial. One version of events proposed that Christie and Oakes went to Nassau Harbour to meet friends of Meyer Lansky on a powerboat. Oakes was beaten up there before being driven back to his home, with Christie scared to death in the passenger seat. That could explain the mud tracks found on the stairs, and the evidence that suggested that, after being beaten, Sir Harry had been turned over or repositioned on the bed.

Although the corpse was lying on its back, blood from the wound at the back of the head had run across the face, indicating that the corpse must have been faced down at some time.

Another theory, more forthright, accuses Christie of killing his best friend Oakes because he was about to ruin him financially. In fact, new evidence from the FBI archives clearly shows that the Bahamas police strongly believed Christie was the murderer but were prevented from proceeding on “orders.”

Wenner-Gren had set up a bank in Mexico, and he was without a doubt helping a selected few from the Bahamas, including the Duke of Windsor, to evade wartime currency restrictions through the bank. Big money combined with a pro-fascist government in Mexico would have made Sir Harry a figure of keen interest to both Allied and Axis intelligence. He could, it was said, have fallen foul of either.

Other speculation focused on the ritualistic elements of the murder. Some suggest that the fire and the feathers were linked with the Bahamian magical practice called “Obeah,” which is comparable with Haitian voodoo.

Some even suggested that the Duke of Windsor tried to hush up the case because the notion of such a prominent citizen being a victim of a black cult murder would inflame racial tensions on an island that had seen recent riots.

In 1944 the Duke of Windsor was asked to re-open the case, but he steadfastly refused. He had good cause.

There were realistically four prime suspects: –

First Suspect – Wenner-Gren:

Oakes had become friendly with the rich, Swedish born businessman Wenner-Gren who lived on the island with his American wife and had acquired the largest yacht in the world as part of his millionaire lifestyle. Gren was an astute and wily businessman who had made a fortune through selling light bulbs and household electrical equipment. More disturbingly, he was known to be a close friend of key Nazi figure Hermann Goering as well as many other infamous tyrants.

One theory is that Gren killed or had Oakes murdered, because the victim had unearthed several secrets about him, including information that he may have been a spy for the Germans.

Second Suspect – Harold Christie:

Oakes good friend also came under suspicion due to his association with mobster Frank Marshall who himself was linked with the notorious Mafia boss Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano.

Christie, who had become a wealthy man in his own right by purchasing land in Nassau and becoming a real estate broker, had big plans for the island and the Bahamas. He envisaged a lucrative tourist trade that encompassed golf courses and hotels.

Christie became involved with Frank Marshall, who wanted to build casinos on the island despite the prohibitive laws preventing such developments. However, Marshall had reckoned with the influence of Christies prominent friends, such as Oakes and the Duke of Windsor, they would be able to circumvent restrictions. But Oakes, was said to be displeased with the idea, and his refusal to co-operate angered Christie, who saw his old friend as an obstacle to making millions.

Third Suspect – Frank Marshall and the Mob:

Marshall was known to have had a great deal of pressure put on him by his American business partners, who were more than likely Mafia figures. It was believed to be Mafia mobster Lucky Luciano’s idea to build casinos on the island, and who realised that with Christie and the Duke of Windsor’s influence and help, he had the means to do it. Therefore, it may not be too difficult to imagine Luciano’s frustration and anger with Oakes, who refused to take part in the scheme. Oakes violent and bloody death seems to fit the kind of grisly end metered out to victims by mobsters of the day.

Fourth Suspect – The Duke of Windsor:

The former King of England himself did not escape suspicion when one theory arose that Oakes may have discovered possible evidence of the Dukes dealings with the Nazi party and Wenner-Gren that threatened to expose the Duke as a traitor and spy.

When Sir Harry Oakes ‘died,’ he left a mere $12,000,000 with almost $200/300 million missing. He was in business with Christie and had loaned Christie millions. With Oakes dead he never had to repay the money he owed. He became a significant property developer in the Bahamas and made many millions. By sublime irony he was knighted by the Duke’s niece, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1964. Christies most successful property speculation occurred when he bought up some marshy land to the west of Nassau and sold it for redevelopment. It became a luxurious gated community that was named Lyford Cay.

Christie died, a very wealthy man, in 1973.

The Duke of Windsor was by no means sorry that Oakes was dead, and that he invariable played a major role. It was common knowledge that the ‘tricks’ the Queen Mother had spoken about that Wallis Simpson had learned in the brothels of Singapore had worked their charm not only on the Duke of Windsor but also on Sir Harry Oakes.

A royal or not so royal involved in a murder of passion. Did he do it himself? Or did he have an accomplice or both? It matters not. David Windsor, the Duke of Windsor was involved in a sordid affair having to bear witness to his wife’s dalliances.

On that fateful rainy night something snapped.

In later life the Duke of Windsor avoided all conversation about the death of Oakes and became visibly upset whenever it was innocently alluded too. His verdict on the Oakes murder, when he made his official report to London, was telling. He wrote: “The whole circumstances of the case are sordid beyond description.”

“Sordid beyond description.”

No one was better placed to make such a judgment.

Soon to be a docu/drama

©gdistefano 2012 – All Rights Reserved

First published:





NB: Some images retrieved from Google, will remove at owner’s request.