Historical Murders presented by Paul Stickler


Murder of Lord Erroll

aka Murder and the Happy Valley set

24 January 1941

In 1925, Joss Hay (soon to become Lord Erroll) moved to the Wanjohi Valley, near Nairobi, Kenya with his new wife, Idina.

The couple soon became attracted to the ‘Happy Valley Set’, a group of social elites who engaged in drunken sexual orgies from which several jealousies arose. Joss divorced but continued several other sexual relationships with members of the set. In November 1940, a newly-wed beauty by the name of Diana Broughton arrived in Kenya with her husband, Jock Broughton, but it was not long before Joss and Diana were in a full relationship; she had only been married 6 weeks. Her recently acquired husband was naturally jealous and annoyed and tried to convince Joss to end the relationship but he refused.

Illustration for the The Murder of Lord Erroll
“In every bedroom a bottle of whisky and tumblers stood on a tray, and on each pillow a pair of folded silk pyjamas”

On the evening of 23 January 1941, and despite the antagonism which had arisen, Jock Broughton invited Joss and Diana to dinner at the Muthaiga Club and appeared to demonstrate acceptance of the new relationship and blessed it with an heir.

However, before leaving for the evening, Jock Broughton asked that Joss bring his wife home by 3 o’clock that morning. Joss took Diana home shortly before 3am and then drove off in his Buick motor car. At that time Jock Broughton was thought to be upstairs in the house, intoxicated by liquor and fast asleep. Within 20 minutes, Joss had been shot dead by a single bullet to the head as he drove his car along the Ngong Road.

A police investigation naturally focussed on Jock Broughton and despite his claims to be fast asleep in bed at the time, he was charged with Joss’s murder. He was acquitted. Stories have developed since about the jealousies which arose out of the Happy Valley sex parties and there were several people who would have reason to be annoyed with Lord Erroll. Rumours even emerged that his death was connected to his fascist leanings and that greater forces were at play, but his death remains a mystery to this day.

The victim...
Victim Image
Josslyn Victor Hay

Born on 11 May 1901 and became the 22nd Earl of Erroll upon the death of his father in 1928. Although the family seat was at Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, Joss spent much of his time following his father’s career as a diplomatic around Europe. Joss was Eton-educated (although dismissed after only two years) and had developed a talent for languages: he was fluent in French and German. He married Lady Idina Sackville in 1923 before settling in Kenya and becoming a member of the infamous ‘Happy Valley Set’. They had one child from the relationship, Diana Denyse Hay. The couple divorced in 1929 and Joss engaged in several sexual relationships. He was an active Kenyan politician who had fascist sympathies probably due to his close association with Oswald Mosley. Upon the outbreak of the second world war, he was appointed to the Kenya Regiment and made Assistant Military Secretary. In November 1940, he met and fell in love with the newly-married Diana Broughton, which led to the turbulent build-up of his murder on 24 January 1941.

Another pile of photos from The Murder of Lord Erroll
  • What exactly was the Happy Valley Set?

    A group of American and European socialites who engaged in drink- and drug-fuelled orgies which could last for several days. Marriage was no bar to becoming involved but consequently, many jealousies and divorces soon followed. They were not, however, typical of the ex-pat communities and their activities were frowned upon, particularly as their antics overlapped with others who were suffering as the second world war spread across Europe.

  • What happened to Jock and Diana Broughton after the trial?

    Neither of them were properly accepted by Kenyan society again and they divorced. Jock travelled a little before returning to England where he committed suicide in the Adelphi hotel in Liverpool on 5 December 1942. Diana remarried twice more in Kenya before dying on 3 September 1987 in Ascot, England.

  • Was the murder weapon ever found?

    No. Erroll was shot with a .32 calibre weapon which produced five right-handed grooves on the bullet. Broughton owned a similar weapon which had apparently been stolen from his house only a few days before the murder, but the certificates showed that his gun would have produced six grooves. This inevitably led to Broughton’s acquittal. There were several rumours about the weapon being thrown into a river, but none has ever been proved.

  • What was the suggestion that Erroll’s death was because of his political leanings?

    This has a complicated answer and I cover it in detail in my talk. In short, it is argued that Erroll’s fascist leanings at a time of war with Germany and Italy, made him subject of attention by the security services. He may have been seen as a threat to British military strategy in Africa and he needed to be eliminated. However, I have not seen any evidence of this theory but that is not to say that it has no basis.

  • Do any of the buildings used by the Happy Valley Set remain today?

    Apparently not. Much more detail may be found in Juliet Barnes’ book, The Ghosts of Happy Valley, published in 2013.

Further reading...
Cover of The Temptress

The Temptress

Paul Spicer


Cover of The Life and Death of Lord Erroll

The Life and Death of Lord Erroll

Errol Trzebinski


Cover of White Mischief

White Mischief

James Fox



The Murder of Lord Erroll case is available as a presentation. Whether delivered on world-wide cruise ships or in a local village hall, it's absorbing, informative, and entertaining. Contact Paul Stickler for more information...

Paul Stickler presenting on stage on a cruise ship