Harry Oakes

The richest man in the Bahamas was found dead on the morning of July 8, 1943. He’d been beaten in the head with a spiked club, doused in gasoline, and covered with feathers from a pillow. The murderer had then tried to set him on fire, but the blaze hadn’t taken.

Harry Oakes had made his money in the gold mines of Canada before moving to the Bahamian capital of Nassau to escape taxes. The governor of the islands at the time was the Duke of Windsor, formerly the King of England. He’d been friends with the recently deceased Oakes and, rather than allowing the local police to investigate, he called in two detectives from Miami whom he knew personally.

It wasn’t long before Oakes’s son-in-law, Alfred de Marigny, was arrested and charged. Oakes had never liked de Marigny, and the young man stood to inherit a large fortune if Oakes died. That gave de Marigny two motives, so when his fingerprint was found at the crime scene, he was immediately put on trial. The defense showed that the duke’s private detectives had planted the fingerprint in order to bring an end to the situation as soon as possible, and de Marigny was acquitted.

Another key suspect was Oakes’s business partner, Harold Christie, who had been staying at the house that night. Christie claimed that he’d been asleep and had heard nothing around the time Oakes was killed. He had a motive, as he owed Oakes money that he couldn’t pay. De Marigny himself wrote after his trial, “In my mind there is no doubt whatsoever that Harold Christie should have been tried and hanged for the murder of Sir Harry Oakes.”

Witnesses later claimed to have seen Christie out of the house around the time the murderer would have expected the body to be going up in flames, even though he denied ever leaving. Christie was never really investigated, and never received a trial. Others have blamed the Mafia, who had hoped to organize a gambling racket in the Bahamas (possibly in cahoots with the Duke of Windsor) but had run into opposition from Oakes.