“He who goes to law holds a wolf by the ears.”

In 1943, the most accomplished lawyer in the Bahamas was the Honourable Alfred Francis Adderley. With 25 years of experience to his credit, Adderley’s legal genius, razor sharp mind and crisp British educated mannerisms assured that when the highly challenging, most high profile cases came along, they were given to him – the best legal mind in the Colony.

A. F. Adderley’s legal expertise was confirmed by the Colony’s executive branch, after it was approved that he, as Assistant Prosecutor and not the lead prosecutor, would present the case for Crown.

After the arrest of scoundrel son-in-law, Alfred de Marigny, for the murder of millionaire, Sir Harry Oakes, (committed sometime between the evening hours of July 7th and early morning hours of 8th July 1943), the Hon. A. F. Adderley, was chosen to be Assistant Prosecutor.

As the trial concluded, its thoroughly unexpected outcome catapulted this haunting murder case to the top spot of incredible crimes in Bahamian history. Despite overwhelming evidence presented in court, aided by the best legal minds and investigators, the murder of Sir Oakes remains unsolved to this very day. The accused, Marie Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny, was acquitted of all charges by a jury of his peers.

De Marigny’s sensational acquittal reminds of the proverb “He who goes to law holds a wolf by the ears.”

Full transcript, of A. F. Adderley’s opening statement for the prosecution is presented below.

Adderley’s opening statements were considered to be the most brilliant speech, given at trial, in the history of the Bahamas Bar.

Negro Lawyer A. F. Adderley Opening Statement In Oakes Murder Trial

“May it please Your Honor, Mr Foreman and gentlemen of the jury.

The duty which you are to discharge is the most important and serious, nay, solemn which men can possibly be required by their country to perform. Your duty is to sit in judgement for the purpose of determining a matter the result of which determination hangs the life of a fellow-creature who is charged with the capital offence of “wilful murder,” one of the most serious crimes for which a human being can be charged and tried before his peers.

Marie Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny is charged with the following offence:

Murder, contrary to Section 335 of the Penal Code (Chapter 60). Particulars of offence being that: Marie Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny during the night of the 7th and 8th July, 1943, at New Providence, murdered Sir Harry Oakes Bt.

It is murder for a person of sound memory and discretion unlawfully to kill any human creature in being and under the King’s peace. With malice aforethought, either expressed or implied by law, provided the person killed, dies of the injury inflicted within a year and a day after the same.

At the outset I must impress upon you the seriousness of this occasion and the terrible nature of the case which is to crave your time and painful attention over many days in this court.

It is true that you have been called away from your families and businesses for many days, but when you remember the procedure which is adopted in Criminal trials where the facts against an accused person are finally placed in the hands of twelve men, you will without doubt appreciate the all important part which you play in the administration of justice.

THIS case has attracted the attention of the English-speaking world, the press of far-flung lands has focused its searchlight and the sort of stories dealing with early and intimate life of the accused in the dock as well as of the good man who was brutally done to death.

I must enjoin you against being influenced by the discussions which have taken place in connection with this crime of such world-wide notoriety. You must avoid being influenced by the sensational writings, opinions and theories on this case which have taken so much space in papers and magazines which have come to our shores.

I must in the name of the Crown which is only concerned with the truth and right, and treat you to disregard entirely any impressions which may have been impressed upon your minds before you entered the jury box.

The Crown does not seek to bring home its charge against Marie Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny by relying on prejudice or feeling. Your duty, your only duty is to try this case according to the evidence, and that alone, which shall be brought before you.

I shall endeavour to give you a clear and true picture of the case for the Crown, and after your most earnest attention and careful deliberation.

(1) If the evidence fails to satisfy you of the guilt of the accused with that conviction and in accordance with the standard which British courts are jealous to preserve, then the Crown does not wish to see the scales of justice incline against the accused by any malice or prejudice against him, but,

(2) If on the other hand the evidence shall satisfy you of the prisoner’s guilt you will without doubt do your duty to your country and to the oaths which you have taken, by fearlessly pronouncing your verdict accordingly.

The accused, gentleman, is Marie Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny. He came to our colony a few years ago with his then wife, Ruth, and took up residence in your midst. He bought real estate, and you will be told that in early July of this year all real estate owned by the accused had been sold in the Bahamas with the exception of certain property a Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, and a small parcel near the Water Works on this island. Evidence will be called to show you that on July 7 of this year the accused was so short of money that he carried an overdraft of £57 at the Royal Bank of Canada.

The facts which the Crown will introduce to you during the trial will extend over a period of time and it will therefore be essential to hear of antecedent matters as well as circumstances immediately connected with the charge.

However, gentlemen, there is not a fact to which you are patient attention will be drawn that has not an immediate an important bearing on this case. The Crown will seek to present all relevant facts with in its knowledge before you, including anything that may be in favour of the accused. But, however distant the facts may be from one another, they are only facts which tend in one direction and converge to a common point.

SIR HARRY OAKES, a Baronet of Great Britain, came to the Bahama Islands about eight years ago. He loved his colony and became a resident and indeed a Bahamian citizen, loved and respected by all. Sir Harry was married and was the father of five children, the eldest of whom is Nancy de Marigny, the wife of the accused, now 19 years old and five months of age. Sir Harry owned extensive real estate including several residences on this island, one of which is “Westbourne” situated on the water’s edge immediately west of the golf club in the western district of the island.

The accused, who was divorced from his wife, Ruth, in 1940, married Nancy Oakes on May 19, 1942, in New York City, just two days after she was 18 years of age, unknown to Sir Harry and Lady Oakes and to their great consternation and dismay. I do not ask you to strain your imagination in concluding that the shock of this marriage of their 18-year-old first-born was such that it tested the hearts of the parents.

Lady Oakes will tell you that she and Sir Harry were frightfully upset over the marriage of their daughter to the accused, but they decided to put up a brave front. The crown will submit evidence to you, which will bear out the submission that the relationship between so Harry Oaks and the accused became so strange that the accused him self with food to the mutual hatred which existed between them, and stated that so Harry had threatened to horse with him and that, he, the accused, expressed his determination to use his big foot on his father in law, a man 68 years of age, if he was not left alone.

GENTLEMEN, you will hear of the relationship between the accused and Sir Harry from May 1942 to July 7, 1943. The death of Sir Harry forms the subject of this inquiry and you have heard that it is for the murder of Sir Harry Oaks that the accused is charged before you.

Sir Harry was found in his bed on the morning of July 8, 1943, bludgeoned with four vicious wounds on the left side of his head, three of these wounds fractured his skull and any one of them could have been fatal, but his assailant was so overwhelmed with hatred, spite and ill will, that the body of Sir Harry was set on fire even before he was dead.

Gentlemen, there was no attempt at robbery at Westbourne on that fetal night, for there is no report of any loss from the residents. There is no evidence of a violent struggle, in fact there is no evidence of a struggle at all in the light of the evidence of Mabel Ellis, the housemaid and H. G. Christie. “You will ask yourselves the question, what then is the compelling motives which prompted the commission of a crime of such inhuman brutality and with such harrowing details that even the hearts of men made of stern material quake at the recital?”

“What is motive?” Motive is the feeling which prompts the operation of the will of the human being. It is the ulterior object of the person willing, for example, if a person kills another, the intention directs the act which caused death, the motive is the object which the person had in view, e.g., the satisfaction of some desire, such as revenge.

ALL INDIVIDUALS within the jurisdiction of any British territory is subject to the King’s peace, and every life is entitled to full protection by the strong arm of the law and justice, but the details of this murder, the torture of a fellow-creature, surpass by far the records in the annals of this colony and the history of crime in our fair land.

Murder is murder, and a life is a life, but this murder is as Shakespeare, the immortal bard, says is one of his Sonnets:

“As black as hell and as dark as night” in its foul conception, a deed which could only originate in a depraved strange and sadistic mind – a mind indeed, which is foreign to the usual mind which comes before this court – with a complete disregard for humanity in so vile a murder which besmirch the name and piece of this tranquil land.

The case which the Crown charges against the accused is this:

1. That having developed a burning hatred towards Sir Harry Oakes because of the refusal of Sir Harry to recognise him as a member of the Oakes family; and

2. That being in desperate financial circumstances, with no money available for his easy living, having disposed of practically all of his real estate holdings in the colony and with a possible lawsuit for $125,000, and consequently consequent exposure at the instance of his former wife, Ruth, he conceived the dastardly murder of his father-in-law, for,

(a) Satisfaction for his burning hatred.

(b) Revenge, for contemptuous treatment on the part of Sir Harry, in persistently refusing to recognise him as a member of the family, and 

(c) Gain, for on the death of Sir Harry Oakes he believed that his wife, Nancy, would be entitled to an equal share in the fabulous estate of her father. He has already enjoyed £3,500 of Nancy’s money within one year of the marriage and the Crown submits for your consideration the inference that he would have been happy to spend very much more for her share of the Oakeses millions since he had no money or income of his own to carry on the life of a rich man. from the circumstances of the accused at the time of the murder of Sir Harry arose the motive which propelled him to commit the terrible crime.

This is why the circumstances and some of the distance circumstances are so important; the motive for so terrible a crime springs from them. The prosecution is not compelled to prove motive, but in this case the prosecution will lead evidence to show that the accused was propelled by strong motive against Sir Harry Oakes and it is truly said “if there are strong motives, the more readily shall we be led to believe in the probability of the crime having been committed; but if we find an absence of motive, the probability is the other way.”

IN THIS CASE, the question of motive will be a subject for most serious consideration, and inasmuch as the circumstances out of which the prosecution states that the motive arose come first in order of time, it is fitting and proper that this matter should be dealt with before the incidents of July 7, 8 and 9 are narrated to you…

… It is incumbent upon the Crown to prove its case and this is the burden which the Crown accepts in presenting this case to you on behalf of our State and in the name of justice.

The Crown will produce evidence before are you in proof of the statements which I have made in this opening; much of your time must of necessity be occupied in hearing this case, but in a trial of this nature time cannot be regarded as being wasted. I am confident that you will exercise the utmost patience during the days which will follow.

SINCE IT IS the Crown’s duty to present this case to you without passion against the accused, and since it is a duty as representing the State in laying this serious charge to place all relevant facts before this tribunal in the pursuit of that standard of certainty which will leave no conclusion other than the guilt of the accused, the prosecution feels satisfied in the knowledge that the accused will be defended by able counsel and that everything will be done to assist him in his trial.

The important question is “How did Sir Harry Oakes come by his death? It certainly was not from natural causes: it was by the hand of man. Was that man Marie Alfred Fouquereaux de Marigny?

This is the question which the Crown propounds to you and it will be your duty to answer it without fear or favour. If in the end after you have considered the nature of the crime and the evidence dealing with:

1. The compelling motive of hatred, humiliation and gain which the Crown alleges influenced the accused to end the life of Sir Harry Oakes.

2. The desperate financial condition of the accused.

3. His presence alone outside the gates of “Westbourne” on this one night of all nights.

4. His wakefulness on his return home.

5. His curiosity visit, yet significant to the police station.

6. His anxiety to remove all traces of gasoline from his premises after the discovery of Sir Harry’s burnt body.

7. The discovery of burnt hairs on his hands, arms, beard, moustache, eyebrows and head.

8. His excuses for burned hairs.

9. His failure to produce the shirt and tie one by him on the fetal night.

10. The discovery of his fingerprint, that sign manual of all human beings.

11. His expressions of hatred.

12. His callous references to Sir Harry Oakes after death.

13. His most important inquiry relative to a conviction on the failure of a prosecution to discover the deadly weapon.

14. His inquiry into the value of circumstantial evidence in convicting a person.

A case built upon such a foundation fails in satisfying you of his guilt, then in the name of all we hold good and sacred in the administration of British justice, do not let the innocent suffer. On the other hand –

1. If the evidence satisfies you beyond all reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused.

2. And if the evidence based upon the circumstances which is so convincing that the facts considered by a reasonable person would lead you to the conclusion that the accused is guilty, then I put it to you let no extraneous consideration interpose itself between you and your duty to your country, to the oaths which you have taken, but rather return a verdict of guilty without fear or favour, knowing that you will be doing the thing which will return and satisfy your God, your conscience and the demands of British justice.