Toss away every notion, every preconception, you may have about the Bahamas, in the 1940s. Put every idea, as far away in your mind, as humanly possible. The Bahamas was, in stark reality, a seething cauldron of Nazi sympathisers, British spies, money launderers, narcotics traffickers, gambling mobsters, land swindlers, murderers, and paid for hire assassins.
Separation and segregation, by colour, and by class, were the order of the day. Blacks lived one way and whites the other. People still tipped their hats and answered a quick ‘yes suh, no sir’ to their betters, as was customarily appropriate of the time.
Everyone was heterosexual. Homosexuality didn’t exist in the social register of the upper or lower classes of The Bahamas.
As a foreigner, if you wanted to make money, big money, then you made friends with a politician. Every vice and faux virtue rested on Nassau’s white sandy beaches back then. Every incarnation of charlatan and nobodies, who happened to have a shiny, red penny in their pocket, came to the Bahamas, and struck it rich.
Most came in obscurity. Some would quickly rise to prominence thanks to political connections. And, a few, would leave the scattered islands, just like Columbus, in historical infamy.
As history reveals, it took just one event, on one night in 1943, to reveal to the world, just how fiery the cauldron of sickening secrets had become.
The murder of Sir Harry Oakes laid bare the rotten underbelly of Nassau and it was brutally ugly. It was so ugly, that it engulfed two more victims who were murdered just as brutally as Oakes had been. Betty Renner and Dorothy Macksey were killed as viciously as Harry Oakes.
Harold G. Christie was born 31st May 1896.
Harold Christie was a traveller. He made countless trips to America and Canada. It was around 1925, when he started writing his profession as realtor. He went abroad to drum up business for Nassau and himself. He hooked a big fish in Harry Oakes.
From as early as July 6, 1911, a 17 year old Harold Christie traveled to Brooklyn, New York. He gave his profession as clerk. In September 1918, just a few months before the end of World War I hostilities, Harold Christie then 22 years old, and four other Bahamian left Nassau to join the Canadian army at Toronto Ontario.
(The Miami Daily, Thursday 5th September 1918)
He married late in life. H. G. married at 63 years old, in the year 1959.
Christie died fourteen years later at age 77, while on a business trip to Frankfurt, West Germany. He collapsed while visiting the Bahamas Tourist Office.
(Harold Christie Tampa Tribune 1964)
Harold Christie, a bootlegger and rum runner during Prohibition, was first elected to the Bahamas House of Assembly in 1927. He served until 1966. He was founder of Bahamas Airways between 1935 to 1969.
Sir Harold was knighted in 1964.
A DIFFERENT TAKE ON THE HARRY OAKES MURDER – Were Harry Oakes and Harold Christie Lovers?
“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Many books, papers, articles, and untold numbers of commentaries have been made about the murder of Sir Harry Oakes in 1943. Much speculation has been given as to who could have done it, and the reasons why. Oakes’ son-in-law, Alfred DeMarigny, was put on trial, but later acquitted. The trail was nothing more than a charade, really a distraction from the core truth.
Just about all of the subsequent investigations have concluded, the murderer was Harold G. Christie.
He was in the house.
He found the body.
He supposedly heard nothing.
He behaved suspiciously.
And the Obeah/Voodoo type extra nonsense, done to further defile Sir Harry’s dying body, were the actions of a desperate man, trying to hide a secret.
Oakes’ body was sprayed with a nearby canister of insect spray and set on fire. Everyone said it was to try destroy fingerprint evidence. Sure. What is more probable was the murderer was trying to hide evidence of recent sexual activity.
The murderer stabbed a pillow and sprinkled the feathers from the stuffing over Sir Harry’s body. This part of the murder served two purposes: (1) the feathers acted as kindling to get the fire started and (2) it added that Obeah/Voodoo flavour to steer blame towards a well used scapegoat in history- the Nassau Negro.
Oh, there have been one or two books which proffered Myer Lansky, the American gangster had Oakes murdered.
Another said it was retribution because Oakes was having an affair with the wife of some voodoo priest who practiced the black arts.
Still another said that Harold Christie hired some hitman from Florida who was an expert in the Palo Mayombe ritual type murder. Oakes went to pick up the hitman to bring him to Westbourne, Sir Harry’s residence. This was supposedly the reason why Oakes was seen at a stoplight, driving on the night of the murder, by the chief of police for Nassau, Edward Sears. It contradicted Christie’s testimony that he slept all night.
All of it seems utterly far-fetched and unduly complicated. I suppose for an important man, you need important resolutions. But none answer crucial questions. Explanations offered seem to run the longest of miles in order to advance just 18 feet. For it was just 18 feet between Sir Harry Oakes’ bedroom, and the bedroom in which Harold Christie supposedly slept in, while Oakes was being battered, butchered and set on fire, Christie says he slept like a baby, and never heard or smelled a single thing.
H. G. Christie and Harry Oakes were unusually close. In the 48 hours before the murder, they had spent almost every moment together. Christie saying he left Oakes bedroom near 11:30 pm. after enjoying the entire day together playing tennis and entertaining friends. Oakes was murdered around midnight. It seems almost unfathomable that just 30 minutes after leaving the Harry Oakes’ bedroom, someone stabbed Oakes in the head four times.
(The Marshfield Herald, Tuesday 19 October 1943)
Christie rose at 7:00 am, the next morning 8th July 1943, under some ridiculous pretext, of the two men always enjoying breakfast together on Oakes’ veranda. Harold makes a beeline straight for Oakes’ bedroom to wake him up. Again, the intimate closeness of these men must be seriously considered.
Why on earth would Harold Christie go to Oakes bedroom at the crack of dawn?
How truly intimate was this relationship?
Do grown men usually do that? Do they rush into each-other’s bedrooms at the first sign of daylight, to wake each other up, like school girls, after a sleepover?
Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes said, after you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.
After eliminating the impossible in relation to Oakes, a more simple explanation, no matter how improbable it may be, was that they, Oakes and Christie, were or had some sort of deeper intimate relationship.
And it was this intimate relationship, which sparked a rage, between the men, after some sort of physical intimacy in Oakes’ bedroom. Harold Christie had to burn Oakes’ body, starting with the genitals, in order to destroy evidence of sexual encounter between them.
A simple, even if at first sight improbable suggestion, was a lovers rage, not money, is what pushed Harold Christie to murder Harry Oakes, on the night of July 7, 1943.
Homosexuality, the Big Taboo
Homosexuality was the last and most unthinkable option in relation to the Oakes case. They were happy to blame it on a supposedly conniving son in law.
Homosexuality in the 1940s, was still, considered a mental disorder or a misfiring in nature. No one of any social standing in Nassau was homosexual. In fact, homosexuality didn’t exist as far as society was concerned. If Oakes and Christie had an intimate relationship, it would have been well hidden and closely guarded.
All of the murder theories offered over the past seventy-five years, seem to run the longest of miles just to walk 18 feet. For it was just 18 feet between Sir Harry Oakes’ bedroom, and the bedroom in which Harold Christie supposedly slept in, while Oakes was being battered, butchered and set on fire. H. G. Christie says he slept like a baby and never heard a thing or smelled a single thing.
Harry Oakes was a short stocky man. He was only 5’6″ tall. They say he was more like a grizzled bear in temperament.
The long volleyed hypothesis was that the two men had fallen out over land deals. This is the most vouched for theory. Harold Christie had gone behind Sir Harry’s back on a land sale. Christie had sold land for a new RAF base to an American group, leaving Oakes out of the sale.
Oakes was infuriated.
Sir Harry, who had lent considerable amount of money to Christie, was preparing to bankrupt him. Sir Harry was going to call the loans made to Christie and repossess all of his holdings in Lyford Cay. Oakes had made it known that he was going to join his family in the States by the autumn.
This theory, is a fine and good one, but it just doesn’t fit with the night of murder.
It doesn’t say why 68 year old, Sir Harry Oakes let 47 year old, H. G. Christie, a man whom by 1943, he supposedly distrusted immensely, and was about to ruin financially, spend two nights in his house, while his wife and children were away.
It makes no sense whatsoever. Supposedly Oakes and Harry chatted about business quite casually before retiring for bed.
Christie dismissed Oakes’ house servants. There was only the grounds keeper’s wife, and her elderly mother in a separate staff quarters away from the house.
Christie and Oakes were alone together.
If Oakes was about to ruin H. G. Christie, by pulling his money out of the Bahamas, and calling the loans he made to the man, why would he let Harold Christie sleep in his house? Not just one night, but two nights and possibly longer if the murder hadn’t taken place.
Another question, is why would Harold Christie even want to sleep in Oakes’ house anyway? Christie knew of Oakes’ plan to leave The Bahamas, and his friend’s fury over being cut out of the RAF land sale.
These men should have been mortal enemies, on 7th July 1943, not throwing dinner parties together.
Gossip was that the two men were supposedly sleeping around with married women.
On the night of the murder, Christie supposedly went to see a girlfriend. She was a married woman. She was married to a man in the forces stationed in Nassau. Again supposedly, Christie says his staying over at Oakes’ house for days at a time was all a ruse so he could sneak out at night and drive to this woman’s house. It was all to avoid the Nassau gossip.
This was the stupidest thing ever proffered. Harold Christie was a single man. No one would have given a fig where he went. The man was a former bootlegger and rum runner, why would he care about gossip. No one was watching his movements. This was all utter nonsense.
It seems just too ridiculous to fathom that two grown men, in 1943, were constantly playing sleepover with with each other no good reason. And if theorists are to be believed, Christie a single middle aged man of 47 years, didn’t sleep in his own house, because he wanted to sneak from Sir Harry’s house, to visit his married girlfriend’s house. Also another bit of nonsense.
The only explanation for it all, was that they were lovers. The Oakes murder puzzle becomes that much more complete, if serious considerations are given to the very plausible explanation, that the two men were lovers.
The likelihood that Oakes and Christie had, or were then in some sort of intimate physical relationship may also help explain why the very jarring detail that, Sir Harry’s genitals were burnt, didn’t raise more queries. Homosexuality didn’t exist in minds of people in The Bahamas. Oakes’ genitals weren’t just burnt. They had been burned off. This suggests that the fire set to his body, was started on his genitals first.
“On the night of July 7, 1943, Christie was one of only three dinner guests at Westbourne, Sir Harry’s house on Cable Beach. The other two guests left after dinner; Christie stayed the night. The following morning, at about 7am, he went to wake his host and found Oakes lying dead on a smouldering mattress, his skull perforated by four triangular indentations in a crescent above his left ear, his genitals and much of the rest of his body burned and covered with white feathers torn from a pillow.”
The Oakes murder puzzle becomes that much more complete, if serious considerations is given to the very plausible explanation, that the two were lovers.
The Night of the Murder July 7, 1943
1. Harry Oakes has a small dinner party at his residence, Westbourne. Four people are there, including Oakes and Christie.
2. Dinner eaten at 8:45 pm. A game of Chinese checkers until 11:00pm
3. The two guests leave at 11:15 pm. Christie announces unexpectedly that he will stay at Westbourne another night because it was raining a lot. The rain didn’t stop the other two guests from driving home, all the way to the Eastern Road. Westbourne was near Prospect Ridge.
4. Christie dismissed Oakes’ two night watchmen. Tells them to go home. The cook, Mrs. Fernandez and the maid Mabel Ellis both go home.
5. Only person left is Mrs. Newell Kelly wife of property manager. Husband is away. Mrs. Kelly lives in the guest house with her mother. The guest house is away from the main house.
6. There was thunder and lightening. The men went to bed.
7. Sir Harry is killed. Four stabs to his head. His body is set on fire and feathers from a pillow are scattered over the body. His genitals are practically burnt off.
8. Christie wakes up at 7:00 and goes into Oakes’room.
9. Seeing the bloody, burnt, feathered and obviously dead body, Christie says he tried to revive him.
10. Oakes bowels had evacuated its contents just after death. Christie could not have missed this.
11. Harold Christie said he tried to give Sir Harry Oakes, a dead man with four gaping bloody holes in his head and burnt up body, wait for it… a glass of water. A glass of water!
A body dead for several hours, in a state of rigor mortis, now frozen in time, Harold Christie said he tried to open his mouth to give Oakes water.
TWO OTHER VICIOUS MURDERS IN NASSAU
1950 – A MURDER TO SILENCE AN INVESTIGATOR
Miss Betty Renner, a Washington Lawyer, was investigating the murder of Harry Oakes which had occurred seven years before on 7th July 1943. Renner was department of justice lawyer. Renner had become obsessed with Oakes murder.
She was on a mission to gather evidence, speak to a potential informer, and test her theory on the Oakes murder when she arrived in Nassau on 8th April 1950. Betty Renner came to Nassau with a friend, Alice MacDonald. On April 15th, the friend, Alice MacDonald, left Nassau to return to New York.
Just four days later, on April 19th, 1950, the body of Betty Renner was discovered at the bottom of a well in Nassau. Green tree branches had been tossed over the well. Her clothes had be torn off. Her body was semi-nude. They tried to make it look like a rape. And as usual and typical of the time, fingers quickly pointed to a negro riding a bicycle. As long as it could be said that a negro had done something awful to a white woman, the case would be conveniently and quickly closed.
Renner has been clubbed over the head and dragged across some coral rock near the south side of Nassau. On the south side near a forest where labourers built fires to make charcoal. The charcoal was used as fuel for stoves and ovens in Nassau households. She was dumped head first into the three foot wide well. Renner was still alive when she was thrown in. Betty Renner suffocated to death in that narrow hole in the ground.
Incredibly, the autopsy said “there was no positive evidence of criminal attack but the possibility was still being investigated.”
(The Newport Daily News, Friday 21 April 1950)
(The Chicago Tribune, Saturday 27th May 1950)
1962 – A MURDER TO SILENCE H. G. Christie’s Former SECRETARY AND POSSIBLE BLACKMAILER
Was H. G. Christie’s former secretary, Dorothy Macksey, blackmailing him? Did she suddenly decide to reveal some sort of hidden evidence? Did Macksey become just too much of a liability and this was why she was murdered?
Amazingly, the rape and murder of a 60 year old white woman, in her bed, in her third floor, tiny apartment, in Nassau, in 1962, was simply dismissed as just another murder-rape. Apparently, if the police were to be believed, there had been many over the previous two years. And despite the fact that the 60 year-old murder victim was the secretary of Harold Christie in 1943 when Oakes was murdered, the Nassau police quickly said that there were no correlations.
The cases, the police, who probably didn’t even want to consider connections said they swere not related.
(The Tampa Tribune Friday 4th May 1962)