Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Fortune's End: The Mysterious Murder of Sir Harry Oakes


There have been many theories which have attempted to explain the mysterious events surrounding Sir Harry Oakes' murder. In Kirk Wilson's book Unsolved Crimes he discusses the many theories which gained momentum following the trial of Freddie de Marigny. Most of the theories implicate one or more of Nassau's prominent citizens, including Sir Harold Christie, Axel Wenner-Gren and the Duke of Windsor. It has even been theorized that the Mob may have played an integral role in Oakes' death. However, although some of the theories have proven to be persuasive, none have ever been substantiated.

Meyer Lansky
Meyer Lansky (Corbis)

There are some who believe that Sir Harold Christie was responsible for the murder. It has been speculated that Christie realized the enormous money-making potential casinos would bring to the island and became angered at Oakes' attempts to thwart the deal with Frank Marshall. It was then believed that Christie either committed the murder himself or hired someone to do it, thus making certain that Oakes would no longer interfere in the moneymaking scheme.

Another theory postulated that Frank Marshall and his alleged Mafia business associates were responsible for Oakes' murder. Marshall was connected with powerful mobster Charles 'Lucky' Luciano and his associate, Meyer Lansky. Lansky and Luciano were thought to have masterminded the idea of developing casinos on the islands which was proposed by Marshall to Oakes, Christie and the Duke. The island's three prominent citizens had the ability to make or break the deal, considering their political and social status and financial capabilities. It was believed that Luciano and Lansky orchestrated the murder of Sir Harry Oakes when he refused to take part in the enormous moneymaking plan.

Axel Wenner-Gren and the Duke also became suspects in the murder of Oakes following the exoneration of Freddie. Wilson describes the theory that Wenner-Gren may have had Oakes murdered because he knew too much about a secret spy operation he was involved in. Moreover, it has been suggested that the Duke was involved in the murder plot against Oakes based on similar motivation. Oakes was believed to have been aware of the Duke's supposed connections between Wenner-Gren and the German Nazi party.

The various theories ranged from improbable to very convincing. However, even the most convincing theories lacked some fundamental proof and the little remaining evidence continues to diminish with time. Therefore, the circumstances surrounding Oakes' death are likely to remain unknown or at least unconfirmed for all time.  

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