Of the words which could be used to describe Sir Harry Oakes, 1st Baronet (December 23, 1874-July 7, 1943), ‘rich’ and ‘generous’ sit, if reports are to be believed, just as easily alongside ‘demanding’ and ‘arrogant’ – a man with perhaps equally as many enemies as friends…
Indeed, something of this entrepreneur’s character or way of life seemingly did not sit well with everyone, as he met his end in 1943 - murdered in the dead of the night by a person who still remains unidentified all these years later. Other words subsequently now synonymous with Sir Harry Oakes are of course ‘unsolved murder’.
The life of Harry Oakes began in Sangerville, Maine (USA), where young Harry was born and bred. He always held dreams and ambitions of becoming a rich man and was suitably distracted from the medical career he had studied for when news of the goldrush emerged in the Klondike.
At the age of just 23, Harry followed the promise of wealth to Alaska, spending the next 15 years on a worldwide hunt for golden success… He found it at Kirkland Lake, Northern Ontario in Canada, where he established what would become the most successful gold mine in the West and secure Oakes as Canada’s richest man by 1920.
This long-awaited weath however, Oakes did not keep to himself – he shared his success with family and friends, letting them live the life of luxury with him. Such a life it was too – Oakes has his own private golf course built and a chateau overlooking the Lake Shore. He continued too to travel and met his future wife, Australian woman, Eunice MacInityre, on board a cruise ship. They married in 1923 and had five children together.
With wealth however, comes copious tax payments and in a bid to evade the taxman, Oakes upped sticks and moved to Nassau in the Bahamas, upon the invitation of one Harold Christie – an established Bahamian real estate developer and legislator, who would become a close business associate and friend to Oakes.
Durning his time in the Bahamas, Oakes made multiple friends through his generosity to the area – he built up the economy through his involvement in housing, farming and in helping out the hospital. Indeed, he was subsequently made a baronet in 1939 in thanks to his efforts and by the early 1940s was the richest and most important person in the colony – he did in fact own more than half of the main island of New providence.
With all this in his favour, it was with shock that the community awoke to news of Sir Harry Oakes’ murder on the day following July 7, 1943.
He and part of his mansion had been partially burned, there were four indented marks on the left side of his skull – there was blood, smudged fingerprints and feathers at the scene. The question was - just who had committed such an act…and why?