Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa II Michael Fitzalan tells the story


‘So, tell me again, Freddie Mutesa been murdered?’ 

A plate of Stilton and water biscuits lay in front of me. I was sipping a splendid port that had worked its way from the decanter into a glass the shape of a tiny, transparent Wellington boot, which held a surprising amount. 

The Aga was giving off cosy warmth adding to my comfort but increasing my thirst and we had – the six of us – polished off two bottles of South African Pinotage that I had brought along. It was difficult to make things clear enough for me. Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘On 22nd November 1969,’ Duncan breathed exhaling a cloud of cigarette smoke; he was patient and smoking; the others had left for bed two hours ago, at ten.

‘That’s the year I was born,’ I responded happily.

‘You were born in 1962,’ Duncan corrected me.

‘How did you know that?’

‘Because all year you’ve been telling us that it’s your year in the Chinese calendar, the year of the tiger, it’s every twelve years, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962. I doubt whether you were born in 1974, no matter how young you look,’ he soothed charmingly as he drew on his cigarette before continuing. ‘I also know that you weren’t born in 1950, otherwise all your hair would be gone!’ 

Duncan smiled as he spoke the last few words. It was a thin, grim, self-satisfied smile, he enjoyed going for the jugular and was perfectly aware of my sensitivity regarding my thinning hair, and he knew me that well. He knew I would appreciate his humour and forgive any insensitivity.

‘Thanks, mate,’ I acknowledged sarcastically. I was capable of being as sophisticated in my humour, if the wind was in the right direction. 

Ultimately, I could not argue with his deduction. ‘Tell me more about Freddie.’

‘His Highness, Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa II, 35th Kabaka of Baganda and first President of Uganda,’ Duncan pronounced each title so that it would sink into my addled brain. ‘Freddie wore many hats and he was christened Edward, so I’ve been focusing on his main roles, king and president.’

‘That’s the one,’ I agreed slicing some Stilton off my lump before delicately placing the slither on to a dry biscuit.

‘Freddie died aged forty-five, in near penury,’ Duncan explained as he blew smoke in my direction just as I lifted the wafer to my mouth, determined to destroy my enjoyment of the subtle cheese. 

I sipped some port from the boot, to show him that his ruse had no effect, and nothing could spoil my enjoyment of the meal. As port melted with Stilton on my tongue, Duncan continued his story.

‘He was living in a borrowed flat in Bermondsey, in south-east London,’ Duncan explained. ‘It was the first of my father’s refuges,’ Duncan said as he sipped some port.

‘I am aware of the locality,’ I interjected, loftily. My sister had a boyfriend who came from there, but I wasn’t going to tell Duncan yet. ‘I used to go clubbing there,’ I said, desperately trying to sound a hip twenty-four-year-old, rather than a spent thirty-six-year-old. 

Bermondsey was the equivalent of Marlowe’s Rotherhithe and look what happened to him. Someone stabbed him for being a great playwright and a spy. 

We were lucky to get out of that place alive.

‘Freddie was just managing to survive on four pounds a week from the Social Security, it was tough for him. All his friends callously abandoned him in his absolute hour of need,’ Duncan announced as he dramatically emphasised the details.

‘That’s terrible,’ I complained, I was no more interested in my cheese or the port. Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

I lit a cigarette myself as Duncan stubbed out his own. There was no point in trying to eat when Duncan smoked.

‘Indeed,’ he replied.

He covered the area opposite him in a dense fog. 

 ‘Tell me more.’ Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘Freddie has been educated by British tutors in Uganda until he went to university in Kampala. Then he went on to Cambridge and after getting his degree joined the Brigade of Guards. My father who was in the Coldstream Guards met Freddie in the late 1940s.’ 

Duncan reported the facts like a history teacher or a television presenter.Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘They met in England,’ I interrupted; I had always thought that they had met in Uganda.

‘Dad went to visit him in Uganda three times and lent Freddie our flat in Bermondsey when he found himself homeless in London,’ Duncan explained as he sat back and crossed his legs; I knew that the story had a sad ending, but the details upset me more. 

‘Was there nothing the army could do for him?’ I asked, horrified by his plight.Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘Apparently not, the last three years of his life he spent being given the cold shoulder by the British government,’ he stated  sadly.

‘The Foreign Office even insisted that the British royal family should not see or speak to Freddie,’ Duncan sounded as if he took personal offence at this affront to his father’s friend. It did seem cruel. Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘Was that because they were supporting Idi Amin?’ I asked putting my cigarette in the ashtray in front of us. Depressed by Freddie’s plight, I ate some cheese for comfort, pleased that Duncan had not smoked it this time. 

‘I think so, he had been very upset by this abandonment particularly as he shown such hospitality in Uganda when they visited him,’ Duncan’s world-weary tone added weight to his words.Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘So, he considered them his friends?’ I asked, naively. 

‘They were, during his early twenties, in England, certainly. He led an immensely and intensely glamorous life, particularly as a Grenadier Officer stationed at Wellington Barracks. Freddie wore Savile Row suits and Lobb shoes, spent long weekends staying with the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, enjoyed endless nights at the opera and ballet – he was, after all, part of the social set of the time.’ 

Duncan seemed to wish for a similar life so lavish was his intonation.Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘So, what went wrong?’

‘In 1942, aged eighteen, he became the crowned Kabaka and, seven years later at the insistence of the tribal elders and after completion of his university education and training in the Guards, he returned to Uganda to resume his official duties.’

‘Go on.’

‘He spent the next seventeen years, with a two-year break in between, being treated as a deity. The two-year blip was in 1953 when  British Governor, Sir Andrew Cohen, arranged for Freddie to be exiled to London as he was spotted as an obstacle standing in the way of the British plan to unite Uganda with Tanzania and Kenya.’ 

Duncan had carried out extensive research; he knew his history. Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘That plan worked,’ I mustered all the irony that I could inject into my tone. I was curious to know what the British hoped to achieve by uniting these three vast countries, but it was not the time to ask. ‘Where did he live when he left Uganda?’Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘During his first exile he lived in Eaton Square, he was still in favour with the government,’ he remarked contemptuously.

‘They had to look after him at that stage,’ I noted, cynically. Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘It was on his return to Uganda, at the British government’s request, that his problems really began. In 1964 his country was granted independence and he was made its first president.’ Duncan’s voice was becoming graver.

‘That sounds positive, but then Idi Amin arrived on the scene,’ I was starting to make connections myself with my scant schoolboy knowledge of international politics.

‘Amin was working on the orders of Obote, Freddie’s Prime Minister. Tension between the two of them had been mounting for two years.’

‘So, Freddie didn’t have a loyal Prime Minister, I always thought Amin was the one who organised the coup.’ 

‘It was way back in May 1966 that Obote gave the command to Colonel Idi Amin to storm the Kabaka’s palace at midday. Amin was then Commander of the Ugandan army, he didn’t become President until 1971.’ Sir Edward Frederick Mutes

Duncan was doing his utmost to explain things clearly, he had done his research, and I had only part of the picture.

‘How did Freddie get away?’ I couldn’t believe that Amin would allow Freddie to escape so easily. 

‘Freddie managed to escape during a flash storm and hid until he could move on further under cover of night. After three days of avoiding capture in the jungle he made his way into Rwanda and then on to England.’  

‘So, no one helped him when he arrived in England?’ Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

I was incredulous. Amin would have been considered a terrorist by today’s standards, but in the 1950s international politics had its own code of conduct.

‘Initially,’ Duncan explained. ‘On his arrival in England, he’d been assigned Special Branch protection by the Home Office and, with the constant presence of his bodyguard, Major Jehoash Katende, who had escaped with him there was an effective security cordon around him.’

‘So, he was in real danger?’ I’ve read my share of Fredrick Forsyth and John Le Carré, but  balanced by a large dose of cynicism. The world was full of conspiracy theories, but little evidence to back them up.

‘As long as he was alive, wherever he was, he held great sway within the potentially combustible world of Ugandan politics and that’s why Obote had placed a bounty of £34,000 on the Kabaka’s head.’

‘I’m surprised he survived any time at all, £34,000 was a lot of money in those days. It must be equivalent to half a million. I’m working on the premise that the average price of a house was £5,000 and the average house price is £100,000 now,’ I was doing mental arithmetic, but only vaguely. 

Despite the port, I reckoned that property had increased twenty-fold. Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

Therefore, thirty-four times twenty was six hundred and eighty thousand, well over half a million, allowing for a large margin of error. 

‘The Home Office was aware of this and, as a result, placed twenty-four hour protection around him for the first eighteen months of his exile.’ 

Duncan took a cigarette out of the box on the table and tapped it on the arm of his chair as he continued.

‘Freddie was very aware of security and went to great lengths to be cautious. He attempted to alter his route whenever he left his flat, using different bus routes and he was very wary, especially at night-time, of standing in a lit window with the curtains drawn back. Even though he was penniless, he had a spyhole installed in his front door.’ 

Duncan tossed the unlit cigarette that he had used to beat time on to the tablecloth; it rolled to the edge and stopped. He sat back, gripping the arms of the chair as he settled into the seat.Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘He was out of the picture so why was he in such serious danger?’ I could understand if the Kabaka had been in Africa that he might have posed a threat, but he was in exile in England.

Obote had the presidency and Freddie was living in poverty; surely, he was no danger to the regime, living quietly in Bermondsey. 

‘As an exiled monarch, with an obvious threat to the stability of the new regime in Uganda as long as he was alive.’ Duncan raised his hands to his chin as if in prayer before carrying on, ‘Freddie was a Kabaka, a hereditary tribal king. His kingdom, Baganda, covered roughly a quarter of Uganda’s landmass and the loyalty of twenty-five per cent of the population. Baganda encompassed Kampala the capital city, its only international airport at Entebbe and the country’s main university, Makerere. This gave the Baganda – and therefore him as leader – huge significance and political power.’Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘I see,’ I said encouragingly; I felt the unfairness of the situation. ‘Basically, he has been a prisoner.’ I encouraged Duncan to go on, offering him a cigarette which, in his excited state, he refused, holding up his right hand and waving away the temptation in a pantomime gesture.

‘In 1969, Freddie mysteriously died. The coroner’s verdict was given as alcoholic poisoning, but it been suspected that he was murdered by a government agent sent over from Uganda.’ 

Duncan let his words hang in the air. I remained silent but took a sip of port to alleviate the tension I felt. ‘There is still one man alive who knows whether he had been assassinated or not. Idi Amin.’

‘He’s still living in Jeddah, isn’t he?’ I knew that much. Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘Under house arrest, I believe; it is rumored all he needs to keep him happy,’ Duncan smiled for the first time, ‘I’m sure he has more freedom than Freddie did.’

‘Surely, Amin won’t tell anyone anything to incriminate himself still further?’ I said, realising the hopelessness of the whole situation.

‘Maybe as a final gesture of showmanship, Dada, as he likes to be called now, might give a last interview and tell the world that he arranged to have someone kill Freddie,’ Duncan sounded hopeful, he shifted his chair nearer the table, sat forward and reached for the packet of cigarettes. 

‘That’s surreal,’ I remarked, sliding the matches across the table. Amin knew and yet he kept his silence, it didn’t seem to add up. 

‘Dadaism?’ Duncan asked, taking the matchbox.Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

I had no mood for metaphysical argument, nor prepared to discuss the merits of Surrealism and Dadaism when I now realised that there could be irrefutable evidence of Freddie’s murder.

‘No, what surprises me is the fact that Amin hasn’t brought it to light already!’  Amin had not implicated Obote in the assassination attempt unless he feared reprisals himself, to my surprise. 

‘It’s not really difficult to understand,’ Duncan assured me.

His condescending tone might have irked someone else, but not me. As they say in Ireland: ‘You can’t insult me, I’m ignorant; Sticks and stones and condescending tones won’t break my bones.’ 

‘No one’s interests had been served by the revelation. It would only restore Freddie’s reputation, almost thirty years on, most people think he drank himself to death,’ Duncan elucidated. He finally succumbed to his need for nicotine, lit his cigarette and holding it in one hand, he poured us both a generous measure of port. 

My head was spinning slightly, but despite the alcohol intake my mind was surprisingly focused as the grim facts revealed themselves. I was thirsty so I drank more port when water would have been more effective in quenching my thirst and clearing my mind. 

Not being able to make it to the sink for fear of breaking Duncan’s thread; I sipped on my drink, as Duncan blew smoke over my glass and plate. Sir Edward Frederick Mutesa

‘Freddie was a natural aristocrat and he had the common touch. It must have been difficult, arriving in England in the late 1940s, a decade before the initial wave of immigrant boats from the Caribbean arrived, but he mixed in with all the pub landlords and dockers of Bermondsey.’ Duncan drew on his cigarette as he paused for breath.

‘Quite,’ he replied, tersely, he had perhaps not thought of that himself. ‘Freddie was a sociable and social character.’

‘It must have taken him time to adjust to being poor,’ I suggested, trying a different tack. 

I was being smoked out as surely as if I was a wasp in its nest. Therefor,  I lit my own cigarette to keep Duncan company and to allow me to blow my cigarette’s smoke his way.

I also thought it would be healthier to limit the second-hand cigarette from Duncan’s direction by blowing both streams towards him.

‘Not at all, he was used to changes in his life.’ Duncan said emphatically as he leaned back into his chair. ‘He might have mixed with the royal families of Europe. Maybe travelling around with Aga Khan, the business mogul, Cecil Beaton, the famous photographer, and Oliver Messel, the stage and film designer. He was in their social circle for four years. Then he returned to Uganda and Freddie had been reintroduced to African tribal life; that was the real test of his adaptability,’ Duncan summed up. He seemed to have a good understanding of his father’s friend.

‘Quite a contrast,’ I noted for sake of something to say.

‘After this he became President and later, he narrowly escaped death at the hands of Amin’s soldiers. Having lived such a privileged life for forty-two years, he found himself suddenly on the outside, with no way in. That must have been soul destroying.’ Duncan sighed.

He realised that Freddie could adapt to different environments. Even so, couldn’t be expected to cope with the desertion of those who had once called him friend.

‘I can’t believe everyone cut him off so completely,’ I interjected; I’ve been incensed at Freddie’s fair. Weather friends and their callousness and yet I may have been unfair to judge them so harshly. 

‘They most assuredly did, either of their own volition or on the advice of others, perhaps.

‘It was a good job that your father could help him.’

‘They were friends,’ Duncan insisted.

He had inherited his father’s ideals.

‘Why do you think he died?’ . I was feeling that perhaps Freddie had died of alcohol poisoning.  Drinking myself to death that night; I could imagine how depressed and drowning my sorrows in a bottle or three. 

‘Freddie was hardly drinking at that time, but he received a telegram from Kampala in November 1969 saying that the girl who wants to harm you is on her way to England,’ he explained, dragging on his cigarette.

‘He had good intelligence, then.’ It seemed that Freddie had a good spy network in Kampala, considering he had been away from the capital for so long.

‘During his twenty-five year reign Freddie had exercised his power with great fairness.’ Duncan elucidated. ‘It was this, allied to his god-like status as Kabaka that produced such devotion amongst his people, the Baganda.’

All the pieces were falling into place but as I dragged on my cigarette, I couldn’t help thinking that Freddie should have gone into hiding when the death threat came to light. 

The smoke in the room made my eyes smart, but I continued to smoke, wiping my eyes with my free hand. I hoped that Duncan didn’t think I was crying; blubbing in front of anyone is embarrassing, particularly if the person is a virtual stranger or the brother of an extremely dear friend. Duncan failed to notice, and I felt that I was getting to know him better as he continued his report. 

He seemed a skilled orator to me, even if he was a bit impatient with my numerous questions and limited understanding. 

‘It’s not as simple as that; the threat of assassination seemed to have receded. Although the danger still exists, the Special Branch policeman was dispensed with and Freddie’s life returned to relative normality. It turned out that this girl not only existed but was already living in London posing as a student, and that Freddie had met her a couple of weeks beforehand at a dinner party given by an exiled Tanzanian minister. 

‘So, he met her, why?’ I wondered out loud.

I thought it very brave to confront her.

‘It was the insistence of his advisers that had made him agree to meet her,’ Duncan said. 

He finished his cigarette and drank some more port.

‘Freddie’s daughter appeared that afternoon and she was told by Freddie that there was a telephone message for her which he’d written on a pad by the side of his bed. Sceptical at first, she went into the bedroom and found a note from her father saying: ‘Be careful what you say, this is the girl I’ve been warned about’. was nothing conclusive to go to the police with,’ I suggested, wondering why Freddie stayed if his life was under threat. 

Surely Freddie could have gone into hiding somewhere in the countryside or left England altogether, couldn’t he?

‘The following Saturday was Freddie’s birthday party and there was a large party and a church service to organise.

‘The text said: “The operation is going ahead a planned”. 

‘Then a letter smuggled out of Uganda reported that on the Kabaka’s birthday a minister who had been opening a new stretch of road declared in his speech: “We have managed to do it at last. We have managed to poison the Kabaka”. 

‘These two pieces of evidence are difficult to prove but they point to some form of conspiracy.’

‘Go back to Freddie, what happened?’ I wanted more detail. 

‘The main celebration was to be a service at St Martin in the Fields, on the Saturday. This was to be followed by a party for which friends from all over the world were flying into London.’

‘So, what went wrong?’ I asked. 

‘On the Friday evening before, Katende found Freddie lying unconscious on the sitting room floor at Orchard House. He put him to bed and after failing to wake him, he tried desperately to contact a doctor. Eventually, after being examined by the doctor, in the early hours of Saturday morning three days after his actual forty-fifth birthday, Freddie was officially declared dead.’

‘That’s dreadful,’ I gasped. I felt a sudden wave of sadness wash over me, even though I had never met Freddie. He hadn’t even been able to celebrate his birthday.

‘It was a shock to everyone, not least Katende,’ Duncan whispered, brutally stubbing out his cigarette in disgust. 

‘Friends rallied round and helped fend off the intense press interest that was beginning to grow around Freddie, specifically, his death. In the chaos after his death there was a growing suspicion about the way he had died, and the fear of a potential Foreign Office cover-up. Harold Wilson’s government had, for the last three years, found Freddie’s presence in England extremely awkward.’

‘Why was that?’ 

‘I believe it was to do with Uganda’s role within the Security Council of the United Nations. As Britain was in the process of applying to the UN for sanctions against Rhodesia, the Foreign Office wished to keep on friendly terms with Obote’s administration.’ 

Duncan’s points were beginning to gain more credence

The pieces of the jigsaw were coming together in my mind; a clearer picture was emerging despite the lateness of the hour and the relaxing influence of the perfect port.

‘So, what was the coroner’s verdict?’ 

I was sure that some evidence would have come to light, I wasn’t sure that someone could drink themselves to death with a retinue, however small, looking after them. 

‘I was coming to that,’ Duncan relaxed a bit before going on. ‘The verdict brought in by the Coroner was one of alcoholic poisoning.’

‘But,But you told me he had given up alcohol,’ I complained.

‘The verdict, certainly, surprised those of his friends who had seen him in the days prior to his death, as not one of them had noticed that he was drinking heavily, let alone being so drunk that he was putting his life at risk.’

‘So why was the verdict accepted?’ 

The proof had been provided. Both unwittingly, publicly, by one of Obote’s ministers, and also, privately, by the telegram that had implicated the femme fatale.

It wasn’t, that’s the point, and it was challenged. Professor Francis Camps, Professor of Forensic Medicine at London University, said openly that Freddie’s death was hardly consistent with the coroner’s findings or a drunkard’s form of death. Plus, Ian Colville, writing for the Daily Telegraph, pointed out the inconsistencies of the case and questioned the judgment.

‘What about the police?’ 

I was curious to know how they could refute such evidence. It is little wonder the police have little respect for civil servants, mandarins and politicians; they insult them by calling them plebs and they seem to spend inordinate time, over decades, obfuscating the truth.

‘Even the Metropolitan Police believed that Freddie’s death had not been the result of an excessive alcohol intake,’ Duncan sighed before taking up another cigarette. 

‘Then how did he die?’ 

I could accept the poisoning theory only if I had more details. I did, however, believed that Freddie could not have drunk himself to death in such a short time.

The most obvious idea was that he was poisoned, which was in keeping with the rumours coming out of Uganda.’ Duncan drew on his cigarette. 

He leant forward to flick his ash and then folded his arms on the dining table. The glowing cigarette in his right hand seemed to be sending off smoke signals that seemed to be saying to me: ‘these are the facts, challenge me on them if you dare’. 

‘It seems pretty conclusive,’ I agreed in order to encourage him to give more evidence. I even nonchalantly sipped on the port that I no longer wanted in order to give Duncan the impression that I proved no threat to his theory.

‘There’s more,’ Duncan exclaimed, becoming more animated again. I knew there had to be more. ‘A week before his death, Freddie heard the doorbell and looking through his spyhole, he saw a grey-haired Caucasian woman scurrying away. Opening the door, he found that she had left a bag of groceries with no note. Puzzled by this he had called the police and told them of the mysterious sequence of events.’

‘Didn’t they take it away to be forensically tested?’ I had perhaps seen too many detective movies as a child.


‘The police were equally baffled, suggesting that it was a delivery made to the wrong door and that if it wasn’t claimed in the next couple of days, Freddie should by all means eat what was there. This he did, along with Katende, and nobody thought any more of it until his death five days later.’

‘They both could have been poisoned,’ I hissed.

‘But they weren’t,’ Duncan insisted forcibly.

‘Really?’ I inquired, wondering what the authorities were playing at.

‘Despite the very obvious suspicions that existed, the fact that the food had been shared equally amongst the two men, seemed to negate the possibility of poisoning. What seemed to be more likely was that the groceries had been left by a kind-hearted neighbour who knew of Freddie’s plight, yet wanted to remain anonymous.’ 

‘But why was no note left?’ 

I felt like Watson baffled by Sherlock’s deductions.

‘The groceries could just be a coincidence. What was interesting, though, was that police enquiries had uncovered the fact that the girl who visited Freddie was a Ugandan government agent. The police ignored this and closed the investigation immediately.’ 

Duncan dismissed my questions at every turn, but this served to increase my questioning.

‘How could they ignore such evidence?’ I groaned. ‘They must have been given the telegram that warned Freddie that his life was in danger, surely?’ 

At this interruption Duncan shifted his position to lean heavily on his crossed arms as if to emphasise his points that I appeared to be missing. His body language told me that he thought I was hearing what he said but not listening to it properly. 

‘Apparently, they were satisfied that nothing out of the ordinary had happened, they concluded the Freddie had died from drinking far too much over a sustained period. “He had been drinking every afternoon by teatime”, one senior police officer at Scotland Yard was quoted as saying.

‘So that was it?’ 

There were too many red herrings for my liking, and they were spoiling my enjoyment of the cheese.

‘Not quite,’ he uttered with the satisfaction with which a detective reveals the true identity of the culprit. Duncan leant his body over his arms and looked at me challengingly as he revealed the last snippet of information that I needed to make everything clear.

‘A Ghanaian from Accra and a Ugandan appeared in London with stories that were very interesting. The Ghanaian was the son of a tribal chief who had died in circumstances almost identical to Freddie’s; the cause of death had also been given as alcoholic poisoning which had seemed preposterous to the son as his father was almost teetotal.’

‘So that was it,’ I exclaimed, unable to control myself. Duncan turned his head, sighed and cleared his throat. 

Bringing himself back under control, I found myself wilting under his serious gaze. It was not acceptable behaviour to interrupt at this juncture; his eyes told me.

‘Driven to his own investigation he discovered the existence of two herbal roots called Bullinbugu and Waliga herbs,’ Duncan continued quickly. I dared not say anything. ‘These are only found in West Africa, and when ground into powder and mixed together they prove fatal. Once the powder has been digested into the human body it kills instantly and produces the effect of huge alcoholic consumption. Likewise, Uganda produced the herb called Akalgala which, when digested, had an identical effect.’

‘God,’ I let slip. 

He had paused for dramatic effect and I had thought that he had finished.

‘Wait,’ Duncan chastised me. ‘Where this Akalgala herb differed was that it could lie dormant in the body for weeks until activated by relatively small amounts of alcohol. All three of these herbs were well known within each respective tribal region and had been established forms of assassination for generations.’

‘That’s incredible.’ I was sure Duncan had finished but his bored expression told me that there was yet more.

‘Although not known to western medicine, Professor Camps, a doctor and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, seemed intrigued by the possibility of analysing these herbs and was in the process of so doing when he died of natural causes.’

‘It gets more and more mysterious.’ I was fascinated. Duncan was frustrated. 

My interjections seemed to course him vexation.

‘The discovery of these herbs opened up the possibility of poisoning which the police had rejected, and it could prove that the operation referred to in the cryptic telegram to Obote from the girl had been the assassination of Freddie. It was possible that at some stage during her visit to Orchard House, on the Sunday before Freddie’s death, she would have had the opportunity to administer the poison.’ He banged the table with his hand and relaxed back into his seat. 

Duncan’s story was over, so he allowed himself a cigarette. He’d run out of full strength, so I offered my low tar brand. I slid the packet to the edge of the table. 

‘Amazing,’ I said.

‘Indeed,’ Duncan agreed. 

He was happy to accept my tobacco products but not my questions. Casually, crossing his ankles, he slipped down so that his shoulders rested on the back of the chair. After lighting the cigarette, he nonchalantly tossed the two boxes on to the table. 


‘How could she do it?’ 

I found myself morbidly fascinated.

‘Various theories have been put forward,’ Duncan exclaimed as he exhaled deeply. ‘Sprinkling the herb into Freddie’s bedside glass of water or on his toothbrush. The whole of Baganda, not least Milton Obote, knew it was the Kabaka’s birthday, so it would be assumed that a fair quantity of alcohol would be consumed in the days preceding it. When the girl left Orchard HouseHouse, she was satisfied that her mission was complete which would explain her telegram saying that the operation was going ahead as planned.’

‘What happened to her?’ I enquired.

‘She had intended to go to Paris the following weekend, but because of Freddie’s death, had been interviewed by the police and detained in England. Denying everything, she was released due to lack of solid evidence and with no further information.’

I sighed helpfully; it was distressing but required no comment.

‘The police could not detain her further. She flew out of the country, going into hiding. She spent the rest of her life as a hunted woman. After years of going in and out of protective custody she apparently confessed that although she hadn’t killed the Kabaka herself, she did know who had.’

‘Could she have been lying to save herself?’ I wondered out loud.

‘Who knows, she was a haunted woman, but she would not reveal what happened to anyone.Freddie found a new champion in Alan Lennox Boyd. He had statements from people who swore that the Kabaka hadn’t been drunk in the days before his death.’

‘That must have helped,’ I suggested hopefully, but deep down fearing the worst.

‘You would think so. Boyd had been Colonial Secretary at the end of Freddie’s first exile and was a good friend. He arranged a meeting with John Walden at New Scotland Yard hoping to convince him to reopen the case.’

‘Did he succeed?’ 

It was okay to ask questions at this stage; Duncan was too weak to care; his soliloquy was over. 

‘The meeting was a disaster. Commissioner Walden seemed to want to block any further enquiries and he described Freddie as a drunk who was a huge embarrassment to his rich and important friends. It was ridiculous and Boyd questioned him about what he said. Walden just told him that they had a file on the Kabaka.’

‘So that was it?’ 

‘Not quite,’ Duncan had to smile as he offered me another crumb of information, knowing I was on tenterhooks. ‘

‘Did the second enquiry reveal anything?’ 

My throat was dry from my part in the conversation, so I took a sip of port that finished the glass. I could take no more, so I put the glass firmly in the middle of the table.

‘The second investigation was headed by a Special Branch Detective, Sergeant Mike Waller; Waller had acted as Freddie’s bodyguard on his arrival in England. Over that eighteen-month period a friendship had developed between the two men. However, Mike Waller had become very sympathetic to the Bagandan cause.’ Duncan spoke in a hoarse voice,voice; he didn’t sound as though the new investigation was a source for hope.

‘Go on,’ I urged, gasping encouragingly, on tenterhooks. 

‘What was surprising,’ he croaked.‘ Was that the two other men making up the team were officers from Southwark police station who had headed the first investigation and weren’t interested in the case. They were unwilling to believe anything other than the Foreign Office edict of a three-day binge and perhaps feared that causing extra trouble could harm their promotion prospects or indeed their careers. So, despite Mike Waller’s enthusiasm the investigation eventually petered out, ran out of steam and was closed.’

‘Do you think the two local police officers blocked Mike’s efforts?’ 

I was seeing deception and chicanery everywhere.

‘I haven’t spoken to him, but it seems to me that the might of the Foreign Office had nullified and suppressed any moral responsibility that the police should have had.’ Duncan sat up and flicked his ash into the ashtray on the table, revealing his frustration.

‘But this case should have been treated properly. It was a case of assassination, not only assassination but assassination of a head of state,’ I opined, feeling the anger rise in me. It seemed so unjust. I was totally convinced by now that it was a case of poisoning.

‘Instead, because of the political machinations of the time, Freddie’s murder was dismissed as death by natural causes.’ 

 We cleared the table in silence. I had the last of the cheese as I took the plates through, savouring its pure, unadulterated flavour, stacked the dishwasher and left Duncan to have a last cigarette, wishing him goodnight.

Written by Michael Fitzalan

Michael Fitzalan’s first novel gained cult status and here are some others: Waterwitch was a hit with those who have ever sailed; two brothers battle storms and Spanish support for the Malvinas in an attempt to meet up with their girlfriends in Ibiza. They have to get from The Algarve to Ibiza, all very straightforward until engine failure and storms threaten to sink all their plans. The Taint Gallery tells the story of a modern Romeo and Juliet; the story is set in Cheslea and Fulham, not Verona, nevertheless, it is a doomed relationship. The book was shunned by big publishers for its highly charged and graphic sexual content and the small publisher who produced the book folded, copies are rare. A reprint is planned for its twentieth anniversary next year; it is still as pertinent and shocking today as it was back in 1996. Switch is an amazing mixture of Franz Kafka realism yet it reads like a Raymond Chandler thriller. Joe Ederer falls for a French girl but he is recovering from being dumped by his English girlfriend. A fish out of water in London, he chases her home only to be rejected. He hooks up with a suffocating drug addict and that is when his nightmares begin. Major Bruton’s Safari is the story of innocents abroad; a family invited to celebrate the coronation of the Kabaka of Buganda become indoctrinated into the ways of Africa. With an acerbic observer on hand, the family experience the warmth and ways of Uganda that help them to understand themselves a little better. IPG – Innocent Proven Guilty is about a teacher, Philip Hayward whose brother sold their shared flat and ran off to America with the proceeds. Philip bumps into his brother’s ex-girlfriend and she tells him his brother is back. Racing to the address she gave him, he arrives to find his brother with a knife in his back. As he leaves, his shoes leave bloody footprints and the police come looking for him. Carom – Finn McHugh and his team take on a swindler and smuggler, Didier, who is depraved in so many ways. They know he is smuggling art and drugs; he must be stopped before others take him out. The Cubans, want him dead, Finn wants to break the smuggling ring. Who will win? Remember the Fifth November – Guy Fawkes was innocent, Catesby was a broken man who brought his children up in the Anglican faith, yet Robert Cecil arranged for them to be portrayed as terrible villains. With a spy service second to none and with moles everywhere how could someone hatch a plot like this and fail to be discovered? The answer, they could not. Read the truth! One – Bullying does not go on anymore in schools. I would not bet on it. Weep as you read the terrible story of a school bully and the misery he dispenses to all the boys. Then, cheer as one of his victims takes revenge. Take a trip to a prep school in a time when kids built tree houses, danced and swung on Tarzan ropes!

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