Alfred Lowenstein
1877 - 1928

In 1914 my grandfather Theodore Deloge was a valet to the Belgian businessman Alfred Lowenstein who, after the German attack and Belgian Army retreat, escaped to London as a captain in the Belgian Army. He was made quartermaster working for the Inter-Allied Board of Control and was responsible for the provisioning of Belgian forces buying and selling vast quantities of foodstuffs. My grandfather became his army batman. When they arrived in London Lowenstein had arranged for them to stay their first night at the luxury Ritz hotel. The family then lived in Palmerstone Buildings, City Garden Row in Islington London but probably to avoid the bombing that was taking place they moved in 1917 to Heath View Gardens Mews in Roehampton west of London near to Lowenstein's home, Highwood. Later in the war Lowenstein who had stayed at the lowly rank of Captain but was considerably richer than he was at the start of the war, was investigated for wrong doing by the Belgian authorities and made to resign his commission. Lowestein's contacts by that time were such that he reappeared the next day as a British army captain doing the same job.
After the war Alfred Lowenstein became one of the richest tycoons in Europe - an enigmatic and well-known character. He hunted with the famous Quorn Hunt, newsreel film of him with the The Duke of York (later King George VI)and Prince Henry at Kirby Gate was shown at cinemas in Britain.
On July 4th 1928 while his plane a Fokker Trimotor was flying from Croydon airport over the English channel to Brussels, Lowenstein retired to the lavatory. When one of his employees went to check on him, they found that he had disappeared through a door in the back of the plane. The plane was landed on the beach at St.Pol near Dunkirk and then flown on to St. Inglevert airfield between Calais and Boulogne where the crew told the authorities that he had accidentally fallen into the English Channel. His body was found in the Channel two weeks later with no signs that would indicate a struggle, so Lowenstein's death was ruled a suicide. Unfortunately for him, he hadn't died when he hit the water because the plane was (under his command) flying very low; Lowenstein had drowned. The mystery remains, tests showed that it was all but impossible for one man to open the door of the Trimotor whilst in flight which would rule out suicide and accidental opening of the door. A murder would have to be committed with the connivance of the other occupants of the plane, his valet ( no longer my grandfather), secretary and two stenographers who were in the cabin with Lowenstein and also possibly the pilot and co-pilot who were in the cockpit. My mother remembered him, his wife Madeleine and son Bobby when they lived in Highwood, Roehampton she said he would go into terrible rages when something upset him but at the same time could be a very generous man. My mother also remembered him in the Catholic Church in Roehampton where despite his Jewish descent he was a devout practising Catholic. He was the subject of a film (1930 "Such Men are Dangerous" based on his life) and the book THE MAN WHO FELL FROM THE SKY by William Norris (1987). In the book Norris comes to the conclusion that Lowenstein was murdered by being thrown out of the plane by his pilot, Donald Drew, under the instruction of Madeleine Lowenstein. He believes this was achieved by the complete removal of the door in flight and its replacement by a spare door on the beach at St. Pol. The motive he believes was money, Madeline wanted to get control of Lowenstein's millions

In response to this page on my website I was kindly sent these views on Lowensteins death and the William Norris' book.

Dear Sir
I came across your web-page while searching for some information on Alfred Lowenstein. I have been interested in the mystery of his death for over 20 years and have done a bit of research on it. I think that Norris' theory of Lowenstein's own wife arranging his murder through the pilot is absolute garbage. Apart from the fact that Drew was not a murderous man, Mrs Lowenstein must have had plenty of other less risky ways of arranging her huband's "accidental" death, if she really wished to do so....which I seriously doubt. Despite his middle years, Lowenstein was a much more powerful man than Drew, and the chances are that a skirmish between them would more likely have resulted in Drew falling out rather than his employer! Also, maybe someone should have reminded Norris that "complete removal of the outer door" would have been noticed even before the plane took off.
Furthermore, consider the circumstances; Unless they were ALL in the plot (the secretaries included), someone would have remembered and mentioned the fact that Drew left the cockpit soon after Lowenstein. Or, do you want to believe that Hodgson and the dimunitive Baxter pushed him out when they pretended to be checking on him in the toilet, notwithstanding that there was no room for 3 people in the rear compartment? In any case, such an attempt would have caused enough disturbance to attract the attention of the secretaries, despite the noise of the plane.
I think it was an accident. Lowenstein must have been preocccupied during the flight, thinking about the blackmailer among other things. When he went to the toilet, he closed the door on the main cabin, not really registering this action mentally. This meant that while he was using the toilet, there was just the Aircraft door between himself and outside. After he was finished, he absent-mindedly assumed that he had shut the toilet door on himself (which he had not) and grabbed the airplane's outer door, which opened in the same direction. It probably resisted his efforts at first, but knowing Lowenstein's character, he could have easily driven his shoulder against it in impatience. The door opened a few inches and before he realised his mistake, he was sucked out by the slipstream.
You are wrong in your belief that the airplane's outer door could not be opened in flight . While it was true that doors on most similar Fokker Trimotors were very hard to open while in flight, later tests had clearly shown that this was NOT the case with Lowenstein's own aircraft. In fact, a man of average build could open that plane's outer door by as much as 18 inches while flying at a similar height as Lowenstein was at the time of the incident. Lowenstein was a powerful man.
I believe Norris' book should be classified in the same league as other publications that tell us that the Titanic did not sink at all or that Lindbergh accidentally killed his baby son and staged a kidnapping. Some people will do anything for a story.
Dr A. V.

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