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updated 21/9/01

The breeder, the actress and the Chihuahuas

A DIPLOMATIC wrangle over the non-payment for two pedigree Chihuahuas surfaced last week after the Public Records Office released 34 year-old papers.

It was one of the more unusual diplomatic cases for the British Consul in Los Angeles, as it involved the famous star of the silver screen, Jayne Mansfield.

After film star Jayne Mansfield's death in a car crash, the British Consul received an enquiry from British dog breeder Hilary Harmar about two Chihuahuas, which had also died in the accident.

Mrs Harmer, from Oxted, Surrey, wanted to know if they were called Emerald and Precious Jewel, because she had sold two dogs of that name to Miss Mansfield - and had not, apparently, been paid by the actress.

In a letter dated August 1967, Miss Harmer wrote: "They generally travelled in Perspex cases and wore jewelled collars. If they survived could you tell me what has happened to them? The whole thing is very sad. It is also very difficult because Miss Mansfield left England without paying for them.

"It seems awful after such a tragedy to start niggling about money, but I think it is best for me to start doing this through my lawyers and Miss Mansfield's executors".

An official named J. O Houlton at the British Consulate in Los Angeles wrote back to Mrs Harmar, telling her that Precious Jewel and Emerald had died. Two other dogs did, however, survive the crash, and these were named Dorothy and Cow.

The exchange of letters was revealed last week in Foreign Office papers released by the Public Records Office. Mrs Harmar, the author of the seminal work 'Dogs and How To Breed Them' is now 83, and living in retirement in Fulham, West London.

Mrs Harmer said last week that she had decided not to pursue a lawsuit against the star's estate.

"Jayne Mansfield bought the dogs from me when she visited England, but never paid me. She smuggled them back into America." said Mrs Harmer. "I don't remember much about her except she was all hair. But I did not want to get involved in a law case over there."