Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan

Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan (born 18 December 1934) was or is a missing British aristocrat who disappeared on 8 November 1974 after his children's nanny was found murdered. Lord Lucan's current whereabouts are unknown, and many, including his wife, presume him to be dead.

Early life and career

The son of George Charles Patrick Bingham, 6th Earl of Lucan and Kaitilin Elizabeth Anne (née Dawson),[1] Lord Lucan was educated at Eton College.[2] [3] He went on to serve in the Coldstream Guards. He had two sisters and one brother.[1] His father died and he inherited the earldom when he was 29 years old.[1] Lord Lucan's mother died in 1985.[1] James Goldsmith was a fellow conservative[4] and man-about-town who shared Lucan's passion for gambling.Although both attended Eton, Lucan did not befriend James Goldsmith until later - Sir James Goldsmith was two years older than the 7th Earl and they did not know each other at Eton. Goldsmith and Lucan were members of the five-man Clermont Set, named after John Aspinall's Clermont Club.[5] Aspinall and Sir James Goldsmith were close friends.

William "Bill" Shand Kydd (not a relation of the late Frances Shand Kydd) would eventually become Lady Lucan's brother-in-law and by extension the 7th Earl's brother-in-law. Though he was not a close friend of the 7th Earl (see his witness statement for the coroner at the inquest on Mrs Sandra Rivett in 1975), Bill Shand Kydd was one of only two people to receive a letter from Lucan on the night of his disappearance. Mrs Susan Maxwell Scott was the last person to see Lord Lucan following the murder of Mrs Rivett on 8th November 1974. (See witness statement for the coroner Gavin Thurston.)[6]

He owned a house in Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland, and to this day he still owns most of Castlebar.

The mystery

Lucan's whereabouts have been unknown since November 8 1974, when his children's nanny, Sandra Rivett, was found murdered at his estranged wife's home at 46 Lower Belgrave Street, London. Lady Lucan, the former Veronica Mary Duncan, who was also attacked that night, said her husband confessed to her that he had murdered Rivett by mistake.

Lord Lucan claimed to a family friend, that he had been walking past the house, had seen someone struggling with Lady Lucan and had entered the house to assist her. Lucan claimed that he calmed her down but that Lady Lucan lay doggo for a while and left the house while he was in the bathroom getting a cloth to clean up her face. He claimed he heard her shouting "Murder" "Murder" in the street as she ran to the Plumber's Arms. Lucan panicked according to Mrs Susan Maxwell-Scott and left. A car Lucan was borrowing at the time was found abandoned, containing some blood of two types, in Newhaven, East Sussex.

A coroner's jury brought in a verdict of unlawful killing on Rivett, naming Lord Lucan as the murderer. Rivett's death certificate reads: "Cause of death: Blunt head Injuries inflicted by a named person. Murder." This was the last time before the introduction of the Criminal Law Act 1977 that an inquest jury was allowed to name a murderer.

Possible motives

At the time of the murder, Lady Lucan had custody of their three children. Lord Lucan considered his wife mentally unstable and believed he should have custody of the children, but British courts seldom granted custody of children away from their mother. (In 1982, Lady Lucan received an affidavit, sent through the post, in which her 15-year-old son declared he would find it "much more congenial to live as part of the family of his uncle and aunt.")

Another motive, offered by a friend, Greville Howard to the police, is that Lucan, wishing to solve his financial problems and avoid bankruptcy, had considered killing Lady Lucan and dropping her body in the Solent.

Reported sightings

Since his disappearance, many alleged sightings of Lucan have been reported from all over the world, but police have drawn a blank in their efforts to find the runaway earl.

In a curious coincidence, in December 1974, police in Australia arrested a man they believed was Lucan but who was the British MP John Stonehouse, who had faked his suicide a month earlier.

John Aspinall

In one of the more bizarre claims, an affidavit in the possession of the Daily Mirror records the account of a Bedfordshire woman, formerly employed by John Aspinall, who claims that the fugitive Lucan was sheltered by Aspinall at his zoo, which resulted in Lucan being mauled to death by a tiger and his corpse hurriedly disposed of.

In 2000, Aspinall gave an interview in which he said that in his opinion, Lucan had committed suicide by scuttling the powerboat that he kept at Newhaven. Aspinall said he had no doubt that Lucan had killed the nanny, but that it was a mistake; Lucan, Aspinall said, had intended to kill his wife and had killed himself out of shame.

Barry Halpin

In September 2003, a book titled Dead Lucky: Lord Lucan, The Final Truth, written by Duncan MacLaughlin, a former Scotland Yard detective, claimed to have solved the mystery of Lucan's disappearance. The author claimed that Lucan fled to Goa, India, arriving there a year after Rivett's death. The book includes photos taken there in 1991 of a man who bears a resemblance to Lucan. The man, who died in 1996, was known in Goa as Barry Halpin (or, according to the book, "Jungly Barry").

However, these claims were almost immediately dismissed. BBC Radio 2 presenter Mike Harding said in a letter to The Guardian newspaper that he knew Barry Halpin from his days as a folk musician in Liverpool in the 1960s, and that he had gone to India "as it was more spiritual than St. Helens".[6]

Given the extremely rapid debunking of the claims, The Sunday Telegraph, which serialised part of the book, was embarrassed in a manner reminiscent of The Sunday Times' publication of the bogus Hitler Diaries. The book was reprinted a year later in paperback entitled The Lucan Conspiracy (to much less press interest) with one additional final chapter, and displaying the tagline: How the Establishment Conned the World into Believing Lord Lucan Was Barry Halpin.

New Zealand

In August 2007, the Auckland-based New Zealand Herald reported that former Scotland Yard detective Sidney Ball was following up claims that Lord Lucan was living in an old Land Rover outside the township of Marton, apparently with a pet possum, cat and a goat (named Camilla). Mr Ball says neighbours of the man, Roger Woodgate, were convinced he was Lucan but couldn't discuss the case further until his investigation was complete. The man is said to have an upper-class British accent and might be receiving income from property interests in the UK. He has denied being Lucan, claiming he had been a photographer working for the Ministry of Defence who left the UK five months before Lucan vanished. Mr Woodgate also claims to be 10 years younger than Lucan, and five inches shorter.[7]

Probate

The 7th Earl of Lucan was presumed deceased in 1992,[8] but no death certificate has been issued, so his earldom cannot yet be inherited by his son, George Bingham, Lord Bingham. However, the High Court of Justice granted probate on his estate in 1999. The net value remaining amounted to £14,709.

Lady Lucan believes her husband to be dead, and sometimes refers to herself as Dowager Countess of Lucan.

Legacy

The phrase "doing a Lord Lucan" now means to disappear or go missing. The phrase is generally applied in a humorous context. This is similar to the phrase "pulling a Crater" which arose from the similarly mysterious vanishing of Judge Crater in New York.

The Countess of Lucan established a website to detail her side of the story.[9]

A film called Bloodlines: Legacy of a Lord[10] was made about his life and his disappearance. It is set in 1997 and follows the story of a journalist searching for information about Lucan. Most of the film is told in flashback.

The Conservative Party leader David Cameron referred to him in a speech. "You are just about as likely," he said, "to find an NHS dentist in Milton Keynes as you are Lord Lucan riding on Shergar"[11], a joke originally made by Christy Moore in his song "Lisdoonvarna." [12] A similar joke was used the BBC comedy series Dead Ringers, where Queen Elizabeth II was depicted claiming that she did not know the secrets to multiple unsolved mysteries while revealing she had been in touch with Lucan, could back an alibi for Lee Harvey Oswald and was in possession of Shergar.

Ian Botham used the phrase "disappeared like Lord Lucan" in respect to England's wicket keeper Chris Read, who made very few appearances in the first part of the 2006-07 Ashes series.

Satirical puppet show Spitting Image often had Lord Lucan appearing in the background as a waiter, bartender etc.

Footnotes

Fiction

  • Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark, ISBN 0-14-100990-X
  • Get Lucky by Dickon Whitfield ISBN 0-7522-0745-8
  • Maxwell Lives by Jim Paterson ISBN 0-9530953-0-4
  • Nobody's Fault by Nancy Holmes ISBN 0-553-05732-4
  • The Butterfly Man by Heather Rose ISBN 0-7022-3535-0
  • "The Day Lucky's Luck Ran Out" by Allan Prior, in London After Midnight, edited by Peter Haining ISBN 0-7607-0345-0

See also

External links

Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
George Bingham
Earl of Lucan
1964–?
Succeeded by
Status of title uncertain
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Sandra Rivett was the nanny who was allegedly murdered by Lord Lucan on the night of 7 November 1974.[1] She was 29 years old.[2] The Earl and Countess of Lucan were estranged at the time, and Rivett was the nanny employed by Veronica, Lady Lucan for their
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