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Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan (born 18 December 1934), a Britishmarker aristocrat known as Lord Bingham or Lord Lucan and colloquially called "Lucky" Lucan, disappeared in the early hours of 8 November 1974, following the murder of Sandra Rivett, his children's nanny, the previous evening. There has been no verified sighting of him since then.

On 19 June 1975 an inquest jury named Lucan as the murderer of Sandra Rivett, the last time that an inquest was allowed to name the person they suspected of committing such a crime. He was presumed deceased in chambers on 11 December 1992 and declared legally dead in October 1999.

Early life

Bingham was the eldest son of George Charles Patrick Bingham, 6th Earl of Lucan and his wife, Kaitlin Elizabeth Anne Dawson. He had two sisters and one brother. He was educated at Eton Collegemarker and served as lieutenant in the prestigious Coldstream Guards. A compulsive gambler through his adult life, Bingham accrued significant debts.

On 28 November 1963 Bingham married Veronica Mary Duncan, daughter of Major Charles Moorhouse Duncan,MC. They had three children: Frances (born 24 October 1964), George Charles (born 21 September 1967), and Camilla (born 30 June 1970).

On 21 January 1964 Bingham's father died and he succeeded to the earldom.

Sandra Rivett

In early 1973, Lucan and his wife separated; the three children lived with their mother. In September 1974, Lady Lucan engaged Sandra Eleanor Rivett (born 16 September 1945) as a nanny for the children.


At 21:45 on Thursday 7 November 1974, Lady Lucan burst into the Plumber's Arms, the pub nearest to her house, appealing for help. She had blood flowing from several wounds on her head and reportedly said: "Help me, Help me, Help me, he's in the house, he's murdered my nanny".

The police were summoned, and arrived at the Lucans' home 15 minutes later, forcing open the front door. They found a bloodstained towel in one bedroom and a large pool of blood with a man's footprints on the floor of the basement. They searched of the basement and discovered broken crockery and walls splashed with blood. They found a canvas mailbag inside which was the body of Sandra Rivett, who had suffered head wounds. They also found a bloodstained length of lead pipe wrapped in surgical plaster. The bulb had been removed from the basement stairs light fitting and was resting on a chair.

Lady Lucan's statement

Lady Lucan gave a statement from the hospital in which she named her husband as the attacker. According to her account, Sandra Rivett had gone downstairs to the kitchen around 20:55 to make a cup of tea. When she did not return after 20 minutes, Lady Lucan went to look for her. The basement was dark, and when she called Rivett's name a man emerged from the cloakroom and hit her with a heavy object. She screamed, and when he told her to be quiet, she recognised her husband's voice. He shoved three gloved fingers down her throat to silence her. She managed to calm him and he ceased his attack; they both collapsed on to the stairs. Lady Lucan asked him where Rivett was and Lucan said he had killed her. They went upstairs, and while Lucan went to get a cloth to wipe her face, Lady Lucan fled from the house and ran to the pub.

Lucan phone calls

At around 22:00, Lucan's friend Madeleine Florman, who lived nearby in Chester Square, was wakened by someone ringing her doorbell. She ignored it, blaming local youths, and 20 minutes later received a phone call from an agitated Lord Lucan, who soon hung up. Police later found bloodstains on her doorstep.

A few minutes after he called Florman, Lucan called his mother and told her that he had been passing his wife's house by when he noticed a fight going on inside. He said Lady Lucan had been injured and there was a lot of blood. "There was something terrible in the basement," he said. "I couldn't bring myself to look." He asked her to go to 46 Lower Belgrave Street to look after his children, then hung up.


Lucan drove to the house of Ian and Susan Maxwell-Scott, his friends in Uckfieldmarker, Sussex. He drove a Ford Corsair he had borrowed from a friend while his own Mercedes was being repaired. He found Susan Maxwell-Scott home alone. He related an expanded version of the story he had told his mother, claiming that after seeing the fight he had entered the house and gone to the basement, where he had slipped on a pool of blood. The assailant had already fled. He also said Lady Lucan had cried out that the man had killed Rivett and had accused Lucan of hiring the man to kill her.

Lucan used Susan Maxwell-Scott's phone to call his mother, who told him his children were safe at her flat and asked him if he wanted to talk to the policeman who was with her. He replied that he would call the police in the morning.

Before leaving, Lucan tried to ring his brother-in-law, Bill Shand Kydd, but could not reach him. He wrote two letters to him, which he gave to Susan Maxwell-Scott to post, then left at 01:15. He has not been seen since.


The following Monday, 11 November 1974, the Ford Corsair was found abandoned in the south coast at Newhavenmarker. There were bloodstains in the front seat, and in the boot a length of lead pipe wrapped in surgical plaster was found matching the one in the Lucans' basement.

It was not until five days after the murder that a warrant was issued for Lucan's arrest. The story as it appeared in the newspapers focused on Lucan's disappearance and did not mention the possibility that he might have been the killer.


Lucan's relatives and friends were united in the belief that he was innocent, and acted more quickly than the police. The day after the murder, John Aspinall organised a lunch for Lucan's friends where they discussed how they could help Lucan when he reappeared. The police were later to accuse the "Clermont Set" (as they were named by the media) of obstructing their investigation.

Susan Maxwell-Scott did not report Lucan's late night visit to her; police only learned of it when they traced her through postmarks on the letters Lucan had posted to William Shand Kydd.


In June 1975 the official inquest into Sandra Rivett's death was held. Bill Shand Kydd read out the two letters he had received from Lucan; in the first he repeated his story of interrupting a fight in the house and said that his wife would blame him, adding that she had demonstrated her hatred of him in the past and would do anything to see him accused. The second letter dealt with a planned auction of some of the family silver, and Lucan asked that the proceeds be used to clear his bank overdrafts.

The Queen's Counsel acting for Lucan's mother talked up Lady Lucan's alleged hatred of her husband, but forensic evidence supported her account. The blood found in the basement had been mainly Group B (Sandra Rivett's group), while that found on the basement stairs was mainly Group A (Lady Lucan's group), and both types had been found on the lead pipe. There was no evidence of another assailant.

On June 19, the inquest jury took just half an hour to reach their verdict, naming Lord Lucan as the murderer of Sandra Rivett. He was the last person ever to be declared a murderer by an inquest jury, shortly before the procedure was outlawed by the Criminal Law Act 1977.

2004 investigation

In October 2004, the Metropolitan Police reviewed the case to examine the existing police evidence using modern DNA profiling. Police also prepared a computer-generated image of how Lucan might have looked if he were still alive (he would have been 69 years old) using "age-progression" software.

The review, codenamed "Operation Abberton", was led by Detective Superintendent Lewis Benjamin of Scotland Yardmarker. Benjamin said that he believed Lucan was helped by friends to escape from Britain and began a secret life abroad. However, the DNA testing failed to provide any conclusive evidence.

Legal case against Lucan

In an article published in ES Magazine in November 2009, reporter Keith Dovkants claims that had Lucan ever been captured it would be quite likely that a trial jury would have found him "not guilty" of Sandra Rivett's murder.

He based this conclusion on claims made by Detective Chief Inspector David Gerring, who, with Detective Chief Superintendent Roy Ranson, had led the original investigation, and lawyer James Harbridge. The argument is that inconsistencies in the evidence would have enabled a good defence barrister to produce enough reasonable doubt to get Lucan acquitted. These include the claim that :

  • although the basement light bulb had been removed, it was still not dark enough for Lucan to mistake Rivett for his wife;

  • the doorman at the Clermont Club claims to have seen Lucan outside the club at 2045, but Lucan's 10-year-old daughter, Frances, claims that it was before then that Rivett went to the basement and was attacked;

  • there are also inconsistencies in the timing given by Frances and her mother : Lady Lucan testified to have gone looking for Rivett at 2115 but Frances claims that the time was 2055 and that she saw her parents together at 2105 (after Rivett's murder). Frances based her estimates on the timing of a TV programme she was watching;

  • Frances also claims to have seen no bloodstains on her father's clothing, whereas expert witnesses state that whoever smashed Rivett's skull in would have been covered in blood.

Although Lady Lucan, convinced of her husband's guilt, described Frances as "not a very bright" girl, Gerring believed that her evidence would have been invaluable to a defence lawyer and that it may have been enough to clear Lucan, even though Gerring himself was certain of his guilt. The defence could also use the same argument that Lucan gave Mrs Maxwell-Scott for going on the run: that his wife's hostility would be enough to have him accused of the murder.


Official version

The official version of events as assembled by the police was that Lucan had acted alone. He had intended to murder his wife, and in the darkened basement had mistaken Sandra Rivett for Lady Lucan (they were the same height and of similar build).

Alternative theories

Others have chosen to believe Lord Lucan's story, that he interrupted an attack on someone else. As he was the only person with a known motive to kill Lady Lucan, and no-one has offered any reason for Rivett to be a target, it has been suggested that the attacker was a burglar. However, while a burglar could have killed Rivett, there seems no reason for him to wait 20 minutes to then attack Lady Lucan. This theory also fails to explain why a length of lead pipe matching the murder weapon was found in the car driven by Lord Lucan.

In his book, Trail of Havoc, author Patrick Marnham suggested that Lucan hired a hitman. He noted that the Lucans' daughter Frances put the events of the night 20 minutes earlier than her mother, using the beginning and end times of certain TV programmes as reference points. If Frances' timetable was accurate, Lucan would not have had time to return to the house from the Clermont where he was seen earlier that evening. However, a professional killer would be unlikely to use a lead pipe as a weapon, which led Marnham to suggest the killer hired by Lucan was unable to perform the murder and sent a last-minute replacement who bungled it.

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

Johannesburg Jeff

During the 1990s Lucan was allegedly sighted in South Africa. In 2007, the Daily Mail suggested this was a mistaken identity of a man nicknamed Johannesburg Jeff.

John Aspinall's comments

During a 1990 interview, John Aspinall said, "I'm more of a friend of his after that than I was — though I haven't seen him — because if he wanted me to do something, I'd do it for him," which the interviewer interpreted as a slip of the tongue suggesting that Aspinall had remained Lucan's friend even after the murder..

Shortly before his death in 2000, Aspinall gave an interview in which he re-stated his opinion that Lucan had committed suicide by scuttling a boat that he kept at Newhaven. Aspinall said he had no doubt that Lucan had mistakenly killed the nanny, having intended to kill his wife, and had then 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 Yardmarker detective, claimed to have solved the mystery of Lucan's disappearance. The author claimed that Lucan fled to Goamarker, Indiamarker, 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, "Jungle 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 Liverpoolmarker in the 1960s, and that he had gone to India "as it was more spiritual than St. Helensmarker".

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 sighting

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


The 7th Earl of Lucan was presumed deceased in December 1992 in Chambers. The trustees of the 7th Earl of Lucan's Settled Estates were then granted an order known as "the 1992 Order" which enabled them to administer the 7th Earl's estate on the footing that the 7th Earl was dead and were further granted leave to apply to the Family Division to swear death. This enabled Lucan's son, George Bingham, Lord Bingham, to become the beneficiary of the Lucan Settled Estates. There is nothing to prevent Lord Bingham from styling himself the 8th Earl of Lucan, although he could not become a member of the House of Lords. In August 1998, Lord Lucan's son gave an interview to a national newspaper in which he said that five years ago he had obtained an order from a Chancery Court which does everything in law that can be done to treat a man as dead - so from that moment forward, given no disputed claim, he had succeeded to the title and also said that it was his intention to use it. He further stated that the Metropolitan Police had given a statement which testified to their belief that the 7th Earl is not alive and that none of the sightings in the past 24 years has been given any credence.

The High Court of Justice granted probate on his free estate in August 1999. The net value remaining amounted to less than £15,000.

The Countess of Lucan (Lady Lucan) has publicly stated since 1987 that she believes her husband to be dead, and sometimes uses the prefix 'dowager' to indicate this.

In popular culture

Lord Lucan's disappearance has become a part of popular culture:

  • The film Bloodlines: Legacy of a Lord is loosely based on the life and disappearance of Lord Lucan.

  • A similar joke was made by Christy Moore in his song "Lisdoonvarna"

  • In the song "Zoom," on their 2005 album Love Kraft, Welsh rockers Super Furry Animals sing, "Saw Lord Lucan riding Shergar to the shops last night / couldn't be positve in candle light / chased them in a Mustang to a Kwik Save"

  • In the special Who Shot Alan B'Stard? for The New Statesman, Lord Lucan is named as being the last man to be hanged in Britain, but his execution was apparently kept a secret from the public.

  • The Trial of Lord Lucan was a 1994 fictional dramatisation of how a trial may have proceeded had Lucan been arrested soon after Rivett's murder, starring Julian Wadham as Lucan and Lynsey Baxter as his wife. It was one of a number of fictional TV court cases which had included the trial of Richard III, the court-martial of George Washington and an inquest into the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

  • Psycops was a British comic strip published in The Sun in the 1990s. It described the adventures of private detective Charity Wilde and her psychic alien partner Gabriel. An early story had them in Australia trying to track down Lucan on behalf of a cable TV crew.

  • In the Scottish comedy Still Game, the character Winston refereed to a missing character saying "Oh look, its Lord Lucan I should have tippled! Shergar's parked outside." (Shergar was a prize-winning race horse which has also disappeared and never been found.)



  • Lord Lucan: The Final Verdict by Roy Ranson
  • Lucan, Not Guilty by Sally Moore
  • Lord Lucan: What Really Happened by James Ruddick
  • Dead Lucky by Duncan MacLaughlin
  • The Lucan Mystery by Norman Lucas
  • Troops of Midian by Richard Wilmott
  • Trail of Havoc by Patrick Marnham


  • Lord Lucan: My Story by William Coles, ISBN 1906558116
  • 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

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