Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of
Lucan (born 18 December 1934), a British 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
There has been no verified sighting of him since
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
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.
educated at Eton
College and served as lieutenant in the prestigious
compulsive gambler through his adult life, Bingham accrued
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
September 1967), and Camilla (born 30 June 1970).
On 21 January 1964 Bingham's father died and he succeeded to the
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
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.
drove to the house of Ian and Susan Maxwell-Scott, his friends in
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
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.
following Monday, 11 November 1974, the Ford Corsair was found
abandoned in the south coast at Newhaven.
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
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
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
review, codenamed "Operation Abberton", was led by Detective
Superintendent Lewis Benjamin of Scotland Yard.
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
Legal case against Lucan
In an article published in ES
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
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
- 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
- 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 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).
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
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
, who had faked his suicide a month earlier.
During the 1990s Lucan was allegedly sighted in South Africa. In
2007, the Daily Mail
this was a mistaken identity of a man nicknamed Johannesburg
John Aspinall's comments
During a 1990 interview, John
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.
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, "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 Liverpool in the 1960s, and that he had gone to India "as it
was more spiritual than St. Helens".
Given the extremely rapid debunking of the claims, The Sunday Telegraph
serialised part of the book, was embarrassed in a manner
reminiscent of The Sunday
publication of the bogus Hitler Diaries
. The book was reprinted a
year later in paperback entitled The Lucan Conspiracy
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
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.
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
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
his free estate in August 1999. The net value remaining amounted to
less than £
The Countess of Lucan (Lady Lucan) has publicly stated since 1987
that she believes her husband to be dead, and sometimes uses the
' 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- The Day Lucky's Luck Ran Out by Allan Prior, in
London After Midnight, edited by Peter Haining ISBN 0-7607-0345-0