The aristocratic Lucan family were accustomed to a certain amount of ignominy on account of the actions of their ancestors: the Third Earl had been responsible for the massacre of 600 men at the Battle of Balaclava, during the Charge of the Light Brigade; but when Richard John Bingham is born on 18 December 1934, to the sixth Earl of Lucan and his wife Kait, they have no idea that the actions of their son, known as John, would make previous misdeeds pale into insignificance.
Early life for John is nomadic, as a result of WWII, and the Lucan children spend time in the United States attended by servants and nannies. After the war they return home, where John attends Eton and, a strapping 6'4", excelled at speedboat racing. He also develops an interest in gambling that would prove his undoing.
A spell in the army is followed by a short-lived career in merchant banking. In 1960, following a massive win of £26,000 in 48 hours, after which he was known as “Lucky Lucan”, he takes up gambling as a career, usually at the Clermont Club in Berkeley Square, his favourite haunt.
He marries Veronica Duncan in March 1963, and they move to Lower Belgrave Street, in affluent Mayfair, a short distance from the Clermont Club. John inherits the Lucan title, becoming the seventh Earl, when his father dies two months later. Veronica, Countess of Lucan as she was now known, gives birth to three children between 1964 and 1970, but suffers severe postnatal depression after each delivery, which is treated with a variety of anti-depressants that compromise her mental well-being over subsequent years (although she continues to care for her children.)
Although initially sympathetic to his wife’s condition, Lucan becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his wife’s behaviour and the marriage deteriorates. Mounting gambling debts also add to the pressure and there are reports that he has become violent towards his wife. The marriage disintegrates in 1973, and Lucan moves out of the family home in Lower Belgrave Street and into a garden flat, in Elizabeth Street, nearby.
He tries unsuccessfully to get custody of the children, by hiring private investigators to spy on his wife and goads her into violent exchanges on the telephone but, despite his best efforts, she is granted full custody in June 1973. By this stage his debts have mounted considerably, and his acrimony towards his wife is increased further by the fact that she resides in the family home that, if sold, would solve his financial problems immediately. He is reported to have told more than one person that he wanted to kill his wife, to get back his home and his children.