Lord Lucan

Crime Files

A History of Violence

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.

Timeline

Born 18 December 1934The Victim 7 November 1974: Sandra Rivett

The Aftermath

Where's the body

Although it is most likely that Lucan killed himself within a short time of the events that unfolded on 7 November 1974, it was widely rumoured that he had managed to escape with the assistance of his wealthy friends, and there have been numerous sightings over the years in places as far apart as Australia and South Africa. More recently, there have been claims that his body is on the estate of the Maxwell-Scott’s, and that his car was driven to Newhaven to mislead the police, but no proof of this allegation has ever been found.Despite Lucan’s claims to have the welfare of his children at heart, his attempts to save his name have only served to cause them grief in subsequent years. The absence of a body, and lack of a death certificate, is especially complicated for the aristocracy. The financial crisis, brought on by gambling debts, was made worse by huge legal fees resulting from attempts to wind up his estate. Although he was declared officially dead in 1999, an attempt by his son to claim his father’s seat in the House of Lords was refused. He is forced to use the courtesy title, Lord Bingham.

Many of Lucan’s aristocratic set maintain that his wife was responsible for his predicament, and her continuing mental health problems have also caused estrangement between Lady Lucan and her children. Their son, George, chose to be adopted by his aunt and uncle at the age of 15, when Lady Lucan was admitted to a psychiatric facility, and Lady Lucan also claims that he stole property from her home during her absence. Camilla, Lady Lucan’s younger daughter, refused to accept that her father was dead, and did not invite her mother to her wedding.Lady Lucan has never remarried.In September 2012 George Bingham told the Daily Mirror that he believes his father took his own life not long after Sandra Rivett's death, because of the "...horrendous storm that was coming.".

The Trial

The Inquest

An inquest into the death of Sandra Rivett begins on 5 June 1975, and includes evidence from all of those who had witnessed that evening’s events, including Lady Lucan, despite the fact that, at that time, a wife was not required to testify against her husband. Blood samples and fibre evidence are also introduced, despite forensic evidence having been in its infancy at the time.Persuaded by the evidence presented, the jury returns after only a half hour’s deliberation, to offer the verdict that Sandra Rivett’s death was a result of murder by Lord Lucan. As a direct result of the outcry that follows, a parliamentary bill was later passed, restricting any coroner’s court from naming a murderer in the future.

The Crimes

Aristocratic Atrocities

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.

Fearing for the safety of the children, the police break into the house and discover them safely in bed. But they do find the body of Sandra Rivett in a bag in the basement, as well as a length of lead pipe, wrapped in tape, near the front door. Lord Lucan has disappeared, and a search of his nearby flat reveals only that his wallet, passport, driving licence and car keys were all still there.Lucan had, in the meantime, tries unsuccessfully to summon the help of a nearby friend, Madeleine Floorman, and then calls his mother to tell her that Lady Lucan had been injured and instructs her to collect the children from the house. She arrives to find the police already there, and she takes the children home with her.In the meantime Lucan takes another car, which he borrows from a friend, and drives down to the Surrey home of Susan Maxwell-Scott, a close friend, where he tells his own version of the story, which was in stark contrast to his wife’s view of events.He says that he had been passing the house that night when, looking inside, he had noticed his wife struggling with an unknown man, at which point he went to her assistance, letting himself in and going down into the basement, where he slipped in a pool of blood. The man then ran off, and his wife became hysterical, accusing him of hiring someone to murder her. When he tried to help her, she ran away and he realised that it would be best if he left the house.He reinforces this version with a letter to his brother-in-law, Bill Shand-Kydd, whom he had been unable to reach on the phone, in which he emphasises his wife’s mental condition, suggesting that she is suffering from paranoid delusions. He calls his mother again, and she advises that the police are at her home, asking to speak to him. He promises to be in touch the next day.Recognizing the gravity of his position, Lucan leaves Maxwell-Scott’s home at 1.15 am in the borrowed car, and is never seen again. The car is recovered in Newhaven some days later, and the police find a lead pipe similar to the murder weapon inside. The owner of the vehicle receives a note from Lucan in the post, protesting his innocence and putting events down to unfortunate coincidences, stating that his main concern was now to protect the welfare of his children.