When the Socialist Workers Party and their ilk take pot shots at the Royal Family, they are way off beam
. Likewise, many of our aristocracy have done us proud over the centuries. The Duke of Bedford/Marquis of Tavistock was a tireless opponent of the corrupt financial system
, as is the current Lord Sudeley. Many more could be added to that list, but there have unfortunately been some who have proved that good breeding is not necessarily hereditary, none more than Lord Lucan - the one that got away
Richard John Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, was born into wealth and privilege on December 18, 1934, and like Gilbert Frankau before him and David Cameron after
, he was sent to Eton College.
An excellent potted history of Lord Lucan can be found on this dedicated website
, but briefly, after serving with the Coldstream Guards, he began a short-lived non-career as a merchant banker, probably through a family connection or the old boy network. He would have been well advised to stick with a profession that is best described as money for old rope, but after winning £26,000 in two nights playing chemin de fer
, he decided to become a professional gambler.
Unfortunately, he also became or may already have been by that time, a compulsive gambler, and like the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo
, the house percentage soon overtook him big time. Over the next decade and a half, he blew his fortune, which begs the question why was he ever known as “Lucky” Lucan?
In November 1963, he married a commoner, Veronica Duncan, who became Countess or Lady Lucan, and the couple had three children, but the marriage broke down, and in November 1974 they were living apart, she having been granted custody. Lady Lucan was or appears to have been suffering from some sort of mental illness, but as far as this condition existed, it was brought on by her suffering at the hands of her husband, and perhaps also by untreated postnatal depression. There is little doubt either that he was attempting to drive her mad in order to gain the upper hand in the custody dispute.
In September 1974, Lady Lucan engaged Sandra Rivett as a nanny, and on the evening of November 7 the same year, Lord Lucan entered the Belgravia home she shared with their children intending to murder her, but killed the nanny by mistake. She was found battered to death in the cellar. When Lady Lucan stumbled across him, he attacked her too, but she fought back and somehow managed to stop him. At this point, the enormity of what he had done probably hit him, and they went upstairs to clean her up. It was then that she made her escape and raised the alarm at a local public house.
Meanwhile, Lucan drove down to Sussex to the home of Ian and Susan Maxwell-Scott, where he found Mrs Maxwell-Scott alone and fed her a cock and bull story about saving his wife from a mysterious attacker. Either believing him or feeling unperturbed at being alone with a man who had just battered to death an innocent woman in cold blood, she assisted him as a friend might. Then he left her, and three days after the murder, his car was found in Newhaven. There has been no confirmed sighting of him since.
At the inquest on Sandra Rivett in June the following year, two letters were read by a friend of Lucan in one of which he protested his innocence, but apart from the testimony of Lady Lucan, the evidence against him was overwhelming. When the jury returned its verdict, they named him as the murderer of Sandra Rivett, the last time an individual has been so named in England.
Lucan's son George inherited his father's title, although perhaps understandably he has declined to use it. Probate was finally granted on Lucan's estate in August 1999. It amounted to less than £15,000
The police have reviewed the case several times over the years, and there have been many false sightings as far afield as Australia, but none has led anywhere. The latest information on Lucan though appears to come from a reliable source.
The secretary of one of Lucan's gambling chums, who has not been identified by her real name, has come forward and claimed that on two occasions a few years after the murder of Sandra Rivett, arrangements were made to take his children to Africa where he could observe them from a distance (a claim considered credible by a former detective). She says too that Lucan is believed to have died in 2000, somewhere in Africa, although she is apparently able to offer no concrete information about this.
Tomorrow, Monday, the BBC's Inside Out South East
programme will discuss these claims in more detail.
The most sickening thing about the murder of Sandra Rivett is the way Lucan's chums rushed to his assistance, and the wall of silence that exists to this day.
“Lucky” Lucan was a member of the Clermont Set. This was a small select group who met at the Clermont Club, London's first legal casino under the then new gambling laws. The club was run by John Aspinall, who is perhaps best remembered as a zoo owner.
Another member of the Clermont Set was Sir James Goldsmith. Although there is no absolute proof, there can be little double that without their assistance, Lucan would have been brought to book.
Let it not be forgotten that this was not a crime of passion or an incident in a club in which one man pulled a knife on another in a moment of madness; Lucan murdered an innocent woman in cold blood, and but for her keeping her head, he might well have murdered his estranged wife too, as he had originally intended.