Richard Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan

Richard Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan

Infobox Person
name = Lord Lucan

image_size =
caption =
birth_name = Richard John Bingham
birth_date = 18 December 1934
birth_place =
death_date = Possibly deceased some time after 8 November 1974
death_place =
death_cause =
resting_place =
resting_place_coordinates =
residence =
nationality = British
other_names =
known_for = Murder of Sandra Rivett, subsequent disappearance
education = Eton College
employer =
occupation = Coldstream Guards officer
title = Lord Lucan, 7th Earl of Lucan
salary =
networth =
height =
weight =
term =
predecessor =
successor =
party =
boards =
religion =
spouse = Lady Lucan (née Veronica Mary Duncan)
partner =
children = Three
parents = George Bingham, 6th Earl of Lucan, Kaitilin Elizabeth Anne (née Dawson)
relatives =

website =
footnotes =

Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan (born 18 December 1934), known as Lord Bingham from 1949 to 1964 and colloquially known as "Lucky" Lucan [Coined long before the events surrounding his disappearance] , was or is a missing British aristocrat who disappeared on 8 November 1974 after his children's nanny Sandra Rivett was found murdered. Lucan's current whereabouts are unknown. He was presumed deceased in chambers 11 December 1992 [ Countess of Lucan: setting the record straight] ] and declared legally dead in 1999. [ Lord Lucan 'officially dead'] BBC, 1999-10-27]

Early life

The eldest son of George Charles Patrick Bingham, 6th Earl of Lucan, and Kaitilin Elizabeth Anne (née Dawson), [ The Peerage] Retrieved on 17 January 2007.] Lord Lucan was educated at Eton College. [Nick Fraser [,,1648775,00.html "You can take the boy out of Eton...",] "The Guardian", 23 November 2005. Retrieved on 17 January 2007.] [ [ Kirby, Terry (7 December 2005) "Eton's old boy network." "The Independent".] Retrieved on 17 January 2007.] He went on to serve in the Coldstream Guards. He had two sisters and one brother. His father died in 1964 and he inherited the earldom when he was 29 years old. Lord Lucan's mother died in 1985. A compulsive gambler through his adult life Bingham accrued significant debts and was a member of the Clermont Set.


In early 1974, the Lucans separated, with the three children living with their mother. Lady Lucan subsequently engaged Rivett as nanny for the children. At 21:45 on 8 November 1974, Lady Lucan burst into the Plumber's Arm, the pub nearest to her house, appealing for help. She had blood pouring from several wounds on her head and was reported to have said: "Murder, murder, I think my neck has been broken - he tried to kill me."

The police were summoned, and arrived at the Lucans' home 15 minutes later where they forced open the front door. Making a quick search, they found a bloodstained towel in one bedroom, and saw a large pool of blood with a man's footprints in it on the floor of the basement. They then made a thorough search of the basement, where the kitchen and breakfast room were sited, and discovered broken crockery and walls splashed with blood. They also found a canvas mailbag inside of which was the body of Sandra Rivett, who had suffered head wounds. A bloodstained length of lead pipe wrapped in surgical plaster was also found. 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 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 unlit, and when she called out 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 tried to shove his fingers down her throat but she managed to dissuade him and he ceased his attack and they both collapsed on to the stairs. Lady Lucan asked him where Rivett was and Lucan admitted to killing her. They then went upstairs, and while Lucan went into the bathroom to get a cloth to wipe her face, Lady Lucan took advantage of his absence to escape from the house and run to the nearby pub.

Lucan phone calls

At around 22:00, Lucan's friend Madeleine Forman, who lived next door, 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 discovered bloodstains on her doorstep.

A few minutes after he called Forman, 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 that Lady Lucan had been injured and that 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 look after his children and hung up.


Lucan then drove convert|68|km|abbr=on to the house of his friends Ian and Susan Maxwell-Scott, in Sussex. He was driving a Ford Corsair that he had borrowed from a friend while his own Mercedes was being repaired. Arriving at the Maxwell-Scotts' home he found Susan Maxwell-Scott alone. He gave her an expanded version of the story he had told his mother, claiming that having seen a fight he had let himself into the house and gone down to the basement, where he had slipped on a pool of blood and the assailant had fled. He also said that Lady Lucan had cried out that the man had killed Rivett and that she 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 friend Bill Shand Kydd, but could not reach him. He sat down and wrote two letters to him, which he gave to Susan Maxwell-Scott to post, then left at 01:15. There has been no verified sighting of him since then.


The following Monday, the Ford Corsair was found abandoned in the coastal town of Newhaven, south of London. There were bloodstains in the front of the car, and in the boot a length of lead pipe wrapped in surgical plaster matching the one found in the Lucans' basement.

It was not until the next day - four days after the murder - that a warrant was issued for Lucan's arrest. Additionally, 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 quicker 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 to later 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 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 QC acting for Lucan's mother did his best to talk up Lady Lucan's alleged hatred of her husband, but the 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.

The inquest jury took just half an hour to reach their verdict, naming Lord Lucan as the murderer of Sandra Rivett.Countess of Lucan, page 1] Rivett's death certificate reads: "Cause of death: Blunt head injuries inflicted by a named person. Murder".Fact|date=December 2007 This was the last time before the introduction of the Criminal Law Act 1977 that an inquest jury was allowed to name a murderer.

2004 investigation

In October 2004 the Metropolitan Police conducted a review of the case so that they could examine the existing police evidence, using DNA profiling. Police also prepared a computer-generated image of how Lucan might have looked were he still alive (he would have been 69 years old) using "age-progression" software. [cite news | last = | first = | coauthors = | title = Lord Lucan case reopened | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = The Age | date = October 18, 2004 | url = | accessdate = ]

The review of the case, which was codenamed "Operation Abberton", was led by Detective Superintendent Lewis Benjamin of Scotland Yard. [cite news | last = | first = | coauthors = | title = Thirty years later and the Lucan theories just keep on coming | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = The Independent | date = November 6 2004 | url = | accessdate = ] Benjamin said that he believe Lucan was helped by friends to escape from Britain and began a secret life abroad. [cite news | last = Alderson | first = Andrew | coauthors = Richard Eden | title = Lord Lucan could still be alive, says the detective leading a new hunt for him | work = | pages = | language = | publisher = The Telegraph | date = November 7 2004 | url = | accessdate = ]

However, the DNA testing failed to provide any conclusive evidence.


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 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. The counter to this theory is the matching length of lead pipe 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 that the killer originally hired by Lucan was unable to perform the murder and sent a last-minute replacement who bungled it.

Possible motives

At the time of the murder, Lady Lucan had custody of their three children. Lord Lucan considered his wife mentally unstable and believed he should have custody of the children, but British courts seldom granted custody of children away from their mother.Fact|date=December 2007 (In 1982, Lady Lucan received an affidavit, sent through the post, in which her 15-year-old son declared he would find it "much more congenial to live as part of the family of his aunt and uncle". By this time his elder sister was eighteen years of age.)

Another motive, offered by a friend, Greville Howard, to the police, is that Lucan, wishing to solve his financial problems and avoid bankruptcy, had considered killing Lady Lucan and dropping her body in the Solent.Fact|date=December 2007

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 earl. In a curious coincidence, 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 popularly sighted around South Africa. In 2007, the "Daily Mail" suggested this was a mistaken identity of a man nicknamed Johannesburg Jeff.

John Aspinall

In one of the more bizarre claims, an affidavit in the possession of the tabloid "Daily Mirror" records the account of a Bedfordshire woman, formerly employed by Lord Lucan's friend John Aspinall, who claims that the fugitive Lord Lucan was sheltered by Aspinall at his zoo, which resulted in Lord Lucan being mauled to death by a tiger and his corpse hurriedly disposed of.Fact|date=December 2007

In 2000, Aspinall gave an interview in which he said that in his opinion, Lord Lucan had committed suicide by scuttling the powerboat that he kept at Newhaven. Aspinall said he had no doubt that Lord Lucan had killed the nanny, but that it was a mistake; Lord Lucan, Aspinall said, had intended to kill his wife and had killed himself out of shame.cite web| url=| title=Lucan 'committed suicide'| publisher=BBC| date=2000-02-13| accessdate=2007-12-06]

Barry Halpin

In September 2003, a book titled "Dead Lucky: Lord Lucan, The Final Truth", [cite book| last=MacLaughlin| first=Duncan |coauthors=William Hall |title=Dead Lucky: Lord Lucan, The Final Truth| publisher=John Blake Publishing |year=2003 |month=September |isbn=978-1844540105] written by Duncan MacLaughlin, a former Scotland Yard detective, claimed to have solved the mystery of Lucan's disappearance.cite web| url=| title=Lord Lucan claim dismissed| publisher=BBC| date=2003-09-09| accessdate=2007-12-06] 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", 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" [cite book| last=MacLaughlin| first=Duncan |coauthors=William Hall |title=The Lucan Conspiracy| publisher=John Blake Publishing |year=2004 |month=September |isbn=978-1844540655] (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

In August 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 that he couldn't discuss the case further until his investigation was complete. The man is said to have an upper-class English accent and might be receiving income from property interests in the UK. He has denied being Lord Lucan, claiming he had been a photographer working for the Ministry of Defence who left the UK five months before Lord Lucan vanished. Mr Woodgate also claims to be 10 years younger than Lord Lucan, and five inches shorter. [ "UK expat denies he is Lord Lucan" "BBC News".] Retrieved on 9 August 2007. ]


The 7th Earl of Lucan was declared deceased by the High Court of Justice in 1999, but no death certificate has been issued, so his earldom cannot yet be inherited by his son, George Bingham, Lord Bingham. The trustees of the 7th Earl of Lucan's Settled Estates in 1992 were 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 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 (Lord Bingham) 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 1999. The net value remaining amounted to less than £15,000.

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


*The phrase "doing a Lord Lucan" now means to disappear or go missing. The phrase is generally applied in a humorous context. This is similar to the phrase "pulling a Crater" which arose from the similarly mysterious vanishing of Judge Crater in New York.

*The Countess of Lucan established a website to detail her side of the story. [Countess of Lucan's official site]

*A film called "Bloodlines: Legacy of a Lord" [ [ "Bloodlines: Legacy of a Lord." (1997) Vine International Pictures, Ltd.] ] was made about his life and his disappearance. It is set in 1997 and follows the story of a journalist searching for information about Lucan. Most of the film is told in flashback.

*In an episode of "The New Statesman", Alan B'Stard (Rik Mayall) successfully brings hanging back to the country. An old friend of B'Stard's - a hangman wants his job returned, but B'Stard denies it, stating he's far too old and out of practice considering the last hanging was in 1964. The hangman then replies: "Oh but it wasn't in 1964, it was 1974 - Lord Lucan"

*The Conservative Party leader David Cameron referred to him in a speech. "You are just about as likely," he said, "to find an NHS dentist in Milton Keynes as you are Lord Lucan riding on Shergar" [ [] . Shergar was a horse who was stolen from his stable, possibly by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.] , a joke originally made by Christy Moore in his song "Lisdoonvarna." [ [ Lyrics of "Lisdoonvarna" on] ] A similar joke was used in the BBC comedy series "Dead Ringers", where Queen Elizabeth II was depicted claiming that she did not know the secrets to multiple unsolved mysteries while revealing she had been in touch with Lucan, could back an alibi for Lee Harvey Oswald and was in possession of Shergar.

*Ian Botham used the phrase "disappeared like Lord Lucan" in respect to England's wicket keeper Chris Read, who made very few appearances in the first part of the 2006-07 Ashes series.

*The GTA London game features a mission where you steal a stretch limo from one of the more upmarket neighbourhoods of London and the voiceover tells you 'my name is Lucan but you can call me 'sir' now I need to get away from here in quite a hurry boy, had a little bit of trouble with the nanny' the mission involves getting the fugitive lord to safety

*Satirical puppet show "Spitting Image" often had Lord Lucan appearing in the background as a waiter, bartender etc. In one sketch he appeared on "Question Time" being asked by the audience if he can give any clues as to his current location.

* A song titled "Lord Lucan is Missing" appeared on the 1998 debut album England Made Me of the English music group Black Box Recorder.





*"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


*"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
*"The Lucky Lord"

ee also

* List of people who have disappeared
* Death in absentia

External links

* [ The Lucan Review]
* [ Jungly Barry website]
* [ 1975: Missing earl guilty of murder] — "BBC News On This Day, 19 June 2006"
* [ Lady Lucan's website]
* [ Channel 4 links for Lucan]

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