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A Story Of Murder, Gambling Debts, And British Aristocracy. The Disappearance Of Lord Lucan

Born to George Bingham and his wife Kaitlin, who were staunch socialists, Lucan's early years were spent being cared for by his nurse maid in the family home in London.

At the advent of World War Two, Lucan and his sister, Jane, were sent to live in Wales in a bid to keep them safe before travelling to Canada and finally America in 1940.

The family would remain overseas for the next five years until it was time for Lucan to return and attend Eton College, along with many others from the aristocracy.

It was while he was a pupil at Eton that Lucan's love of gambling first took hold - and where he earned the nickname Lucky.

After completing his National Service in 1954, Lucan began a career as a banker but was still gambling regularly.

Despite being skilled at bridge and backgammon, he also made huge losses and needed the cash from his family trust funds to keep himself afloat, even borrowing money from relatives so he could keep playing.

However, in 1960, Lucan really did hit lucky, winning £26,000 and, after being overlooked for a promotion, made the decision to quit his banking job to make his living gambling full time.

Something of a playboy, the aristocrat enjoyed luxury holidays with his upper class friends and enjoyed pricey past-times like power boat racing.

In 1963, Lucan met his wife, Veronica, who was a keen artist and lived with her sister, Christina, in a flat in London, where she worked as both a secretary and a model.

Following Christina's marriage to William Shand Kydd, Veronica was introduced to aristocratic circles and met Lucan at a function in a golf club.

The couple were engaged in 1963 and married in November of that year, with royals among those from High Society in attendance.

William Shand Kydd

After a luxurious honeymoon on the Orient Express, Veronica and Lucan moved into their home in Belgravia and the newly wed wife spent her time redecorating it with lavish wallpaper and furnishings.

Just two months after their marriage, Lucan's father died from a stroke, making him the Earl of Lucan and veronica Countess of Lucan.

Their first born, Lady Frances Bingham, arrived in October 1964, with Lord George Bingham in September 967 and their youngest, Lady Camilla Bingham in June 1970.

Despite their seemingly blissful married life, Veronica was struck with crippling post-natal depression following the birth of her children.

The couple employed a nanny after Lady Frances' birth and Lucan continued with his glamorous life.

Typically, he had breakfast at 9am before replying to letters, playing the piano and walking his beloved Doberman in the park close to their home.

Games of backgammon followed lunch at the prestigious Clermont Club and Lucan was often known to gamble until the early hours, sometimes with Veronica at his side.

Clermont Club, Berkeley Square

Meanwhile, Veronica struggled to deal with her mental health problems with her husband becoming increasingly involved, even trying to have her admitted to a psychiatric clinic, which she refused.

Veronica allowed home visits from doctors and was prescribed anti-depressants.

Lucan's gambling was also still creating serious financial issues for him and in 1972 his marriage to Veronica was damaged beyond repair and he moved into a small home nearby.

The split was not an amicable one, despite Veronica's initial attempts to get them back together, and Lucan's main focus became getting custody of his three children.

He went to extreme lengths to prove his wife wasn't capable of caring for them, even spying on his own family outside their home.

Lucan also recruited medical professionals, who refused to say that his wife was "mad" and insisted instead that she was suffering from depression.

He also told his powerful friends that she could not get any nannies to work for her. She had sacked one and another, Stefanja Sawicka, claimed Veronica had told her that she feared her husband would one day kill her.

In 1973, Stefanja, while out with the couple's two youngest children, was approached by Lucan and told they had been made wards of court and she must allow them to go with him. He collected Frances from school later that day.

Desperate to have her children returned, Veronica contacted the courts and a hearing was set for three months time.

In the interim period, Veronica admitted herself for a four-day stay at The Priory, where doctors agreed she was not mentally ill.

The court case then awarded custody to Veronica, with Lucan allowed access every other weekend.

The impact of losing the court case had a serious impact on Lucan. Not only had he lost custody of his children, it had also cost him around £20,000 and his finances were already in a perilous position.

It was then that Lucan's behaviour towards his ex-wife intensified, with him watching her every move and even recording phone calls.

He also began to withhold the money she needed to provide food and the live-in nanny she was required to have as part of the court order.

Even Lucan's friends had concerns about his erratic behaviour, especially when his drinking and smoking increased. He even, drunkenly, talked about killing Veronica to save him from bankruptcy.

Some even said he had talked of 'buying' his children from Veronica, and asked one friend for a loan of £100,000.

Determined not to lose custody of her children, Veronica got a part-time job at the local hospital to make what money she could and after a series of temporary nannies, employed Sandra Rivett in late 1974.

Lord & Lady Lucan, 1970

Then, in October 1974, the clouds around him seemed to have lifted. Friends remarked how his obsession with having his children returned to him eased and he was said to be happy, once again gambling until the early hours of the morning.

But then, on November 7, 1974, he broke with his usual strict routine. Lucan failed to meet a friend for an arranged meal at 3pm at The Clermont, and several other friends and business associates earlier that day.

He met a friend, literary agent Michael Hicks-Beach, at his flat at around 6:30pm driving him home at about 8pm, unusually not in his usual Mercedes, but an "old, dark and scruffy Ford".

Just before 10pm and dressed only in a nightgown, the Countess of Lucan burst into the Plumbers Arms pub in Belgravia, London,, screaming for help. The landlord said later that 37-year-old Lady Lucan was “covered from head to toe in blood” and shrieked: “Help me! Help me! I’ve just escaped from being murdered . . . he’s murdered the nanny.”

The “he” in question, an inquest jury later decided, was Lady Lucan’s husband, Lord Richard John Bingham, Seventh Earl of Lucan. Armed with a piece of lead piping, he allegedly bludgeoned to death Sandra Rivett, the 29-year-old nanny who cared for his three children, mistaking her for his wife, Veronica. He then tried to kill Lady Lucan, police claimed.

John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan with his future wife, Veronica Duncan after they announced their engagement, 14th October 1963.

He disappeared immediately after the attacks and nobody has officially seen him since, apart from a friend, Susan Maxwell-Scott.

Susan Maxwell-Scott.

It was established that after Lady Lucan raised the alarm her husband drove 45 miles to Uckfield in East Sussex, where his close friends, Ian and Susan Maxwell-Scott, lived. Ian was away but Susan invited in her dishevelled visitor. She said later he told her he was passing by the house when he saw Veronica being attacked by a man. He let himself in but slipped in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs. He told Mrs Maxwell-Scott that the attacker ran off, and that Veronica was "very hysterical" and accused him of having hired a hitman to kill her.

The murdered Nanny, Sandra Rivett

While at the Maxwell-Scotts, Lucan took time out to phone his mother and to write two letters to his brother-in-law, Bill Shand-Kydd. One of them, dated 7th Nov, 1974, read (in part):

Dear Bill, The most ghastly circumstances arose tonight . . . When I interrupted the fight at Lower Belgrave St. and the man left, Veronica accused me of having hired him. I took her upstairs and tried to clean her up. She lay doggo for a bit and when I was in the bathroom left the house. “The circumstantial evidence against me is strong in that V will say it was all my doing. I will also lie doggo for a bit . . . V. has demonstrated her hatred for me in the past and would do anything to see me accused. Yours ever John

The car that Lucan had used to reach Uckfield was later found bloodstained and abandoned at the nearby port of Newhaven, from where ferries sailed regularly to France.

A warrant for the peer’s arrest, to answer charges of murdering Sandra Rivett, and attempting to murder his wife, was issued on 12 November 1974. In his absence, an inquest jury later decided that the cause of Ms Rivett’s death was "Murder by Lord Lucan.”

In Britain, interest in the case has scarcely dwindled over the decades and there have been many reported sightings of Lord Lucan in countries including Portugal, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Mozambique and New Zealand.

There are even claims that he fled to India and lived life as a hippy called “Jungly Barry.” One bizarre story has it that he shot himself and his body was fed to tigers at a zoo.

Lord Lucan was legally declared dead in 1999 and a death certificate was issued in 2016. Susan Maxwell-Scott, the last person officially to see him alive, died in September, 2004, taking any secrets she might have held to the grave.

Lady Lucan in her final years

During a television interview in June, 2017, Lady Lucan, who named her husband as her assailant on that fateful night, said she believed he had made the “brave” decision to take his own life: “I would say he got on the ferry and jumped off in the middle of the Channel in the way of the propellers so that his remains wouldn’t be found – I think quite brave.”

Lady Lucan, formally named Veronica, Dowager Countess of Lucan, was found dead at her home three months after the interview. She was 80. Her son George Bingham, the 8th Earl Lucan, said: “She passed away at home, alone and apparently peacefully.”


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