Missing, presumed dead: Sun's 'Lord Lucan interview'

Did Rupert Murdoch really hope for an interview with missing peer for first Sunday edition?

BY David Cairns LAST UPDATED AT 11:40 ON Sun 26 Feb 2012

RUPERT MURDOCH'S new Sunday edition of the Sun launched not with a bang but with a whimper today – and it may all be the fault of Lord Lucan.

Media watchers are disappointed with the paper's first edition, with some insiders speculating the paper was trying too hard to avoid controversy as it squirms in the light of the Leveson inquiry into press standards

The entire front page is given over to the story of TV presenter Amanda Holden's difficult recent birth. It's her first interview on the subject, but hardly the newsstand-dominating shocker readers of the soaraway tabloid might have hoped for.

One intriguing explanation for Sunday's damp squib is that Rupe - or his editor, Dominic Mohan - had something much, much juicier up their sleeves which fell through at the last minute.

According to Daily Mail columnist Andrew Pierce, the 80-year-old media tycoon hoped to launch the Sun on Sunday with an interview with Lord Lucan, who, according to recent reports could still be alive and living in Africa.

Lucan went missing after the brutal murder of his children's nanny in 1974 and his name has since become a by-word for mysterious disappearance. An interview with the peer, who was declared dead in 1999 but would now be 78, would be a scoop almost on a par with a snap of the Loch Ness monster relaxing at home with Elvis Presley.

Pierce told BBC Breakfast on Saturday morning that the Sun has a large team in Botswana. They hoped to negotiate an interview with the former Coldstream Guards officer to launch the Sunday edition, if he really was still alive.

Pierce was speaking shortly after the Daily Mirror had published an interview with Henry Bingham, Lucan's brother, who claimed his sibling had indeed escaped to Africa – but said he did not know if he was still alive. According to Pierce, it was a 'spoiler' – the Mirror's attempt to steal it's rival's thunder.

In the event, what rolled off the News International presses late on Saturday evening was an altogether less earth-shattering front page. Seasoned media watcher – and former head of spin for Tony Blair – Alastair Campbell was disappointed.

He took to Twitter on Saturday night, announcing: "Sun on Sunday have clearly put a phoney front page out. Real one will be second edition. Otherwise major 'is that it?' problem."

Insiders think the Amanda Holden cover was just a holding page, released on Saturday night so that other newspapers would not have time to get the paper's real exclusive into their own later editions. The Lucan cover would then have followed as a second edition on Sunday morning.

Whatever went wrong with the interview, if Lord Lucan was found to be alive and well, it might bring to justice a killer who has been on the run for 38 years since an inquest jury named him as the murderer of 29-year-old nanny Sandra Rivett. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.