In Depth

What happened to Lord Lucan?

Richard John Bingham, otherwise known as Lord Lucan, disappeared without a trace 44 years ago

It has been 44 years since the aristocrat Lord Lucan murdered his children's nanny, attacked his wife and then disappeared into the night, but his vanishing act is still one of the UK's biggest mysteries.

So what happened?

On 7 November 1974, Lucan - born Richard John Bingham - killed his family nanny Sandra Rivett with a lead pipe in the basement of his Belgravia home, according to the inquest into her death. It is believed he mistook her for his estranged wife, Veronica, the Dowager Countess of Lucan, who had recently filed for divorce and won custody of their three children.

After bludgeoning Rivett he then found Lady Lucan and attacked her with the pipe, leaving her for dead in a pool of blood. He drove to a friend's house in East Sussex in a borrowed car, before vanishing in the early hours of 8 November. The car was later found abandoned in Newhaven with blood stains inside. Lady Lucan, who said she had long been abused by her husband, believes he threw himself from a cross-Channel ferry soon after the murder.

Lucan was a known gambler and struggling with massive debt issues. Evidently, their marriage was “grimly unhappy”, says The Independent.

In 2016, a High Court judge ruled Lucan to be dead, which has allowed for his son to adopt his father's title. However, the official death certificate does not mean the speculation has been laid to rest.

What are the conspiracies? 

There have been numerous claims that Lucan is still alive, with reported sightings in places as far apart as Greece and Botswana, as well as “in New Zealand living in a 1974 model Land Rover with his pets Snowy the cat, Camilia the goat and Redfern the possum,” reports The Independent.

Philippe Marcq, a wealthy stockbroker who knew Lucan through their gambling ties, told the Daily Mail Lucan ended up at a private zoo in Kent owned by his friend, the late John Aspinall. Marcq claimed Lucan - nicknamed Lucky - shot himself there and was fed to a tiger, although Aspinall reportedly told police investigating the allegation: “My tigers are only fed the choices cuts - do you really think they're going to eat stringy old Lucky?”

One of Aspinall's former assistants later told The Daily Telegraph that her boss had helped Lucan resettle in South Africa and even booked tickets for his children to visit him. 

But Lady Lucan rejected the claim: “It’s rubbish, I can guarantee they didn’t go to Africa. It’s ridiculous, it’s false.

“I was their carer. I would have known if they had gone to Africa. I had to get permission from the court to take them abroad or even into the country. I never took them abroad.”

In an ITV documentary in 2016 Lady Lucan repeated her theory on her husband's death: “I would say he got on the ferry and jumped off in the middle of the channel in the way of the propellers, so his remains wouldn't be found - quite brave, I think.”  

What happened to Lady Lucan? 

Lady Lucan passed away in September 2017, killing herself with a combination of drugs and alcohol, at the age of 80. The pathologist gave a cause of death due to respiratory failure from the lethal combination. She had self-diagnosed herself with Parkinson's disease and written about how she would kill herself if her health deteriorated.

It emerged that she had not spoken to her three children in more than 35 years. She eventually left her estate to the homeless charity, Shelter.

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