Richard John Bingham was the 7th Earl of Lucan. An earl is someone of nobility, and can only be achieved through hereditary means, with Richard John Bingham inheriting the title.

Bingham led an incredibly privileged, yet chaotic, life. Amidst this chaos, he was once considered for the role of James Bond. He was a well-known celebrity.

However, Bingham would suffer a remarkable fall from grace – including a failed marriage and subsequent bitter custody battle, stalking allegations ad heavy gambling losses.

This fall from grace culminated in his disappearance – by which time Bingham was known as Lord Lucan. His disappearance came after Lucan was suspected to have murdered his nanny, before vanishing. In the years since, Lucan’s disappearance has attracted significant attention.

This article reviews this case. There is a reader’s poll at the end of the article, which we hope you partake in. We will all be able to see what the consensus is among our readers as to what happened.

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Background

Bingham was born in 1934, and attended the highly-prestigious Eton College in his youth. There, he was introduced to gambling, which would have dire consequences in his later life.

Bingham initially worked for a merchant bank in his early adult years. But he soon became a professional gambler – due in part to a love of backgammon and bridge. This allowed him to lead a lavish lifestyle, and he became a well-known face in the media.

However, Bingham’s gambling career was riddled with heavy losses. Bingham’s losses meant he struggled to maintain his lifestyle – which included regular holidays, owning an Aston Martin, and racing powerboats.

Bingham met and then married Veronica Duncan in 1963. Bingham’s father died in 1964, which led to Bingham officially becoming Lord Lucan, the 7th earl of the family.

By 1972, the aforementioned gambling losses, combined with his wife Veronica suffering from mental health problems, led to their marriage becoming strained. They eventually separated.

Veronica was able to retain custody of the children she and Lucan had had together. Lucan was spotted spying on Veronica and their children – and hired private investigators to do the same.

Lucan intentionally delayed payments for childcare services. As a result, Veronica had to hire a range of temporary nannies to help with the children.

By late 1974, a nanny called Sandra Rivett started working for Veronica. By this time, Lucan was in severe financial difficulties, was heavily drinking, and his gambling was said to be out of control.

The Disappearance

On the fateful November night of Lucan’s disappearance, not all of the facts of what happened are known. The account of Veronica is the basis of the stage of events. At this point, Rivett had worked for Veronica for several months.

It is believed that at some point during the evening, Rivett walked to the basement to make some tea. But as she made it down there, she was attacked, and ultimately bludgeoned to death.

This was seemingly a case of mistaken identity, with the killer thinking that Rivett was Veronica. The killer then put her body in a large sack.

When Veronica became concerned at Rivett not returning with her tea, she went to investigate. Veronica would later tell of how she went down to the basement, and was attacked. Veronica said that she thought the attacker was going to kill her.

The attacker was choking Veronica, who said that she had to squeeze Lucan’s testicles in order to get free. Veronica says at this point she could see that the injured attacker was Lucan.

Veronica said that during a short exchange, Lucan admitted to have killing Rivett. Veronica brokered a deal with Lucan that involved her helping Lucan to escape if he stayed a few days, supposedly to help Veronica’s wounds to heal to not arouse suspicion.

Soon enough, when Lucan went to the bathroom, Veronica took her opportunity to escape the house. When outside, she raised the alarm. The Police soon arrived, and discovered Rivett’s body. Veronica was taken to hospital.

At some point, Lucan had escaped and then disappeared. From here, it isn’t too clear what happened. Lucan is known to have called his mother – telling her about a “terrible catastrophe” that had involved Veronica fighting with a man.

Lucan was seen visiting a house owned by the mother of one of his child’s friends, but nobody was home. He then travelled 40 miles to the county of Sussex to see some friends.

Lucan had driven Veronica’s car to get to Sussex. At some point in the early hours of the morning, Lucan drove away. Lucan’s visit to his friends’ house was the final confirmed sighting of Lucan – he would never be seen again.

The Investigation

As mentioned, the Police descended upon the scene. Veronica was immediately rushed to hospital, and was unable to give an account to the Police immediately.

To begin with, the Police drafted up a list of potential suspects – so far unaware that Lucan was the apparent killer. Due to Veronica’s position as the wife of a Lord – albeit divorced – the Police were under pressure to solve the case.

When Veronica woke up though, the Police became aware of what happened. Veronica’s account of events was consistent with the crime scene. Veronica told the Police about Lucan’s appearance at the house in the evening. The Police searched Lucan’s residence, and were able to locate his passport and other possessions.

The Police had their suspicions of whether or not Lucan was actually responsible. But this position changed, when, two letters that Lucan had written to his friends were found. These letters proclaimed his innocence – though they were bloodstained.

The Police found the car that Lucan had left Sussex in. It had been ditched around 16 miles away. The car had blood over it, and part of the weapon used to murder Rivett was found.

The area around the car was searched, though there was no trace of Lucan. By the day, the search grid got bigger and bigger. An international arrest warrant was issued for Lucan, in the event that he had somehow managed to leave the country.

The Police invested many resources into finding Lucan. However, despite various leads, Lucan was never found. It appeared as if he vanished without trace.

Later Developments

Supposed “sightings” of Lucan were commonplace in the years following his disappearance. These sightings took place around the globe, but no concrete leads were available.

The Australian Police apprehended a man they thought was Lucan, but it turned out to be a Member of Parliament who had recently faked his own death – John Stonehouse.

In 2004, Scotland Yard, clearly not giving up on finding Lucan, released an image of what Lucan would look like was released in the hope that he could be located.

In 2016, Lord Lucan was pronounced legally dead. This allowed George Charles Bingham – Lucan’s son – to become the 8th Earl of Lucan. George has gone on record to say that he doubts his father was the actual murderer of Rivett.

In September 2017, Veronica Duncan tragically passed away. Her death was attributed to respiratory failure due to excessive consumption of barbiturates and alcohol; it is unknown whether or not she intentionally overdosed. She died in the same house that Rivett had been murdered in.

In 2020, Rivett’s son Neil Berriman, said that he had traced Lucan to Australia. Berriman claimed that Lucan originally escaped to Perth, Australia. He told British media outlets that those around “Lucan” have been suspicious of him for many years. The Police investigated, but found nothing to suggest an investigation was needed.

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Theories

There can only be just a few possibilities of what might have happened to Lucan. After leaving the Sussex residence of his friends, very little is known of what then happened.

We take a look at the evidence for these theories:

Theory One: Lord Lucan died by suicide

The most widely accepted theory is that Lucan took his own life, and that his body has never been found. How he did this without his body ever being found has been cause for speculation.

Veronica suggested that Lucan’s knowledge of propellers through his passion for powerboating would have allowed him to critically injure himself in a way that would have resulted in his remains not being found. Veronica suggested that this final act was “brave”.

Veronica suggested that a sentence in one of the notes left – “please tell those that you know, that all I cared about was them” (with “them” being the children), suggested that Lucan intended to die.

It seemed as if Lucan had very little to live for at the time. He was facing bankruptcy, was a wanted felon, and would surely be consigned to prison for the rest of his life if found. As a result, many suggest he took his own life.

Theory Two: Lord Lucan escaped and survived

In the absence of a body, there are many arguments to suggest that Lucan was able to evade capture, before assuming a new identitiy and escaping to a different country.

Lucan has been supposedly spotted around the world – it is possible that at least one of these sightings could be accurate. Nothing has ever proved conclusive though.

Lucan also had strong connections to shadowy underworld figures, due to his gambling. Some have suggested that Lucan might have been helped out of the country by some allies.

As a famous face, it is unknown if a man like Lucan could go through the rest of his life without being spotted. But it is possible, and he may continue to live to this day.

Theory Three: Veronica murdered Rivett

A highly controversial theory states that Veronica may actually have been the one to have killed Rivett, before she created an elaborate story to pin the blame on Lucan.

To achieve this, Veronica would have needed to closely plan the event. She could have committed the murder herself, before the running out and accusing Lucan.

Lucan could then have fled in a hurry. Believing that he had little chance of convincing the Police that he was innocent, Lucan may then have fled the country or took his own life.

There is very little evidence to support this theory. The murder weapon, blood and the letters written by Lucan all cast significant doubt on this theory. However, as we only ever heard one side of the story, it is impossible to rule this theory out entirely.

Reader Vote

With the above theories in mind, we now invite you to cast your vote on the theory that you believe is most likely in the poll below.

What Happened to Lord Lucan?
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Summary

The disappearance of Lord Lucan has become internationally known, and has never failed to cause intrigue. The lack of answers and uncertainty with the case makes it difficult to judge.

An inquest into Rivett’s death found Lucan to be responsible. The case has remained open, but an answer looks highly unlikely.

Lucan would be approaching his 90’s, meaning that even if he did flee the country, there would be a good chance that he isn’t alive anymore. There is of course a chance that Lucan could still be out there.

The case has left a strong legacy on the world, and will forever be remembered for its circumstances. The questions will remain.

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