The Disappearance of Lord Lucan: What Happened?

Richard John Bingham was the 7th Earl of Lucan. Prior to his infamous disappearance, he was once considered for he role of James Bond – such was his popularity. Yet Bingham suffered a remarkable fall from grace – including a failed marriage and subsequent bitter custody battle, stalking allegations and heavy gambling losses. The fall from grace culminated in his disappearance – by which time Bingham was known as Lord Lucan. In November 1974, Lucan supposedly killed a nanny before vanishing. In this article, which is also this week’s Sunday Read, we take a look at the case in full and some of the theories for Lucan’s disappearance.


What happened to Lucan is a complete mystery

Binham was born in 1934, and worked for a merchant bank in his early adult years. But as a skilled backgammon and bridge player, he soon became a professional gambler. However his gambling career was riddled with heavy losses. Bingham’s losses meant he struggled to sustain his lifestyle – which included regular holidays, owning an Aston Martin and racing powerboats. Bingham married Veronica Duncan in 1963, and, following the death of his father in 1964, he became Lord Lucan.


By 1972, the aforementioned gambling losses, combined with Veronica’s weakened mental condition, led to their marriage becoming strained. They eventually separated. Veronica was able to retain custody of their children. Yet Lucan was seen spying on Veronica and their children – and hired private investigators to do the same. Lucan intentionally delayed payments for childcare services – leading to a slew 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.




By the time that the fateful November evening came around, Rivett had been working for Veronica for a few months. It is believed that when Rivett went to the basement to make tea, she was attacked, and ultimately bludgeoned to death. The killer subsequently placed her body in a mailsack. When Veronica became concerned at Rivett’s failure to return with the tea, she went to investigate. She was then attacked, and in her account, Veronica said she thought the man was going to kill her. He was choking Veronica, before she squeezed his balls, helping her to gain the upper hand.


At this point Veronica saw the injured attacker was Lucan. Lucan confirmed he had killed Rivett. Veronica brokered a deal with Lucan that she would aid an escape if he stayed for a few days – to give her wounds time to heal. Yet when Lucan went to the bathroom, Veronica took her opportunity to escape the house. Veronica raised the alarm, and eventually the Police discovered Rivett’s body. An investigation into her death was immediately launched, with Veronica recovering in hospital.



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After Lucan discovered Veronica had left, it isn’t entirely known what happened. It is known that he called his mother – telling her about a ‘terrible catastrophe’, which involved Veronica fighting with a man. He is also known to have visited a house owned by the Mother of one of his child’s friends, but there was no answer. Lucan then travelled 40 miles to Sussex to see friends, taking Veronica’s car. He would leave his friend’s house in the early hours of the morning. This was the final confirmed sighting of Lucan – he would never be seen again.


The appearance of the death scene and its contents was consistent with Veronica’s account of the night. Officers searched Lucan’s own residence, finding his passport among other possessions. His car was outside, with no sign of Lucan. The Police drafted up a list of potential suspects – not yet thinking Lucan was responsible. However, it transpired that when Lucan was at his friend’s house, he wrote two letters to friends – emphasising his innocence – yet the letters were bloodstained. The car Lucan had used to see his friends was found ditched a further 16 miles away. The car included blood, and part of the murder weapon was found. An international arrest warrant was issued for Lucan. The area around the car was searched – though there was no sign of Lucan.


The search for Lucan would go on, but there haven’t ever been any signs of him. So what did happen once Lucan had ditched his car? The most common theory is that Lucan took his own life, and that his body has simply never been found. It was some time before Lucan’s car was found – it is feasible that he walked a long way. Yet another theory is that Lucan managed to escape to a foreign country, where he lived on for many years. There have been countless supposed sightings of Lucan around the world – and many were investigated, but nothing conclusive was found.


The last people to see Lucan – the friends in Sussex – had their own theory. They suggested he was helped out of the country by shadowy underworld figures – who in turn opted to kill Lucan when interest in the case hit too high levels. There have been numerous other theories – alien abduction of course has been speculated, but the mystery has gone on. It appears that no one will ever know what truly happened to Lucan. It is a tragic shame too what happened to Sandra Rivett.




This case was a famous one – which achieved national interest and worldwide headlines. An inquest into Rivett’s death found Lucan to be responsible, despite some suggesting Veronica had lied. Veronica died in September 2017 – having committed suicide. The case has left a remarkable legacy – and it seems as if no one will know the entire truth ever. Lucan, if he is still alive – would be 84 years old at the time of writing – it isn’t inconceivable to believe that he could still be out there somewhere. Officially, Lucan was declared legally dead in 2016. The mystery goes on…



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