Was it a murderer who mysteriously disappeared?

Lord and Lady Lucan announcing their engagement. Photo: Photoshot
Lord and Lady Lucan announcing their engagement. Photo: Photoshot

“Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred,

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!

Charge for the guns!’ he said,

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred…”

“Oh, it’s The Charge of the Light Brigade, by Alfred Lord Tennyson!” Tansie exclaimed as her friend, Agnes rattled off a few lines with great drama.

“Right you are, Tansie. It was written in 1854 by Tennyson to memorialize the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War,” Agnes concurred. “And Tennyson was Poet Laureate when he wrote it.”

“Wasn’t it Lord Lucan’s great-great-grandfather that ordered the actual charge?” Fiona asked the group of friends. “I wonder where he is now, Lord Lucan. I like to fancy that he is on a plantation in South Africa. He was spotted in South Africa years ago, some say.”

“Yes, it was Lord Lucan’s great-great-grandfather who ordered the charge! I heard of that Lucan spotting in South Africa, but I, myself, think he basks in the sun on some remote Brazilian sea coast, maybe with the Girl from Ipanema by his side, or possibly he is in the South of France,” Tansie suggested. “He has been spotted there, many times. He is like an apparition. When they hear of his presence and send authorities to check on him, he disappears, almost magically.”

“And there are those that think he is still in England,” Agnes explained. They never could get members of the elite ‘Lucan Set,’ his friends and associates, to break ranks and discuss his habits or activities in any detail. There were a couple of chaps that knew him quite well that did think he would have been prone to fall on his own sword after such a horrid set of events. There are even those that think he may have thrown himself into the drink.”

“I heard a rumor that his fear of a trial and possible conviction influenced him to throw himself into the sea off Newhaven,” Fiona offered. “Did you ever hear of that one? He would have thought it the only noble thing to do. But they never found any evidence for such.”

“No, they never found any real evidence,” Agnes replied.

“No evidence,” Tansie echoed. Say, this is a delicious tea you have put out for us, Agnes. I think I will have a little more plum jam for my biscuit, if you don’t mind.” Fiona passed the elegant crystal jam jar with the little silver spoon inside.


Sandra Rivett, the nanny who was murdered
Sandra Rivett, the nanny who was murdered. Photo: The Daily Mail

“While we are discussing Lord Lucan, do both of you think it was he who killed the Nanny? It sometimes creeps into my mind that Lord Lucan’s wife possibly killed her and staged the whole thing to frame her estranged husband,” Fiona uttered these tantalizing remarks with an odd expression on her face.”

“Oh, it would cross one’s mind,” Tansie answered, while spreading the jam generously on a biscuit. “Have you seen photos of the nanny? She was quite the looker—beautiful, even. She had been in their employ for four weeks. That was certainly long enough for something to get started up between her and Lord Lucan, if both were so inclined. And it was long enough for his wife to find out about it and get furious or jealous. His wife, the countess, had gone into a pub, covered in blood, disheveled and disoriented, claiming that her husband had intended to kill her but had mistaken the nanny for her and killed the nanny by accident. When he discovered his mistake, he looked around for the wife and attacked her, but she was able to get away.”

“That could be the actual way it happened. They were not able to prove anything otherwise,” Agnes added. “Lord Lucan’s story was that he was observing the house from outside the windows and saw an intruder attacking his wife in the basement. He ran to the rescue, but slipped on a pool of blood and the intruder got away. At about the same time his wife was in the pub telling her side of the story, Lord Lucan had decided to drop in on friends in Sussex over forty miles away. He had the use of a borrowed car and said to the friends that he feared his wife would blame the whole ‘traumatic night of unbelievable coincidence’ on him and he intended to ‘lie doggo for awhile.’ No one ever saw or heard from him again. They did find the borrowed car he had been driving in Newhaven, complete with bloodstains and a length of bloody pipe.”

“This could have gone down in several different ways, as they say in America—many ways it could have gone down. Wife attacks nanny- blames husband, nanny attacks wife-underestimates opponent-wife decides to blame husband—spur of moment, husband attacks nanny on purpose-wife gets in the way, husband attacks nanny by accident,   I would love to see all of the forensic evidence, including fingerprints and DNA,” Fiona concluded.

*     *     *

     The facts of the case are this: on November 7, 1974, a brunette woman presented herself at the Plumber’s Arms pub in London and told her bloody tale. She was Veronica, countess of Lucan. When police were summoned to hear her story, she cautioned them that her husband was still in the house and she was worried about her children, also there, at Lower Belgrave Street in London’s chic Belgravia District.

When police arrived they found extensive blood spattering and the beaten body of Sandra Rivett, the children’s nanny of four weeks. Her body had been crammed into a canvas bag, the type that mail is carried in. There was also a bloody lead pipe wrapped in adhesive tape. Richard John Bingham, the seventh earl of Lucan was not on the premises. His wife insisted that in the darkness, he had thought he was attacking her and attacked the nanny by mistake. When he realized his error he came after Veronica and got in a few blows before she was able to escape and run to the pub.

Lord Lucan had had a sometimes dark life. He seemed to be addicted to gambling and he was given the moniker Lucky Lucan by fellow aristocrats as a joke because he always lost. His marriage was rocky and he was squandering the family fortunes, but he still carried patrician bearing and manners while making the rounds of posh clubs in his social circle.

His drinking became excessive and he was so upset by the separation from his wife and ensuing custody battle that he tried to have Veronica committed to a mental institution. This was not successful and he continued to go further into a downward spiral. When police discovered the names of his friends in an address book, those same friends were reluctant to discuss any of his problems. He was named as the killer in inquest documents, but there was never a trial and he was never located. Lady Lucan was reluctant to have him declared dead, even after a reasonable number of years.

A video production was made of the Lucan case and released to DVD by Acorn Media in April of 2015. It stars Rory Kinnear, has had mixed reviews (currently 4 out of 5 star average), and presents the basic facts as known. It also contains mock trial—what would happen if Lord Lucan were ever put on trial for the horrendous murder of his children’s nanny?

Jolly good.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Quite Curious, a collection of unexplained mysteries.



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