The murder of Sandra Rivett and the disappearance of Lord Lucan: This ’70s mysterious case still puzzles the world

The murder of Sandra Rivett and the disappearance of Lord Lucan: This '70s mysterious case still puzzles the world 1

He disappeared decades ago after the murder of the family’s nanny. Now British aristocrat Richard John Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, or best known as Lord Lucan, has been officially left for dead, but the mystery about his disappearance continues. And his whereabouts fueled decades of speculation.

The Earl of Lucan with his then fiancee Veronica Duncan, who later became the Countess of Lucan
The Earl of Lucan with his then fiancee Veronica Duncan, who later became the Countess of Lucan © MRU

The nanny, Sandra Rivett, was beaten until she died on November 7, 1974. That same day, Bingham vanished. In 1999 he was presumed dead, but it was not until February 2016 that the official certificate entitles his son to inherit his title.

Gambling Debts And Depression Push Lucans Into A Life Of Hell

Richard John Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, met his future wife, Veronica Duncan, at a London golf event in early 1963. By November of that same year, they were married. Unfortunately, their marriage faced serious pressure right from the beginning. Lord Lucan had developed a serious gambling problem, losing a significant portion of the family’s money and plunging himself into debt.

Adding to their marital problems was the fact that Lady Lucan suffered from severe depression. After giving birth to each of their three children, she suffered from post-partum depression which was treated with various anti-depressants that compromised her mental health over the following years. Lord Lucan was said to have been understanding of his wife’s condition at first, but he eventually became overwhelmed and essentially checked out.

The combination of her depression and his gambling problem were too much for the couple; Lord Lucan began to lash out violently towards his wife, and their marriage fell apart in 1973. He moved out of the family home, and into an apartment nearby.

Lord Lucan Hatched A Plan That Went Wrong And He Disappeared!

Sandra Rivett's
The nanny: Sandra Rivett’s body was found at Lucan’s Belgravia home on November 7, 1974 © MRU

It’s mostly believed that on November 7, 1974, Bingham hatched a plan to kill his wife, but accidentally killed their 29-year-old nanny, Sandra Rivett, instead ― a tragic case of mistaken identity. As nanny to the three Lucan children, Rivett usually had Thursday nights off.

However, that particular Thursday, she had remained at the home and was making tea for the family at around 9 pm. She went down to make some tea in the basement, where the downstairs lights weren’t working. She was roughly the same height and build of Lady Lucan, and in the dark it would have been hard to tell the two apart.

When Rivett didn’t come back right away, Lady Lucan went downstairs to investigate and was attacked by a man in the dark. She managed to escape and run to a local pub for help, but Sandra Rivett wasn’t so lucky. She had been beaten to death with a lead pipe. Lady Lucan told authorities that her husband was the man who attacked her and murdered the nanny.

George Weiss, one of Lord Lucan’s gambling buddies, claimed that the lord had discussed how he was plotting his wife’s murder over a game of backgammon the day before. Weiss said, “He went to his house that day with his mind set on killing his wife. He saw no way back into family life and the life of his children.”

When the police arrived at the Lucan family’s home, they found a pipe and Sandra Rivett’s body in the basement. Lord Lucan had fled to the home of a close friend, Susan Maxwell-Scott, in a borrowed car. After telling Maxwell-Scott his side of the story, he left her home around 1:15 am; she was the last person to see him alive.

46 Lower Belgrave Street
The front entrance to 46 Lower Belgrave Street where the murder took place. Detective Chief Superintendent Roy Ranson arrived at Lower Belgrave Street early on Friday 8 November, the divisional surgeon had pronounced Sandra Rivett dead and forensic officers and photographers had been called to the property. © Wikimedia Commons

When police searched Lord Lucan’s apartment, they found his wallet, passport, and car keys. The car he had been driving was found abandoned by the coast a few days later. There were bloodstains on the vehicle, and police found a pipe similar to the weapon used to kill Sandra Rivett.

Lord Lucan's Ford Corsair
Lord Lucan disappeared the night of Rivett’s murder. He traveled to a friend’s house with this borrowed car (Ford Corsair) that was later found abandoned with blood stains inside.

An Innocent Pet Was Allegedly A Casualty Of The Lucans’ Custody Battle

The divorce of Lord and Lady Lucan had been very difficult on their three children. The father was not living with them, so Lord Lucan decided to buy the kids a kitten as a peace offering after their 1973 divorce. However, a few hours after he had delivered their new pet to the family home, the kitten was allegedly found shoved into his mailbox with its throat cut.

Lord Lucan believed that his wife had killed the kitten out of spite, and it made him furious. It also allegedly made him believe that his wife was no longer mentally stable enough to care for their children. Until her death, Lady Lucan believed that it was the kitten that sent her husband over the edge and turned him into a murderer.

Lord And Lady Lucan Had Very Different Versions Of What Happened On The Night Of The Murder

Both Lord and Lady Lucan had their own version of how the events on the evening of the murder unfolded. After leaving the scene, Lord Lucan went to a friend’s home and told the story of how he had been walking by and saw his wife through the window, locked in a struggle with a strange man.

He went inside to help, slipped on a pool of blood, and scared off the intruder. He claimed that his wife was in hysterics and accused him of hiring someone to kill her. After she ran to the local pub to get help, Lord Lucan realized how bad things would look for him and fled.

Later that night, he wrote multiple letters, one to the owner of the car he was borrowing and one to his brother-in-law. In both, he proclaimed his innocence, and in the letter to his brother-in-law, he described his wife’s altered mental condition.

Lady Lucan’s version, on the other hand, is the one most people today accept as true: that in a botched attempt to murder his wife, Lord Lucan accidentally killed their nanny. That’s the version shared in the trial where Lord Lucan was ultimately found guilty of the murder.

The Speculations That Surround The Disappearance Of Lord Lucan

It is believed that Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, jumped into the sea from a ferry when leaving the UK. However, shortly after death, the first reports came that the late aristocrat was alive.

In January 1975 he was supposedly seen in Melbourne, Australia, and five months later in France. Police in Cape Town, South Africa even took fingerprints from a glass of beer that had allegedly been in Lord Lucan’s hand.

In 2012, the aristocrat’s brother, Hugh Bingham, said he was “sure” that he fled to Africa after the nanny’s murder. But he later claimed he wasn’t sure if his brother was alive or dead.

The author of a book claimed that an intruder murdered the nanny and attacked Lady Lucan. In another book, a former Scotland Yard detective said Lucan fled to Goa, India, where he lived as a hippie with the identity of Barry Halpin until he died in 1996.

Others claimed to have seen him in a former Nazi colony in Paraguay, on a farm in central Australia, on Mount Etna (Italy) and working as a waiter in San Francisco.


Many have explained the disappearance of the 7th Earl of Lucan in the many ways, some are convincing while some are absolutely baffling. But the truth is that, 46 years after that unfortunate day of November 1974, the whereabouts of Lord Lucan remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of Great Britain.

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