Lord Lucan Murder Mystery
by Linda Stratmann
At 9.45pm on the night of 7th November 1974, a distressed and bloodstained woman burst into the bar of The Plumber’s Arms, Lower Belgrave Street, crying out “Help me, help me, help me. I’ve just escaped from being murdered. He’s in the house. He’s murdered the Nanny!” She was the Countess of Lucan, who had fled from her home at number 46, leaving behind her three children. She was obviously the victim of a serious assault, and the police and an ambulance were called to the scene. The police officers who arrived to investigate found a substantial house with a ground floor, a basement and four upper floors. Forcing open the front door, they searched the premises, and found the children in their bedrooms, unharmed. The door to the basement was open. There was no light in the hall, so they fetched a flashlight. They descended the stairs to the breakfast room, and found the walls splashed with blood, a pool of blood on the floor, with some male footprints in it, and, near the door connecting the breakfast room to the kitchen, a bloodstained sack. The top of the sack was folded over but not fastened. Inside was the corpse of Sandra Rivett, the children’s’ nanny. She had been battered to death with a blunt instrument. In the hallway was a length of lead piping, covered in surgical tape, very bent out of shape and heavily bloodstained. The back door was unlocked.
When Lady Lucan was able to make a statement to the police she named her husband as her attacker and the murderer of Sandra Rivett. Of Lord Lucan, there was no sign.
Shortly after 10pm, Mrs. Madeleine Floorman, a friend of the Lucans, who lived a short distance away, was dozing in front of the TV after a tiring day when she was awoken by someone pressing the doorbell insistently. Assuming it was a local youth, who had done this kind of thing before, she ignored it and went back to sleep. Some time later, the phone rang. She was sure that the caller was Lord Lucan, but he sounded distressed and became incoherent. She put the phone down and went back to sleep. (Later, some spots of what appeared to be blood were found on her doorstep).
At approximately 10.30 that evening, Lord Lucan telephoned his mother who lived in St John’s Wood, telling her there had been a catastrophe at the house, and he wanted her to collect the children. She went straight there, found the place occupied by police, and informed them that the Lucans were separated, the children were wards of court, and that Lord Lucan currently resided at a nearby flat. She then took the children to her home. The police searched Lord Lucan’s flat. He was not there, but they found his car keys, passport, chequebook, driving licence, wallet and glasses. His blue Mercedes car was parked outside. The battery was flat. (It had been suffering from battery trouble for some time).
Lord Lucan was driving another car that night, a Ford Corsair he had borrowed from a friend some 2-3 weeks previously. (He had, in fact, insisted that he wanted the car for that particular evening.) It was about 11.30pm when he arrived in Uckfield, Sussex, at the home of his friends Ian and Susan Maxwell-Scott. The house was 42 miles from Lower Belgrave Street, a journey of about an hour at average speed, though he was a fast driver and might have taken less time. Ian Maxwell-Scott was away, but his wife admitted Lord Lucan and was surprised to see him in disheveled daytime clothing. His flannels looked as though they had been stained and something sponged off.
This was Lord Lucan’s story, as told to Susan Maxwell-Scott. He had been walking past the Lower Belgrave St house, and had peeped in through the basement window. He had seen someone struggling with his Lady Lucan in the basement kitchen. He let himself in through the front door and ran down the stairs. He slipped and fell in a pool of blood, and the man had run off. He had calmed Lady Lucan down and taken her upstairs to try and clean her up, but while he was in the bathroom she had run out of the house shouting “Murder!”. He had panicked, realizing things looked very bad for him, and decided to get out.
Between that time and arriving at the Maxwell-Scotts he said had made three phone calls, one to Mrs. Floorman, one to his mother, and he had also tried to telephone Bill Shand Kydd, who was married to Lady Lucan’s sister but there was no reply. Mrs. Maxell-Scott said that he did not tell her where he made these calls from, but she got the impression they had been made after he left the house. At 12.15 he rang his mother from the Maxwell-Scotts house to check that she had the children, and rang Bill Shand Kydd again, but there was no reply.
Lord Lucan then wrote two letters, both addressed to Bill Shand Kydd at his home in Bayswater. (They were posted the following day. The envelopes were found to have smears of blood on them. ) Mrs. Maxwell-Scott tried to persuade him to remain so they could go to the local police the next morning, but he said he had to “get back”. He drove away. There has been no validated sighting of him since.
Three days after the murder, the Ford Corsair was found abandoned at Newhaven. Bloodstains were found inside of both type A and type B, also, a piece of bandaged lead piping, unstained, but very similar to the one found in the murder house.
Richard John Bingham, (usually known as “John”) the future 7th Earl of Lucan was born on 18th December 1934. He went to Eton where he discovered the great passion of his life – gambling. In 1953 he joined the Coldstream Guards, where he spent much of his off-duty time playing poker or visiting casinos. After leaving the Army he joined a Merchant Bank, but by now, gambling was his first priority. One night, after a substantial win at chemin-de-fer he decided to quit his job and become a professional gambler. His gambling nickname was “Lucky”.
In March 1963 he was introduced to Veronica Duncan, whose sister was the wife of Bill Shand Kydd. They were married the following November. Two months later, John Bingham’s father died, and the couple became the 7th Earl and Countess of Lucan. On 24th October 1964 their first child, Lady Frances, was born. By then, they were living at the Lower Belgrave St house.
Sally Moore in “Lucan: Not Guilty” gives an incorrect account of Lord Lucan’s daily routine and indeed she has never had any contact with Lady Lucan, the one person in a position to know the truth. He was not an early riser, indeed he could not be, as his nights were spent at the gaming tables, and he did not return home until 6am. He slept until lunchtime, then went to lunch at his club, the Clermont. Lady Lucan would join him there at 9pm.
In September 1967 their son George was born, followed by another daughter, Camilla in June 1970. Lady Lucan’s main concerns during that period were caring for the children, and supervising the house and staff, and she had little time or opportunity to develop independent interests of her own. She suffered from post-natal depression after the birth of her children, and in 1968 Lord Lucan encouraged her to have treatment and she agreed if it could be based at home. He took an interest in her condition, and studied books on psychiatry. Lady Lucan believes that she was prescribed drugs which were inappropriate for her condition, and states that subsequently, doctors have expressed amazement at the poor treatment she received. (I can attest from personal experience that post-natal depression was much less well understood then than it is now.) By now, however, the relationship was breaking down. Lady Lucan became increasingly concerned about her husband’s continued heavy losses at the gaming tables. She felt that he was dangerously addicted to gambling, and should have treatment for it. He had also refused to put money aside for the children’s education.
Lady Lucan instructed solicitors, which caused a deterioration in the relationship and after a turbulent Christmas 1972 they separated. From then on, Lucan was determined to gain custody of his children. In March 1973 he obtained a court order and took the two younger children while they were out with their nanny, then collected Frances from school. For the next three months Lady Lucan was cared for by hired nurses and during this time voluntarily went into a psychiatric clinic for a week. Lucan had been hoping that the medical reports would show that Lady Lucan was not fit to have custody of the children,. Although the medical reports were a dominant feature of the custody battle, Lady Lucan states that she does not believe that her husband ever genuinely thought that she was mentally ill, only that it was a ploy in the attempt to gain custody. She did not have any prior history of mental illness, and her problems appear to have been related to the post-natal depression, inappropriately treated. Lord Lucan paid the medical bills, and discussed Lady Lucan’s condition with the Doctor without her knowledge. She feels strongly that he must have made statements that would have coloured the Doctor’s opinion of her medical condition and the required treatment. Lord Lucan would also telephone Lady Lucan and provoke her into verbalising her negative feelings about him, which he then tape-recorded, and later produced in evidence against her. It is usual for Peers of the Realm to win custody of their children, and Lord Lucan must have felt confident that he would do so, but in June, to his surprise and mortification, the Court ordered that the children be returned to their mother.
On the face of it, Lucan’s motivation in the custody battle would appear to have been an obsession with the welfare of his children, yet there are curious inconsistencies in his behaviour. In his letter to Bill Shand Kydd after the murder he refers to his concern about the children but mentions only George and Frances but not Camilla. There was also the major point of contention between Lord and Lady Lucan, his refusal to take out Education Assurance. Certainly his behavior was obsessive in nature, but what was he obsessed with? Having control of the children – getting back at his wife – or simply winning?
By now, with the family to support, a nanny to pay, houses to maintain, and legal bills from the custody case, Lucan was deeply in debt. He was also continuing to lose at the tables. He kept a constant watch on the house, and still entertained hopes that he could go back to court and regain custody. He also tried to arrange for Lady Lucan to be bought off with a sum of money, but this came to nothing. He hired private detectives to watch the house, and when he went there to collect the children for his access visits, made secret tape recordings. When he could no longer afford to pay private detectives, he did the snooping himself.
The Inquest Evidence
At 6.30pm that evening, Lucan was at his flat, in Elizabeth St where he had been visited by a friend. At about 7.45 he drove the friend home to Chelsea, dropping him off and leaving at about 8pm. He was not using the Mercedes. During that evening he appears to have telephoned the Clermont Club to book a restaurant table for a late meal with friends. Curiously, the assistant manager recalls the conversation to have taken place at 8.30 whereas Lucan’s visitor says it happened before 7.45. It is an unimportant point but it does illustrate how two witnesses to an event can disagree considerably about the time at which it ocurred, a point that should be borne in mind.
At about 8.30pm, in 46 Lower Belgrave St, the Lucan’s nanny, Sandra Rivett, put the two younger children to bed.. Sandra, a 29 year old redhead, was 5ft 2″ in height, the same as Lady Lucan, and was one dress size fuller in figure. Thursday was Sandra’s usual night off, a fact of which Lucan was aware. He also knew that Sandra usually went out with a boyfriend on her free night, but unknown to him, that week she had changed the night to Wednesday. Frances was in her room, playing a game. At approximately 8.40 she went to her mother’s bedroom and asked where Sandra was. Lady Lucan said she had gone downstairs to make tea. (This was another departure from normal routine, as it was usual for Lady Lucan to make tea at about 9pm.) About twenty minutes or so after Sandra had gone downstairs Lady Lucan began to wonder why she hadn’t returned. There are two reported sightings of Lucan near that time. The linkman at the Clermont said he saw Lucan drive up at 8.45pm to ask if any of the usual crowd was there. He said he felt sure Lucan was driving the Mercedes. According to him, Lucan said he would be back later. Another employee believes he saw Lucan standing on the step of the club at about 9pm.
Lady Lucan was eventually able to give her own full account to the Police of what had happened that night, and in it she named her husband as the killer of Sandra Rivett and her own attacker. At the four day inquest held in June 1975, however, she was only allowed to give evidence concerning the attack on herself. At about 9.15 p.m. she had descended the stairs to the ground floor, and peered down into the basement, calling Sandra’s name. It was dark, and she had assumed that Sandra was not there. She had heard a noise of someone in “the downstairs cloakroom” , that is, the one on the ground floor, not the basement. Someone rushed out of the cloakroom and hit her on the front of the head several times. This had taken place in the area at the top of the basement stairs. The person had told her to “shut up” and she had recognised her husband’s voice. Her attacker had thrust three gloved fingers down her throat, and they had struggled. He had tried to strangle her and gouge her eye. She had grabbed him by the testicles. The attack had ceased and they had ended up on the floor with her sitting between his legs. They had then gone upstairs so they could assess her injuries, sending their daughter Frances up to her room, and it was while he was in the bathroom getting a wet cloth that she had jumped up and run out of the house.
Lady Lucan confirmed that she had not seen anyone else at the house, and that she did not recognise the sack in which Sandra’s body had been found.
The first letter to Bill Shand Kydd was read out. In it Lucan referred to interrupting a fight between his wife and a man, and that Lady Lucan accused him of hiring a hitman. (Lady Lucan has denied making this accusation, believing that this comment was designed to discredit any account she might give.) He added “V. has demonstrated her hatred of me in the past and would do anything to see me accused. For George and Frances to go through life knowing their father had stood in the dock for attempted murder would be too much. When they are old enough to understand, explain to them the dream of paranoia, and look after them.” (The word “dream” has been the subject of much speculation. It has been suggested that it actually reads “dreams” “dilemma” and “disease”. My own opinion, I have to say, was that “disease” was the most likely, but Lady Lucan, who clearly knows her husband’s handwriting best, is certain that the word is “dream”. The meaning of this sentence has never been clear.) Evidence about the Lucans’ relationship was not permitted at the inquest – an inquest, after all, is not a trial, but an examination into how someone died – but the implications of the letter were plain. Lord Lucan was suggesting that his wife was mentally ill and hated him, and therefore that her accusations were not to be believed.
Lady Frances made a statement to a WPC some days after 7th November, and this was read out in court. She said that she had been in the second floor bedroom watching TV. She head heard her mother scream but had assumed the cat had scratched her. Later, her parents had walked in together, and she had noticed that her mother had blood on her face and her father was wearing a full length overcoat. (Frances did not see her father clearly and only for a few moments. Lady Lucan, who spent far more time with her husband that evening says that he did not wear an overcoat but was dressed as Mrs. Maxwell-Scott described.) Frances was sent up to bed, and later heard her father calling for her mother, and saw him searching, then going downstairs. She confirmed that during the last weekend they had spent with their father they had told him that Sandra went out with her boyfriends on Thursdays.
(It is not surprising under the circumstances that the police should describe Lady Frances’ statement as “slightly muddled”. Sally Moore attaches a great deal of importance to this testimony, especially as regards timings, given by relation to television programs. Lady Frances was certainly engrossed in the television that evening. After hearing her mother scream, about half an hour passed, but she did not go downstairs to see if there was anything wrong. Lady Frances could not have known what time Sandra Rivett went to make the tea, but said that Lady Lucan went to look for Sandra before the 9 o’clock News started. The differences between the timings given by Lady Lucan and Lady Frances, are of course, critical only in relation to the reported sightings at the Clermont.)
The police testified to finding the murder weapon. Lady Lucan had said after being attacked that she had been struck with something that felt as though it had been bandaged. The weapon, left near the door leading to the basement, was a length of lead piping wrapped with tape. A light bulb had been found on a chair by the stairway in the basement. It had been taken from the light at the bottom of the stairs – the only one which could be turned off by the switch at the top of the stairs. The other basement lights were undisturbed.
A casualty officer testified to Lady Lucan’s injuries – seven large lacerations on her scalp, bruising to her eye and injuries to the palate and on the back of her throat, all completely in keeping with her description of the attack.
The second letter to Bill Shand Kydd was read out, and this mentioned an upcoming sale at Christies which would satisfy bank overdrafts. It was signed “Lucky” his gambling name. It was found that his total overdrafts exceeded £14,000, although his total debts were far greater.
Lucan’s mother Kait was insistent that he had called her much earlier than the 10.45 previously suggested – more like 10.30. She also denied the suggestion that Lucan had said he was driving past the house. This was important, as it was possible to see into the basement if on foot, but not from a car.
The pathologist Professor Keith Simpson testified that the injuries to the two women were similar in nature.
Susan Maxwell-Scott testified about her visit from Lucan on 7th November. She stated that Lucan had told her he had interrupted a fight between his wife and a man in the basement, and slipped in some blood. Lady Lucan had been hysterical and had told him the nanny was dead, and accused Lucan of hirng someone to kill her. He said that Lady Lucan had indicated the sack to him, and he had seen the blood but had not examined anything too closely.
A third letter from Lucan was then read out. This had been sent to the friend who had lent him the Corsair, and referred to “a traumatic night of unbelievable coincidences”, and asked that his children should know that all he cared about was them.
(Supporters of Lord Lucan have suggested that the “coincidence” was his passing the house at the identical moment Lady Lucan was being attacked, although the unexpected presence of Sandra Rivett is coincidence enough for the murderer.)
The evidence on blood staining needs careful examination. Sandra’s blood group was B and Lady Lucan is group A. The area around the top of the hall stairs leading to the basement was “an obvious site of attack”. A pattern of radiating blood splashes showed that a victim had been battered. The bloodstains were group A, and sticking to some of them were hairs of a type similar to Lady Lucan’s. One stain appeared to be group AB, but that could have been the result of A and B types mixing. There were also a great many greyish blue textile fibres, some were on a bloodstained towel, some were stuck to the bloodstained lead pipe, still more, together with some of Lady Lucan’s hair and blood, were in the Ford Corsair. This was extensively stained with both A and B type blood, with some areas of mixed types. A writing pad in the car had had a piece torn roughly out. This matched the piece used to write the note to the car’s owner.
At the bottom of the stairs, in the breakfast room, was another attack site with numerous blood splashes. There was a large area of blood staining near the piano, and some bloodstained footprints of a man’s shoes. These stains were all group B. One small spot of blood on the floor was group A, and the sack was heavily stained with group B blood but with some indications of group A. Lady Lucan’s clothes were heavily stained with her own blood, but there was a small amount of group B staining on her dress, some group B spots on her shoes with staining on the soles and arches. There was some question as to whether this staining meant that Lady Lucan had been in the basement after the murder, although it was thought that the staining could also have happened through contact with the stained clothing of her attacker.
The expert said that the attacker would have been spattered with blood, although that might not have been obvious, and when the body was put in the sack his clothes could have become saturated. The smears of blood on the letter to Bill Shand Kydd gave an AB reaction.
There were also some bloodstained leaves in the garden, and these were type B.
The piece of lead piping was “grossly distorted” and was stained with both type A and type B blood.
The inquest jury was out for only 31 minutes and their verdict was “Murder by Lord Lucan” . It was the last time that an inquest jury exercised its right to name a murderer. As a direct result of this case, the right was abolished by the Criminal Law Act of 1977.
Published works on the case suggest three main scenarios. Sally Moore believes Lord Lucan’s story, and suggests that the murderer was an unknown assailant. Lord Lucan is cast as the hero saving his wife from an attacker then fleeing because he will not be believed. Ms Moore consulted with Lord Lucan’s family, (though not Lady Lucan) in her research for the book, and her brief appears to be to show Lord Lucan in the best possible light and Lady Lucan in the worst. It is a heavily slanted account which attaches considerable importance to the random blood drips. Patrick Marnham in “Trail of Havoc” and James Ruddick1 in “Lord Lucan” both suggest that although Lord Lucan did not murder Sandra Rivett, he hired a hit man to murder his wife. Arriving later to dispose of the body, he discovered the mistake and attacked his wife. Lady Lucan has never been of the opinion that her husband hired a hit-man to kill her, and contrary to what he wrote in his letters after the murder, never accused him of having done so. The simplest explanation, and the one most consistent with the facts is that Lord Lucan is guilty and no-one else was involved.
Theories that do not cite Lucan as the murderer are partly based on two ideas, first, that an attack with a blunt instrument was simply “not like him” – certainly his friends refused to believe it. There was also the fact that the murderer had mistaken Sandra for Lady Lucan, which some think is unlikely unless the murderer was a stranger. I can’t comment on the first, but I can on the second. It was dark, and the murderer did not expect Sandra to be in the house that night. Sandra was also the same height as Lady Lucan. People tend to see what they expect to see. (I recall not so long ago entering a well-lit pub with a group of friends. The wife of one of my friends, who is, like me, under 5ft in height, but otherwise does not resemble me, had decided to stay at home. I suddenly found myself receiving a big hug from a friend of the wife, who was a complete stranger to me!)
At least Marnham and Ruddick’s theories do acknowledge that the story Lucan told to Susan Maxwell-Scott doesn’t really hold water, unlike Sally Moore’s. But by the time one reaches the end of her book, and her suggestions that the bloodstained piping wasn’t really the murder weapon, but had somehow been doctored, and the other one planted to frame Lucan, and the real weapon might have been a policeman’s truncheon, one feels that in her efforts to maintain Lucan’s innocence she is losing touch with reality!
My starting point in looking at any case where there are conflicting stories is to look at the hard evidence and see which of the stories it supports. So let us compare the accounts of the physical attacks as told by Lord Lucan and his wife.
Lucan stated that on the night of the murder, he was passing the house of his wife and children, and saw through the basement window his wife struggling with an assailant. He entered the house, using his key, and rushed down to the basement where he slipped in some blood on the floor. The unknown assailant ran off.
Lady Lucan’s account is that after Sandra, the nanny, went downstairs to the basement kitchen to make tea, she became concerned about the long absence and went to the head of the stairs down to the basement and called her name. She was attacked by someone wielding a blunt instrument, and grappled with her attacker. She screamed and her attacker told her to shut up. She recognised the voice as her husband’s. He forced his gloved fingers down her throat and she fought back, squeezing his testicles. At this he drew back and the attack ended.
Now let us compare the two accounts. There are two very important differences. In Lucan’s account, Lady Lucan was attacked in the basement, and in hers, she did not enter the basement at all, but was attacked at the head of the stairs. Secondly, although it is clear that both Lucan and his wife knew that the nanny had been killed, Lucan said that his wife told him and she said that he told her.
Forensic evidence can answer a number of questions. – where was Lady Lucan attacked? Did Lord Lucan rush in and slip on the blood?
There is no doubt that the presence of type A blood splashes at the top of the stairs, making it an obvious attack site, is powerful evidence that Lucan’s story cannot be true. Sally Moore hypothesises that Lady Lucan was first attacked in the basement with blows that did not create splashes, then ran up the stairs to be struck again, while Lucan ran down into the basement to chase the man, where he slipped in Sandra’s blood. The difficulty about this story is that neither Lady Lucan nor Lord Lucan suggested that this was what had happened. Lucan’s story as told to Susan Maxwell-Scott was that he had run into the basement and found Lady Lucan there, covered in blood. If Lady Lucan had been in the basement covered with blood after being attacked there, then there would have been splashes of her blood on the walls of the kitchen – but there were none. This story, hastily concocted by Lucan in a panic to explain his presence in the house, doesn’t fit the facts.
Did Lucan slip in the blood in the basement? No, he did not. The blood was in a pool, and foot prints showed that a man had stepped in it, but there were no signs of anyone slipping. The purpose of this concoction is obvious – the story would explain to friends how the “intruder” got away and also the presence of blood on his clothing.
How did both Lady Lucan and her husband know of Sandra’s death before the body was discovered? For Lucan to have told Lady Lucan, the obvious and simple answer is that he knew because he was the murderer. For Lady Lucan to have told her husband, as he said she did, she would have had to have entered the basement before she was attacked, (in neither of their accounts does she enter it afterwards). In Lady Lucan’s account, she did not enter the basement at all, and therefore did not see the sack in which Sandra’s body was concealed. She had known Sandra was dead because in the time before she fled from the house, Lucan had told her. Although she had some group B stains on her shoes, there were no bloody footprints of a woman’s shoes in the basement. Lady Lucan confirms that during the struggle with her husband, she kicked him, using the soles of her shoes, which accounts for the staining of group B blood. Once again, the forensic evidence supports Lady Lucan’s story.
I do not believe the suggestion that has occasionally been made, that the murder was a burglary gone wrong. I can accept that a burglar might have come to the house with a large sack, but once he had killed, why would he stuff the body in the sack? A burglar who had committed a murder after being surprised would have run off immediately, not waited twenty minutes. Whoever came to the house with that sack, came to commit murder, and dispose of the body.
Both Patrick Marnham and James Ruddick make strong cases for the more complicated scenario, that Lord Lucan hired a man to kill his wife, the hitman killed Sandra, then Lord Lucan, arriving to clear up and dispose of the body, discovered the mistake and attacked his wife. I will look at this in more detail later, but first there are some specific questions I would like to ask.
1. What happened between 9.45 and 10.30? If Lord Lucan had left the house at about 9.45, it would have taken no more than a few minutes to go round and bang on Mrs. Floorman’s door. If his call to his mother was at about 10.25-10.30, which seems likely, judging by the time she arrived at the house, he would have had to leave for Uckfield immediately afterwards to get there by 11.15. Between about 9.55 and 10.25pm he not only made several phone calls which were not from a coin box, he also had the facilities to sponge down his clothing.. Where did he do this? Did he ask help of another friend – or was there somewhere empty to which he had a key? There was a mews cottage, 5 Eaton Row, immediately behind No. 5 Eaton Square which Lucan leased to a friend whom he knew was out that evening, but the police had already broken in and searched it, and presumably there was no evidence of Lucan’s presence.
The nearest and most obvious place was his own flat in Elizabeth St only minutes away. There are a few problems associated with this idea. First of all there was no physical sign that he had been there. Why were there no bloodstains? Then, he would in any case have considered it a dangerous place to be, as the police would look there for him first. If he had gone there then it seems logical that he would have collected items such as passport, wallet, etc, and also he would have changed into fresh clothes rather than sponge down the stained ones. But what if he had indeed gone there in order to do just one thing – make a phone call? If he knew it was a dangerous place to be, then he would have made sure to be out of there very quickly without staying to change his clothes. According to Lady Lucan, corroborated by the evidence of Susan Maxwell-Scott, he was not heavily bloodstained, and would not therefore have dripped blood in the flat. The fact that his passport and similar items had not been taken strengthens the suggestion that he had already decided to kill himself. Where he was bound, no passport was required. Everything he did after leaving the house was intended to do two things, first, to ensure that the children were being looked after, and secondly to protect his family from the stain of his guilt. His unsuccessful attempts to get in touch with Mrs. Floorman were probably because she lived nearby and he wanted her to take care of the children. The balance of the evidence is therefore that he made the phone call from his flat.
2. Could anyone have escaped over the back wall? This is extremely unlikely. The wall was very high and overgrown. There was no sign of anyone having clambered over it, or attempting to. (Some years later a burglar was surprised on the premises, and he was unable to escape over the garden wall).
3. Why was there type B blood on the leaves in the garden? This evidence has been used to support the anonymous intruder theory, but there are less complicated explanations. The police had made extensive searches of the premises, and there were two pet cats roaming freely. There was ample opportunity for transference of staining.
4. Why was the back door unlocked? Sally Moore has suggested that some unknown person might have had a key to the house without anyone’s knowledge. One plank of her argument is that on 5th December 1964 some jewellery worth £2000 was stolen from a second floor bedroom of number 46, with no signs of forced entry. In the very same paragraph she mentions that Lucan had received a letter that November pressing him for payment of £1400 in gambling debts. Well, Ms Moore may not be able to see the possible connection between the two incidents, but I certainly can! There is an altogether simpler explanation. Lady Lucan has stated that they were not particularly burglar-conscious in those days and often left the back door unlocked to allow free access to the two cats.
5. How come Lady Lucan was struck several times with the pipe and did not lose consciousness, whereas Sandra died after being hit four times? On the face of it this seems unlikely given Lady Lucan’s much slighter build, and this has led to the speculation that Sandra and Lady Lucan were attacked by different people. There are a number of facts to take into consideration. Sandra was hit from behind, while Lady Lucan was hit on the forehead where the bones are thicker. The weapon when found was very distorted. It had originally been a straight length of pipe. At the inquest Lady Lucan described it as a curved object. If it had been straight when used on Sandra and distorted by the first attack, then it would have been a much less effective weapon for the second. Lady Lucan also described her husband as emotionally exhausted after his attack on her. His emotional state could have reduced the effectiveness of the attack on her.
6. What about the statements that Lord Lucan had been seen outside the Clermont at 8.45pm and then at 9pm? Marnham, who feels that Lord Lucan hired a hitman, suggests that the 8.45 visit was made to establish an alibi. If so, it was a pretty flimsy alibi, when one considers the likely margin of error in memory of time, and the fact that the distance between the club and the house could be covered in a few minutes. I also note that according to the linkman, Lucan was in the Mercedes. Certainly, if he had wanted to establish an alibi, this was the car to do it in, the one people would have been familiar with, but that car was found with a flat battery outside Lucan’s flat at 11.50, some two hours after the “sighting”. Do we even know if the car was driveable that night? If it was not, then the linkman cannot have seen Lucan in the Mercedes that evening at all.
Was Lord Lucan, as has been suggested, standing on the steps of the Club at 9p.m? This approximates either to the time of the murder (Lady Lucan’s timing) or the attack on Lady Lucan (Lady Frances’ timing). Looking at the times, remember that all the three theories (guilty, innocent, hitman) place Lord Lucan at 46 Lower Belgrave St at the time of the attack on Lady Lucan. Let us look at Lady Frances’ timing first. Since she states that Lady Lucan went downstairs at just before the 9 o’clock News, and we know that Lady Lucan was attacked very soon after reaching the basement stairs, this times the attack at the very time when Lord Lucan is said to have been standing outside the Clermont. In none of the three scenarios is this possible. Now let us look at Lady Lucan’s timings, which place the attack on herself at about 9.15. It could be suggested that Lord Lucan was establishing an alibi before going to the house, either to commit murder or to clear up after the hitman, but as already stated, this is not much of an alibi. Surely he would not have wanted anyone at all to know he was even in the area. If the sighting is accurate, then it can only fit with Lord Lucan’s story, which has already been discredited by forensic evidence. The conclusion can only be that Lord Lucan was not standing on the steps of the Clermont at 9p.m. on the evening of the murder, though he may well have been there at another time that day, and had certainly been there at just that time on numerous other occasions.
7. Why was there a single spot of type A blood in the basement? Lady Lucan has confirmed that she did not set foot in the basement after the murder and never saw the mail bag. The simplest explanation is accidental transference as mentioned at point 3 above.
8. How did smears of blood type A get on the outside of the murder sack? It has been suggested that the blood got on the sack as it brushed against the walls while being carried up, but the sack was seen by reporters being removed from the house wrapped in plastic. Was it wrapped before or after it went up the stairs? The evidence as published does not make this clear. Again, accidental transference is the theory that makes most sense.
9. Why was there no type B blood in the ground floor cloakroom where Lord Lucan was supposed to have lain in wait for Lady Lucan, and none upstairs where he went to tend her wounds? There was a great deal of speculation about the likely amount of staining on the murderer, but Lady Frances did not observe any blood on her father though she was near enough to notice the blood on her mother. Once again, the evidence of Lady Lucan and Susan Maxwell-Scott suggests that Lord Lucan was not as heavily stained as has been supposed. Lady Lucan has also pointed out that the blood splashes in the house were not as extensive as has been often reported.
10. What heppened in the gap of time between Sandra’s death and the attack on Lady Lucan? Lady Lucan has suggested that Sandra went to make the tea at about 8.55 and she went to look for her at 9.15. Alternative evidence for time is that of Frances, who noted when things happened by reference to the start and end of TV programs she was watching. According to her, Sandra went down to make the tea at about 8.40 to 8.45. She would have been killed almost immediately – the tray of dirty crockery she was taking down to the kitchen was found scattered on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. But whatever the time Sandra went to make tea, Lady Lucan didn’t go to look for her for about 20 minutes. This makes sense – after all, you expect someone to take about 10 minutes or so to make tea and do some washing up, so you don’t start wondering where they have got to until about 20 minutes have passed. But what was the killer doing during that time? Assuming the killer was Lord Lucan, he had discovered his mistake, and was putting the body in the sack. He knew that his wife would soon be coming downstairs and he was waiting for her to arrive. As I have already observed, the theoretical hitman or burglar would probably have run off immediately.
11. What happened between the attack on Lady Lucan and her running from the house? The gap is about 35 minutes and in many ways is the key to the mystery. I will return to this point later.
12. Why was Lord Lucan not heavily bloodstained? When an attack is made with a blunt instrument, the result is often a fine spray of blood, not immediately visible to the eye, but obvious to detailed forensic examination. The main areas of heavy staining, if Lord Lucan had put the body in the sack, were his hands and possibly the lower part of his clothing, also the soles of his shoes, from stepping into the spreading pool of blood. (He had in any case admitted to stepping in the blood.) His hands were stained with both type and A and B, as the smears on the letters and in the car show. Susan Maxwell-Scott has given evidence that his trousers looked as though they had recently been sponged.
Planning a Murder
Some friends of Lord Lucan’s tell very interesting stories. One was Greville Howard, the lessee of the mews cottage, and one of the people who had waited at the Clermont that night at the table Lucan had booked. One week after the murder he went voluntarily to the police and told them that a fortnight before the murder he had had a conversation with Lucan in which his friend had suggested that a way out of his troubles was to kill Lady Lucan, and had even discussed the idea of dumping her body in the Solent. He knew that he was about to go bankrupt, and he needed to get possession of the house in order to clear his debts and save the reputation of the family. Bankruptcy was for him a public humiliation he did not think he could stand.
The writer Taki Theodoracopoulos has said without quoting his sources, that Lucan bought a 20ft speedboat in the year before he disappeared. The boat, he states, was kept moored on the South Coast, and in 1974 Lucan made two dummy runs, from Belgravia to the South Coast with a sack weighing 8 stone. The sack was then loaded into the boat and he headed out into the Channel. Lord Lucan certainly knew about power-boats, having competed in the Cowes-Torquay race in 1964, though there is no evidence that he ever owned a boat, and Lady Lucan is certain that he did not. Taki also said that Lord Lucan had borrowed £5000 from him shortly before the murder, having already borrowed £3000 from a moneylender at a high rate of interest the previous September. Patrick Marnham suggests that the money was to pay a hitman, but there are numerous other reasons why Lord Lucan might have required such sums.
Lord Lucan is also said to have told John Aspinall and his mother Lady Osbourne that he wanted to kill his wife, and Lady Osbourne that he actually intended to. Of course, it would be a normal human reaction not to take such talk seriously.
Lord Lucan or a hired killer?
I have already mentioned how in Lord Lucan’s first letter to Bill Shand Kydd he refers to Lady Lucan having accused him of hiring someone to kill her, a statement which she denies making. He also states that he does not want the children to see him in the dock accused of “attempted murder”. This mention of the lesser charge would fit in with his wish to protect the family.
Patrick Marnham and James Ruddick both believe that unable to commit the crime himself, Lord Lucan hired someone to do it for him. A professional, however, knowing that the body was to be disposed of neatly would hardly have used a bludgeon, which anyone but an amateur would have known would spray blood all over the place. To account for what happened, Marnham suggests that Lucan hired a good hitman who was unable to come that night and sent a bungling associate! This is rather straining credulity. A simpler explanation is that the bungling amateur was Lord Lucan himself.
Marnham believes that Lord Lucan’s part in the affair was to dispose of the body. In his scenario, the hired man kills Sandra, but does not put the body in the sack. He reports success to Lucan who is nearby, and Lucan goes round to the house to discover, to his horror, that the wrong woman has been killed and the cellar is in a mess. Checking to see if Sandra is dead, he gets some smears of blood on his clothing. This is simply speculation. If Lord Lucan was too squeamish to commit the murder why would he volunteer to dispose of the body?
The death of Sandra Rivett and the survivial of Lady Lucan have led to the suggestion that they must have been attacked by different people. I have already discussed this point at question 5 above.
The “hitman” theory is altogether too complicated, and it fails to take one very important fact into account.
Lord Lucan confessed to his wife that he had murdered Sandra Rivett.
Lord Lucan – Murderer.
Even without the confession ( mention of which has been conveniently omitted from previously published works) it is clear that the overwhelming weight of the evidence points clearly to Lord Lucan alone being both the murderer of Sandra Rivett and the attacker of Lady Lucan.
Lord Lucan knew that the nanny would be out that night, and that Lady Lucan would come down at about 9p.m. to make the tea. It was pure chance that Sandra Rivett was in and volunteered to make the tea. Sandra was the same height as Lady Lucan. The darkness and Lord Lucan’s emotional state meant that he saw what he expected to see, and killed the nanny, the blows distorting the lead piping into a curved shape. As he put the body into the sack, he realised his error, but decided to go ahead with the murder of his wife and lay in wait. Lady Lucan survived the attack because the blows were on the front of her skull, and she fought back, also the distorted pipe was not such an effective weapon. The shock of pain when she squeezed his testicles, and his emotional state caused the attack to cease. Exhausted, they sat on the stairs and talked. Lady Lucan asked her husband where Sandra was. At first he said that she had gone out, but she insisted that Sandra would never have done this without telling her. Eventually he admitted that he had killed her. In the next half hour the badly injured Lady Lucan found the resources she needed to save her own life. The front door was just too far for her to be able to make a break for it and run. She played for time, calming him down, persuading him that Sandra would not be missed, that they could dispose of the body together, that he could go out and meet his friends while she told the police she had been attacked by a burglar, that she would do whatever he asked.
Lucan thought about this, and said. “I must make a decision”. He then asked her if she had any sleeping tablets. She said yes, that they were upstairs. He asked her if she would take an overdose, and to placate him she agreed to do so, if he would just permit her to lie down and rest. He pulled her to her feet and said that they would leave together and she would take her pills. He hustled her upstairs and she lay down on the bed while he went to the bathroom to wet some cloths. As the taps started to run she knew that she had only seconds to get away, the noise of the water covering the sound of her footsteps. She got up, crept downstairs, and ran. She did not, as Lord Lucan suggested, scream “Murder!” as she ran down the street. With the terrible injuries to her head and the lacerations to her palate and throat caused by Lord Lucan’s gloved fingers, she saved every scrap of her energy and voice for when she burst into the Plumbers Arms.
The books which suggest that Lord Lucan is innocent of the murder of Sandra Rivett say only that he told Lady Lucan that Sandra was dead. Lady Lucan goes further than that. Her husband told her he had killed the nanny. When we know this then everything that happened subsequently falls into place. Once he had made the confession he must have determined that his wife must die, though not as originally planned. Quite what he imagined anyone would make of the battered corpse of the nanny, and Lady Lucan an apparent suicide from an overdose, we can never know. When he came out of the bathroom and found that she had run from the house carrying with her the knowledge of his confession, then he knew he was a dead man. From that moment on, all his actions were aimed at one thing, protecting the family reputation. First he wanted to ensure that the children were being looked after, but secondly he wanted them to be free from the shame and scandal of their father in the dock accused of a crime. The other great scandal he wanted to avoid was bankruptcy. The only way he could do that was to disappear. The only way he could be absolutely certain that he would never have to face the consequences of his actions was to die.
The odds are that Lord Lucan is dead. Many of his friends believe that he simply took a speedboat or ferry out into the Channel, and leaped over the side. Gamblers do not often give up, but English gentlemen have been known to do the decent thing. The shame of appearing in the dock accused of murder, and of financial ruin, was something he did not want to face, both on a personal level, and also for his family’s sake.
Had Lady Lucan wished to remarry she could have sought a decree of presumption of death seven years after her husband’s disappearance, but chose not to do so as she felt it would not have been in the best interests of her family. The 7th Earl of Lucan was officially presumed dead on 11 December 1992, at which time his son George became the 8th Earl, although he prefers not to use the title. Probate was granted on 11 August 1999, with the Countess of Lucan the sole beneficiary of her late husband’s residuary estate.
1. 7th Nov 1974
The most ghastly circumstances arose tonight which I briefly described to my mother. When I interrupted the fight at Lower Belgrave St and the man left Lady Lucan accused me of having hired him. I took her upstairs and sent Frances up to bed and tried to clean her up. She lay doggo for a bit and when I was in the bathroom left the house. The circumstantial evidence against me is strong in that V will say it was all my doing. I also will lie doggo for a bit but I am only concerned for the children. If you can manage it I want them to live with you – Coutts (trustees) St Martins Lane (Mr. Wall) will handle school fees. V. has demonstrated her hatred of me in the past and would do anything to see me accused. For George & Frances to go through life knowing their father had stood in the dock for attempted murder would be too much. When they are old enough to understand, explain to them the dream of paranoia, and look after them
2. Financial matters
There is a sale coming up at Christies Nov 27th which will satisfy bank overdrafts. Please agree reserves with Tom Craig.
Proceeds to go to:
Lloyds, 6 Pall Mall
Coutts, 59 Strand
Nat West, Bloomsbury Branch
Who also hold an
Eq. and Law Life Policy.
The other creditors can get lost for the time being.
3. My dear Michael,
I have had a traumatic night of unbelievable coincidences. However I won’t bore you with anything or involve you except to say that when you come across my children, which I hope you will, please tell them that you knew me and that all I cared about was them.
The fact that a crooked solicitor and a rotten psychiatrist destroyed me between them will be of no importance to the children.
I gave Bill Shand Kydd an account of what actually happened but judging by my last effort in court no-one, let alone a 67-year-old judge, would believe – and I no longer care except that my children should be protected.
[H/T Lord Lucan]