Wife of Lord Lucan, aristocrat who vanished, found dead

Lady Lucan said peer also attacked her on night nanny was bludgeoned, in 1974

Lord and Lady Lucan: John Bingham and Veronica Duncan after their marriage, in 1963. Photograph: Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty

Lord and Lady Lucan: John Bingham and Veronica Duncan after their marriage, in 1963. Photograph: Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty

 

The wife of Lord Lucan, the British aristocrat who vanished without trace 43 years ago after the murder of his children’s nanny, has been found dead, London police said on Wednesday.

The mystery of what happened to John Bingham, the seventh earl of Lucan, has fascinated the public for decades, and speculation about his whereabouts has long been a staple of the British press.

Lucan disappeared hours after Sandra Rivett, the family nanny, was found bludgeoned to death in his house in central London in 1974. A car he was using was later found on the south English coast with a length of lead piping.

It was alleged that the peer had mistaken the nanny for his wife, who was born Veronica Duncan, and from whom he was estranged; she was also attacked, and fled to a nearby pub, covered in blood, to raise the alarm. She later identified her husband as the assailant.

Police said on Wednesday they had found the 80-year-old’s body after forcing their way into a house in the upmarket Belgravia area of London. “The death is being treated as unexplained but is not believed to be suspicious,” police said.

Her son, George Bingham, the 8th Earl Lucan, told the Daily Mail: “She passed away yesterday at home, alone and apparently peacefully. “Police were alerted by a companion to a three-day absence and made entry today.”

Supposed sightings

Over the years the British press has reported supposed sightings of her husband across the world, including in Australia, India, the Netherlands and South Africa, but his relatives believe him to be dead.

The London high court declared him dead in 1999, and last year a judge issued a death certificate allowing his son George Bingham to inherit his title.

“My own personal view, and it was one I took I think as an eight-year-old boy, is he’s unfortunately been dead since that time [of his disappearance],” Mr Bingham said last year.

One of numerous theories about what became of Lucan, who would now be 82, was that he shot himself and was then fed to tigers at the zoo of his friend John Aspinall. Aspinall himself said in 2000 that Lucan had weighted himself down with a stone and drowned himself in the English Channel.

Earlier this year, Lady Lucan gave a television interview in which she said she believed Lucan had made the “brave” decision to take his own life. Ahead of the hour-long documentary interview called Lord Lucan: My Husband, The Truth, Radio Times magazine shared some of her words with director Michael Waldman. She said: “I would say he got on the ferry and jumped off in the middle of the Channel in the way of the propellers so that his remains wouldn’t be found — I think quite brave.”

She also spoke about her depression and her husband’s violent nature following their marriage in 1963. Describing how he would beat her with a cane to get the “mad ideas out of your head”, she said: “He could have hit harder. They were measured blows. “He must have got pleasure out of it because he had intercourse (with me) afterwards.”

Reuters and PA