The mystery of a missing Earl’s Sussex connection

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Although a High Court judge has now declared Lord Lucan officially dead, mystery continues to surround his disappearance.

Last week George Bingham won his fight to have a death certificate issued for his father allowing him to use the family name. He now becomes Lord Lucan as well as the eighth Earl of Lucan.

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Speaking outside court he acccepted the view that the title could be seen as ‘tainted’ but it is his family’s name and he wants the right to use it. He told reporters: “My own personal view, and it was one I took as an eight-year-old boy, is that he has unfortunately been dead since that time.”

An inquest verdict found that Lord Lucan had battered his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett to death at the family’s Belgravia home on the night of November 7, 1974. A jury heard evidence from neighbours, family members and friends which appeared to indicate that Lord Lucan mistook his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett for his wife and killed her. After the four-day inquest they retired for just 31 minutes before returning a verdict of ‘murder by Lord Lucan,’ the last time an inquest jury exercised its right to state this verdict.

The marriage had allegedly been in trouble for some time and the couple had been engaged in a bitter custody battle. Lord Lucan was also deeply in debt and continuing to gamble.

But the core element of the story of most interest to Sussex readers concerns Lucan’s final appearances in the county. At about 11.30pm that night he arrived at Grants Hill House set amidst large, landscaped grounds in Uckfield, the home of friends Ian and Susan Maxwell-Scott. Mrs Maxwell-Scott was surprised to see him in dishevelled daytime clothing with stained trousers. He told her he had seen someone struggling with Lady Lucan in the basement kitchen, let himself in the front door, run down stairs, slipped and fallen into a pool of blood and the man had run off. He said he calmed Lady Lucan down, took her upstairs to try and clear her up but while he was in the bathroom he said she ran out of the house shouting ‘murder!’

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While in Uckfield he wrote two letters to his friend Bill Shand-Kydd at his home in Bayswater which were posted the next day. The envelopes were found to have smears of blood on them. Three days after the murder a Ford Corsair he had borrowed three weeks ago from a friend was found abandoned at Newhaven. Bloodstains were found inside.

Lady Lucan gave her own account of the incident to police and named her husband as the killer of Sandra Rivett and her own attacker. During the inquest Susan Maxwell-Scott testified about her visit from Lucan saying he had told her he interrupted a fight between his wife and a man in the basement and slipped in some blood.

Since the car was found in Newhaven there have been no official sightings of the missing Earl but rumours abound. Two respected authors both believe Lord Lucan did not murder Sandra Rivett but hired a hitman to murder his wife. Arriving later to dispose of the body he discovered the mistake and attacked his wife. A theory suggests using a blunt instrument was simply ‘not like him.’

On the night Lucan vanished, Derek Wilkinson was a Sussex police detective on duty at Newhaven. After Sussex police found the borrowed Ford Corsair abandoned at the port, officers scoured surrounding countryside and checked ferry passenger lists for any trace of Lucan. Derek Wilkinson believes Lucan was not on the ferry that departed that night. He said: “I feel that someone else brought the car down and left it here. I think it was a red herring.”

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Even more bizarre rumours continue to hover around his disappearance of the Earl. A former senior Scotland Yard detective said Lucan fled to Goa where he lived a hippy lifestyle, dying in 1996. There were also rumours of sightings in an ex-Nazi colony in Paraguay, an Australian sheep station, as a waiter in San Francisco, and most bizarrely, that he shot himself and was fed to one of John Aspinall’s tigers.

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