|L O R D L U C A N MYSTERY
of The Lucan Mystery was written by Linda Stratmann.
It's by far the best account of events I have read.
Editor Lord Lucan.com
At 9.45pm on the night of 7th November 1974, a distressed and bloodstained woman burst into the bar of The Plumberís Arms, Lower Belgrave Street, crying out "Help me, help me, help me. Iíve just escaped from being murdered. Heís in the house. Heís 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 childrenís' 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 Johnís 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 Lucanís 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 Lucanís 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 Lucanís 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 Binghamís 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 Lucanís 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 Lucanís 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 husbandís 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 childrenís 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 Lucanís condition with the Doctor without her knowledge. She feels strongly that he must have made statements that would have coloured the Doctorís 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, Lucanís 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 Lucanís 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 Lucanís 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 Sandraís 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 motherís 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 hadnít 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 Sandraís 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 husbandís 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 Sandraís 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 husbandís handwriting best, is certain that the word is "dream". The meaning of this sentence has never been clear.) Evidence about the Lucansí 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 Francesí 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 oíclock 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 Lucanís 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.
Lucanís 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.)
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 manís 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 Lucanís 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 Lucanís 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 Lucanís 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 canít 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 Ruddickís theories do acknowledge that the story Lucan told to Susan Maxwell-Scott doesnít really hold water, unlike Sally Mooreís. But by the time one reaches the end of her book, and her suggestions that the bloodstained piping wasnít 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 policemanís truncheon, one feels that in her efforts to maintain Lucanís innocence she is losing touch with reality!
[ TOP ]
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 Lucanís 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 Lucanís 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 Sandraís blood. The difficulty about this story is that neither Lady Lucan nor Lord Lucan suggested that this was what had happened. Lucanís 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, doesnít 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 Lucanís 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 Lucanís 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.
|written by Linda Stratmann with grateful thanks.