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How the Lord Lucan Scandal Continues to Haunt His Family

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The real tragedy of the Lord Lucan scandal is the devastating shadow that it has cast over so many lives.

Lord Lucan may have disappeared nearly 40 years ago, but both his children and his estranged wife are still absolutely haunted by him - and, with the screening of ITV's latest Lucan drama, continue to be haunted by him even to this day,

I doubt that a single day goes by when Lucan's three children are not in some way reminded that their nanny Sandra Rivett was murdered by their father.

Ms Rivett's own son Neil Berriman seems to have been equally traumatised.

And as for the intended victim of the murder, the tragic Countess of Lucan, she is now estranged from her three children and appears to have spent the last four decades in this living hell, linked for all time to the man who tried to bludgeon her to death.

Even outside the families, there are many, many other people whose lives were blighted by the murder.

One of Lucan's closest friends, the artist Dominic Elwes, committed suicide as a direct result of the murder.

And even the former Postmaster General, John Stonehouse, found himself unwittingly caught up in the Lucan scandal; the story is so bizarre that it would be farcical if it weren't so inextricably linked to such a horrific crime.

Stonehouse was a senior Labour politician who, two weeks after the Lucan murder in November 1974, faked his own drowning in Miami. He then flew to Australia to start up a new life with his secretary Sheila Buckley.

A bank-teller happened to notice that this aristocratic Englishman was looking rather uncomfortable and naturally enough thought he was the fugitive Earl. The police were called, only to discover that they'd arrested not Lucan but Stonehouse.

These, then, are the people whose lives have been most affected by the Lord Lucan scandal - and in the last few days, members of Lucan's family, as well as Neil Berriman, have come forward to denounce the latest Lucan drama.

His barrister daughter, Camilla Bingham QC, said that "no right-thinking person could regard it as entertainment", while Neil Berriman, who was adopted as a baby, is just as sickened by the whole thing, 'The programme is not entertainment," he said. "They are profiting from my mum's death."

It is difficult not to feel immense sympathy for all these people who have been part of the collateral damage inflicted by the Lucan murder.

And yet the rather unfortunate fact is that the Lucan scandal has become one of the greatest and most enduring mysteries of the 20th Century. Almost any Briton over the age of 40 is absolutely fascinated by the subject. Young students who hear the tale for the first time are equally enthralled.

Though it is not the murder so much that intrigues people, as that one single, imponderable question: what the hell happened to Lord Lucan? Did he kill himself, or did his rich, unscrupulous friends manage to spirit him out of the country?

There is a vast public appetite for this extraordinary story - and it doesn't look like going away any time soon.

This means that, at least three or four times a year, Lucan's family are being confronted with some fresh news titbit, or another book or TV programme. I understand that. I realise that it must be very hard for them - and I realise that I personally have not made life any easier for them with my own book on the subject - Lord Lucan: My Story. The movie is already in the pipe-line.

Camilla and Neil Berriman can of course portray me and other Lucan writers as mere vultures who are feeding on Sandra Rivett's corpse.

But for the most part, we are just people who know a good story when we see one. And the Lord Lucan story has got the lot - sex, power, money and murder, and all mixed up with a blue-blooded aristocrat who disappears off the face of the earth.

The Lord Lucan story has now become a part of the very warp and weft of British history. His very name has entered the English language as a byword for the far-fetched and simply unbelievable.

For better or worse, Lucan is a part of our culture. It's unfortunate, but there it is. How ever distasteful it may be for his family, Lord Lucan is now public property, and it would be facile to pretend otherwise. Though Lucan may be their father, we all now have a share in him.

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