The Blog

Lord Lucan's Alive! (For the Moment)

I know, I know - as one of the leading Lord Lucan pundits, it's been egg on my face, utter humiliation, and also the distinct possibility of being asked to reconsider my position, perhaps with the aid of a bottle of whisky and a pearl-handled revolver.

It is with regret that we admit that last week's reports on the official demise of Britain's most notorious fugitive, Lord Lucan, may have been, ahhhh... Slightly exaggerated.

I know, I know - as one of the leading Lord Lucan pundits, it's been egg on my face, utter humiliation, and also the distinct possibility of being asked to reconsider my position, perhaps with the aid of a bottle of whisky and a pearl-handled revolver.

Though in my defence, I will say that when I was blogging on The Huffington Post UK about Lord Lucan's "official death" last week, I was more than just a little sceptical.

And I did, I think, happen to say that the sole proof that the Lucky Lord was dead was that no-one's admitted to seeing him in the last 41 years.

And it would now seem that there are at least a couple of other people who happen to share my views.

What a can of worms Lord Lucan's son, George Bingham, has opened! If Lord George thought that this mystery was quietly going to slink into the corner and die, then he is in error.

Three weeks ago, though, when 48-year-old George launched his latest bid to have his crazy old dad pronounced properly dead, it must have all seemed so simple.

Lord Lucan disappeared off the face of the earth in November 1974 after botching the murder of his wife Veronica. Instead of bludgeoning his wife to death, Lucan ended up killing the nanny, Sandra Rivett. (Some people, particularly Lucan's family, dispute that he's a killer - but they are regrettably blind to the facts. Lucan was as guilty as they come; an inquest jury even took the absolutely unprecedented step of stating that Sandra had been murdered by Lucan.)

In 1999, George Bingham tried to have his father pronounced dead, so that he could become the 8th Earl of Lucan; that attempt failed.

Now, under the powers of the recent 2013 Presumption of Death Act, George is having another shot at becoming the Earl. Lucan's son is engaged to very wealthy Danish heiress Anne-Sofie Foghsgaard, and says that he and his sisters want "closure".

I doubt they'll get it. This mystery has a fascination like no other - and just because the Earl has become officially dead that's certainly not going to stop people talking about it; in fact, quite the reverse.

I also ponder the wisdom of becoming the 8th Earl. I don't think George would be quite mad enough to take on the title. (Or at least I hope he's not...)

Maybe his beautiful fiancee is pushing for Lucan to be properly, officially, dead on behalf of any future offspring that she has with George - because even if you can't be a Countess, it's still quite nice to have a kid with a title. (Just ask the Duchess of Cambridge's mum Carole!)

Anyway - the deadline for Lord Lucan's official death was 3pm last Friday, and what do you know - two guys banged in a couple of written objections.

I was actually being interviewed on Radio Five at 5.45pm that afternoon and, blithely unaware that these objections had been made, was prattling away about Lucan now being officially dead. Dohhh!

The interviewer, Caroline Barker, asked me if I myself would be putting in an objection; I laughed and said that George Bingham and his two sisters were more than welcome to any sort of "closure" they could get. I went on to say that only mischief-makers would be objecting to Lucan's official death.

How wrong I was!

One of the objectors is a builder Neil Berriman, who eight years ago discovered that Sandra Rivett was his biological mother. He'd been adopted at birth - and, by a strange quirk, is the same age as George Bingham.

Since discovering that his birth mother had been murdered by Lucan, Berriman has become fascinated by the whole Lord Lucan saga. He wants justice for the mum he never knew - and he claims, quite correctly, that there is not a scintilla of evidence that Lord Lucan is actually dead.

Of course you've got Lucan's relatives all saying that he's dead; the theory that is most commonly trotted out is that Lucan was so ashamed at what he'd done that he drowned himself in the Channel.

Well it's possible; anything's possible in the greatest mystery of the 20th Century.

But it's all just theory - and Lord Lucan is still a long, long way from being proved dead.

I should mention, incidentally, that just last week a doctor who was presumed dead after disappearing 26 years ago has been found alive and living in a forest in Tuscany.

Carlos Sanchez Ortiz de Salazar, from Seville in Spain, disappeared in 1995 at the age of 26, and was declared dead five years ago. But two mushroom pickers found him in an Italian nature reserve; Carlos showed them his passport but now he's vanished again.

The second person to object to George Bingham's application is a Lucan researcher, Ian Crosby, who claims that the 2013 Presumption of Death Act was brought in to make it easier for missing people to be declared dead by their families. It was certainly never intended to apply to fugitives.

A High Court hearing will decide on the issue next month. I am not sure if Neil Berriman has ever met Lucan's son, but I have my doubts as to whether they'll get on with each other.

So there we have it - a High Court case, the Lucan story right back on the front pages, the Old Etonian George Bingham in one corner, Sandra Rivett's builder son in the other: it's got the makings of a Battle Royale.

I don't know about Lucan's family getting closure, but I am predicting fireworks.

Before You Go