In November 1974, Richard John Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, disappeared without a trace. Bingham, commonly known as Lord Lucan, vanished on the same night his family's nanny was murdered in London. Forty years on, his fate is still an enduring mystery.
In County Mayo, where Lucan had a substantial estate, the name 'Lucan' has been a source of deep resentment.
Lorcan Clancy found out more about the Lucan case, and the Earl's connection to County Mayo.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Lord Lucan
by Lorcan Clancy
On a Thursday night in November 1974, Lady Veronica Bingham ran into a pub in the upscale Belgravia district of central London. Panic-stricken, and covered in bloodstains, she said that her husband had killed the family nanny, and violently attacked her. The next day, the story dominated the headlines. The missing earl suspected of murder pushed the union strikes and the latest IRA bombing off the front pages. Before long, the whole of London was looking for Lucan.
Richard John Bingham, known as Lord Lucan, was born in 1934, the eldest son of a prominent Anglo-Irish peer. In 1939, as war clouds gathered over Europe, he and his siblings were evacuated, spending five years on the sumptuous New York estate of a multi-millionaire. Returning to wartime Britain in early 1945 must have been quite a shock for the young heir-apparent. Despite their considerable wealth, his parents preferred a simple and austere lifestyle, a stark contrast to the material privilege he'd grown used to in America.
During his school days at Eton, he first developed a taste for gambling. After two years of National Army Service, followed by a spell at a merchant bank in London, he became a full-time professional gambler.
His friends called him "Lucky Lucan", even though his losses easily outweighed his winnings.
Although Lucan wasn't an actor, it's said that film producer Albert Broccoli once considered him for the role of James Bond. The handsome and charismatic playboy had expensive tastes - he drove an Aston Martin, just like the fictional spy. And his exploits at the gambling table drew comparisons to Ian Fleming's novel Casino Royale.
In the early 1970s, Lucan's marriage to Lady Veronica collapsed, and a bitter dispute over the custody of their three children ensued. As he battled with his estranged wife in court, legal costs and gambling debts piled up.
When the police arrived at the Lucan household on that Thursday night in 1974, it seemed like an open and shut case. A man planned to murder his wife, but accidentally killed his children's nanny. As he was a peer of the realm, everyone expected that Lucan would soon turn up with his solicitor and present himself to the police. It would be a long wait, and he quickly became the world's most notorious missing person.
Lucan supported his gambling habit with income from an estate in County Mayo. For years after his disappearance, attempts to have the Earl declared dead were followed closely by the people of Castlebar, where householders were long obliged to pay ground rents to the Lucan family.
Lord Lucan comes from a long line of landed gentry. His direct ancestor was a man who struck fear into the hearts of people on the west coast of Ireland. During the Famine, the third Earl of Lucan George Bingham ruthlessly evicted thousands of tenants from his lands. Because of this, hatred for the Lucan name has always run deep in County Mayo.
In 1999, the English High Court finally declared Lucan dead, granting his family probate over his estate. Despite this declaration, forty years after he vanished we still don't know what happened to him. His disappearance prompted decades of speculation. The truth behind the Lucan case, and the whereabouts of one of the most famous murder suspects in history, remains a mystery.
Lord Lucan as he might have aged and how he might look today.