Lord Lucan May Be Alive and in Africa, Says Brother

Almost 40 years ago, British aristocrat Lord “Lucky” Lucan disappeared after the family nanny was murdered. Tom Sykes on his brother’s explosive new statement about where he might be.

02.25.12 3:48 PM ET

For almost 40 years, speculating about the fate of Lord “Lucky” Lucan, the inveterate gambler and drinker who disappeared in 1974 after allegedly murdering the family nanny, Sandra Rivett, has been one of the favorite parlor games of the British upper classes. Now the mystery has been given new life by a series of dramatic revelations concerning the whereabouts of the missing peer, who was declared legally dead in 1999.

The latest has come from Lucan’s younger brother, the Honorable Hugh Bingham, 72, who has said he is “sure” his brother escaped to Africa after the killing.

Speaking at his apartment in a suburb of Johannesburg, where he moved six months after the murder, the missing earl’s brother told a reporter from the Daily Mirror: “There are lots of rumors and lots of outcomes. There are all sorts of possibilities.”

When asked if he thought his brother had fled to Africa, he declared: “I am sure he did, yes. I wouldn’t like to form an opinion as to his whereabouts today or whether he is alive or dead. The last time I had contact with my brother was a long, long time ago before the incident, lost in the mists of time.”

Bingham’s comments come hard on the heels of a BBC TV program which reignited interest in the enduring mystery by claiming it had evidence Lord Lucan was living in Africa in the 1980s. An unidentified woman said that on the instructions of Lucan’s friend John Aspinall, an aristocratic casino operator, she arranged for Lucan’s two eldest children, George and Frances, to visit Gabon and Kenya twice between 1979 and 1981 on second passports. She claimed that on both visits Lucan observed his children but did not make contact with them. Former detective inspector Bob Polkinghorne of Scotland Yard told of two alleged sightings of Lucan, including one in Africa in the 1980s, but said he was refused permission for further investigations.

Then, today, antiques dealer Cedrick Lincoln, 58, told the Daily Mirror that he has in his possession a silver watch engraved with the message: “Presented to Lord ‘Lucky’ Lucan—the Old Fossil—by his friends at the Clermont Club, Mayfair, 18 December 1967.” He said he bought it from another dealer who acquired it in South Africa.

The latest revelations are due tomorrow, in Rupert Murdoch’s new Sun on Sunday. The replacement for the News of the World which was closed down by the media magnate in the wake of the phone hacking scandal is planning to run a story about the whereabouts of Lord Lucan in its launch issue, according to a report on the UK Guardian’s website.

A former expat who spent decades in Africa told the Guardian’s media blog that two Sun journalists spent several hours at his home this week after he contacted the paper claiming he had information on the fugitive aristocrat’s alleged hideout.

The tipster told the Guardian that he declined to accompany Sun on Sunday reporters to Botswana and had “developed cold feet owing to fears of re-contracting life-threatening malaria and a belief that ‘Lucky’ Lucan was being protected by ‘powerful people.’”

The continuing fascination of the British public with the case of Lord Lucan stems not just from a fascination with the misdeeds of the aristocracy but also the dramatic circumstances of Lucan’s disappearance. At 9:45 p.m. on Thursday, November 7, 1974, Lady Veronica Lucan burst into the Plumber’s Arms, the pub nearest to her house in London’s Belgravia district, screaming, “Help me, help me, help me, he’s in the house, he’s murdered my nanny.”

The police arrived at the Lucans’ home 15 minutes later, and found a canvas mailbag, inside of which was the body of nanny Sandra Rivett, who had suffered head wounds. They also found a bloodstained length of lead pipe wrapped in surgical plaster.

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Lucan drove 42 miles to the house of Ian and Susan Maxwell-Scott, and used their phone to call his mother. She asked him if he wanted to talk to the policeman who was with her. He replied that he would call the police in the morning. Amazingly, the police did not pick Lucan up immediately. He was able to write a few letters to friends before leaving at 1:15 a.m. His car was found abandoned on the South Coast, and he has never officially been seen again, despite a plethora of rumored sightings.

During a 1990 interview, Aspinall said, “I’m more of a friend of his after that than I was—though I haven’t seen him—because if he wanted me to do something, I’d do it for him,” which the interviewer interpreted as a slip of the tongue suggesting that Aspinall had had some contact with Lucan even after the murder. Aspinall always insisted publicly that Lucan had committed suicide. Lady Lucan has recently restated her belief that he threw himself off the cross-channel ferry to France.

The police have long been of the opinion that Lucan is the one that got away. In October 2004, police reviewed the case in an operation led by Detective Superintendent Lewis Benjamin. Benjamin said that he believed Lucan was helped by friends to escape from Britain and began a secret life abroad.

Detective Chief Supt. Drummond Marvin, who at one stage ran the case, told the Mirror today, “I have no doubt that he got clean away with the help of his upper-crust friends—the Sloane Square Mafia, who I believe still help him to this day. A lot of people think Lucan killed himself by jumping into the Channel but I don’t think so. In my experience you have to be bloody brave or completely mad to commit suicide and we know he wasn’t brave or mad. I believe he is in Africa. I have information that he is there and using his British contacts to pour badly needed investments and hard currency in to their coffers.”