Lord Lucan's son RUBBISHES claims aristocrat is  Buddhist in Australia

‘My father has been found many times over the years’: Lord Lucan’s son RUBBISHES claims he is now living as a Buddhist in Australia – 46 years after murdering nanny then disappearing

  • EXCLUSIVE: George Bingham is ‘very sceptical’ about claims his father is alive
  • Neil Berriman’s mother Sandra Rivett was murdered by Lord Lucan in Nov 1974 
  • Assumed he killed himself off Newhaven – but there have been global sightings  
  • Mr Berriman thinks he has found Lucan, now 85, in suburban Australian house
  • He said: ‘I believe I’ve tracked down the man, Lucan, who murdered my mother’
  • Met says Sandra’s murder case still ‘open’ and will ‘consider new information’ 
  • Lord Lucan’s son, 8th Earl of Lucan, said: ‘It would not be the first time someone has made a mistake’

Lord Lucan’s only son today rubbished claims the British aristocrat has been discovered living as a Buddhist in Australia after 46 years and told MailOnline: ‘My father has been found many times over the years only to be wrong.’

George Bingham says he is ‘very sceptical’ about claims made by the son of his nanny Sandra Rivett, who was beaten to death in Lucan’s basement in 1974.  

Mr Bingham, who became the 8th Earl of Lucan in 2016 after his father was officially declared dead, said he would not be urging Scotland Yard’s cold case team to investigate Neil Berriman’s claims made in the Daily Mirror today.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline from his London home, the current Lord Lucan said: ‘Quite frankly I am very skeptical about this. I had seen the story and it does seem odd. It would not be the first time someone has made a mistake. My father has been found many times over the years only to be wrong.    

‘To be honest this is all ancient history. It happened in 1974 and now it’s 2020. I guess people will always go on looking and they are welcome to do so’.

He also revealed that he has had a child on December 30, Charles, who will become the 9th Earl of Lucan when he dies, and is ‘more worried’ about his newborn son’s poor sleeping than reports his father is alive. 

And added that Met detectives had not been contact with him and ‘doesn’t expect them to be’.  


George Bingham, the only son of the infamous British aristocrat Lord Lucan, pictured left with his wife, has dismissed claims made by Neil Berriman, whose mother Sandra Rivett was murdered by Lord Lucan, that the aristocrat is a Buddhist in Australia

The father-of-two would later find out he was Sandra Rivett’s (pictured) son, and 12 years ago began searching for Lucan

Lord Richard John Bingham with his fiancee Veronica Duncan on the announcement of their engagement in 1963

In the years since he disappeared, Lucan (who would now be 85) has been variously ‘spotted’ in Africa, India, Australia, Holland and living in a Land Rover in New Zealand with a goat called Camilla.

There have been theories that the peer fled to West Africa and — extraordinarily — that his children were flown out there so he could see them.

‘Lucky’ Lucan’s privileged gambling friends were also said to have spirited him out of the country so he could evade justice, and his estranged wife (who was his intended target when he killed the family nanny) has previously claimed that as a gambler he would never have committed suicide ‘as gamblers always win the next hand’. 

In 1974 Australian police arrested a man they believed to be Lucan but it turned out to be Labour MP John Stonehouse who had faked his own death a month before.

A former Scotland Yard detective claimed in 2003 that an ageing hippy living in Goa, India was Lucan. Instead, it turned out to be Barry Halpin, or Jungly Barry, a well-known musician from the 1960s folk music circuit.

In 2004 Scotland Yard reopened the Lucan case and produced an image of what he would look like now. That same year it was reported that he had been living in Mozambique and was known by the name of John.

An Englishman in New Zealand called Roger Woodgate, who lived in a Land Rover with a goat called Camilla, was accused of being Lucan in 2007. Woodgate admitted he arrived in the country the same year that Lucan went missing from the UK but said he was 10 years younger and five inches shorter.

Other sightings include Lucan working as a waiter in San Francisco, at an alcoholics centre in Brisbane and at a hotel in Madagascar.

There has even been speculation, started by Mr Aspinall, that Lucan committed suicide by scuttling the powerboat he kept at Newhaven. He said Lucan had killed the nanny by mistake and felt ashamed by his actions.  

‘What they do is up to them’, he said, ‘I don’t have say and will not be contacting them over this’.

He also revealed that he has had a child on December 30, Charles, who will become the 9th Earl of Lucan when he dies. He and his Danish wife Anne Sofie Foghsgaard have a three year old daughter Daphne.  

He said: I’ve more important things to worry about such as sleepless nights. My son Charles is not sleeping very well. That’s of more concern now’ 

He wasn’t aware Sandra Rivett’s son Neil had spent years trying to find his father.

Lord Lucan said: ‘I’ve met him a couple of times but had no idea he was looking for him and had spent so much money. It’s really up to him what he does’.

He added: ‘He isn’t the first person to go to Australia looking. I remember the press went out there to try and find my father and instead found John Stonehouse who had faked his own death. He was found as someone heard his English accent

The Met Police’s cold case team will speak Neil Berriman, whose mother Sandra Rivett was murdered by Richard John Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, in November 1974.

Mr Berriman, from West Sussex, says Lucan is housebound and awaiting a major operation after decades living Down Under – and has spoken to the Met who have reassured him they will look into his claims.

He told the Daily Mirror: ‘I believe I have tracked down the man, Lord Lucan, who murdered my mother. He has been alive all this time. Lying about who he is. Lying about it to his new friends’.

Scotland Yard told MailOnline today that Sandra Rivett’s case remains ‘unsolved’ and ‘open’ more than 45 years after she was bludgeoned to death with a length of lead piping and her body then stuffed into a mail-sack in Lucan’s basement.

A spokesman said: ‘The inquiry into the death of Sandra Rivett remains open as is the case with all unsolved murders. It has never been closed. Any significant new information will be considered. We keep an open mind in relation to this case’. 

He added: ‘Anyone with information should contact the Metropolitan Police on 101, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111’. 

Lord Lucan’s blood-stained car was found abandoned in East Sussex, but he was never successfully traced, and despite sightings in countries all over the globe the most likely theory was that he committed suicide by scuttling the powerboat he kept at Newhaven and jumping in the sea with rocks in his pockets.

In 1975, an inquest jury declared Lucan to have been Ms Rivett’s killer, and in 2016 a court issued a ‘presumption of death’ certificate for him, a ruling that cleared the way for the couple’s son, George Bingham, to become the 8th Earl of Lucan.

But today, in a quite extraordinary claim, 52-year-old Neil Berriman says he has located Lucan, who he says is now a Buddhist who turned 85 last month but is seriously ill.

Mr Berriman claimed the peer originally lived in Perth after escaping to Australia, but moved to another part of the country after falling out with friends. 

Father-of-two Mr Berriman, who lives in West Sussex, with his wife Kim, only learned he was Ms Rivett’s son in 2007.

29-year-old Sandra was — an inquest ruled in 1975 — most likely murdered by Lucan, who’d mistaken her for his estranged wife, Veronica, with whom he was locked in a bitter custody battle.  

He said today: ‘The people he lives with know he has a mystery past and what he tells them does not add up. They have had their suspicions for many years.

‘They are fully aware he is a mystery elderly Englishman and not who he is claiming to be.

‘Lucan is a deceitful conman and he is the man who murdered my mother.’ 


After killing Ms Rivett (right) Lord Lucan’s (left) blood-stained car was later found abandoned in Newhaven, East Sussex, but he was never successfully traced

John Bingham, Lord Lucan is pictured with his wife Veronica Duncan in October 1963 

John Richard Bingham, Earl of Lucan, and Veronica Duncan after their marriage


Lady Lucan in 2017 (left) and with Lord Lucan before they married on November 20 1974 

Lord Lucan, right, with his friend Sir James Goldsmith, father of Zac Goldsmith, in a rare colour photo of the fugitive. 

What happened to Lord Lucan, and is he still alive? The four most likely theories about his disappearance

Theory one: Lucan drowned himself off Newhaven after murdering the nanny

Lord Lucan’s friend James Wilson, who gambled with him at London’s Clermont Club, said five years ago he believes Lucan killed himself after murdering Ms Rivet.

Mr Wilson said he filled his pockets with rocks and stones before jumping off his scuppered speedboat in Newhaven Harbour just hours after the killing.

He told the Telegraph in 2015: ‘I believe that when he realised he had killed the nanny, the remorse, guilt and panic led him to commit suicide. He must have realised he only had two options open to him; hand himself in or kill himself. Having lost the gamble he chose the latter’.

In an ITV documentary before her death in 2017, Lady Lucan said she believed Lord Lucan had jumped off a ferry shortly after the killing.

‘I would say he got on the ferry and jumped off in the middle of the Channel in the way of the propellers so that his remains wouldn’t be found’.

Theory 2: Lucan fled to Africa – and lived there quietly until he died in 2000

Shirley Robey, who worked for Lucan’s casion owner John Aspinall claimed in 2012 she overheard conversations with Lucan’s friend Sir James Goldsmith, father of Zac Goldsmith in the early 1980s.

She said the pair said Lucan was in Africa, adding: ‘ I knew he was hiding, I knew he was in Africa, I knew we were hushing it up. I knew he’d fallen out with his wife and I knew it was a major secret but for whatever reason I didn’t appreciate there had been a murder until some years later. If I’d have known, I think I would have handled things quite differently. In fact I know I would have done’. She claims she heard he died in 2000, in his mid-60s.

Theory 3: Lucan shot himself and was fed to a tiger called Zorra in a Kent zoo  

Philippe Marcq, another of Lucan’s casino friends, told MailOnline previously that friends of the Earl disposed of his body at Howletts zoo near Canterbury, set up as a private zoo in 1957 by John Aspinall, another friend of Lucan’s.

Mr Marcq  said he was told story by Lucan’s friend Stephen Raphael. It is claimed a pistol was offered to Lucan who took it, went into a room on his own and shot himself dead and the friends removed his body.

Mr Marcq said: ‘I was stunned when Stephen told me this. But I believed what he told me 100 per cent’.

Aspinall’s mother, Lady Osborne, the grandmother of former Chancellor George Osborne, apparently told police: ‘The last I heard of him, he was being fed to the tigers at my son’s zoo.’

Police are said to have subsequently descended on Howletts, where a contemptuous John Aspinall told them: ‘My tigers are only fed the choicest cuts — do you really think they’re going to eat stringy old Lucky?’

Theory 4: Lucan didn’t commit the murder – and was helped to flee by his circle

Lucan’s brother, Hugh Bingham defended the peer’s innocence until he died in South Africa.

He always claimed he in fact went into hiding after Rivett’s death, which he was innocent. He said: ‘I have always believed he didn’t commit murder/ He had no choice but to flee in the face of cruel allegations.  The police inquiry was compromised from the start. There is significant evidence of the existence of an unknown man at the scene – is he known to police?’

Mr Berriman has already taken his extraordinary claims to Scotland Yard’s Cold Case Unit and hopes officers will now investigate, adding: ‘I know he’s still alive.’ 

Lucan’s new friendship group – two young Englishmen and an Australian – confirmed to the Mirror that an elderly Englishman who looks like Lord Lucan does live at the house.

They claim the quartet all take part in daily meditation sessions, while the man Mr Berriman believes is Lord Lucan, who has a carer, often sits on the veranda listening to distant trains pass.

The man was said to know of claims he is Lord Lucan. The Mirror said it has chosen not to reveal his identity or exact location.

Neil was born Gary Roger Hensby – Sandra Rivett’s maiden name – in Southsea, Hampshire, in 1967 and was immediately put up for adoption aged six months. Neil believes that he was the result of a love affair between his mother, who already had an older son being brought up by her parents, and a married estate agent.

Around 13 years ago Mr Berriman opened brown envelope left to him by his adoptive mother, Audrey, when she died, which revealed Ms Rivett was his birth mother. He then had to come to terms with the fact she was brutally murdered in the darkened basement kitchen of the Lucan family’s Belgravia home.

Since then he has been hunting for Lucan himself. 

Detectives believe the aristocrat – an abusive husband and heavy gambler nicknamed ‘Lucky Lucan’ – intended to murder his wife and killed the nanny by mistake.

Lucan was never seen in public again, and his body was never found, leading to decades of fevered speculation about his whereabouts.

Despite Lord Lucan being formally declared dead in February 2016, Mr Berriman claimed he acted on a detailed tip that he was still alive.

He spent £30,000 of his own money on private investigations into Lord Lucan’s supposed whereabouts.

He said: ‘He has been alive all this time. Lying about who he is. Lying about it to his new friends. 

‘They are fully aware he is a mystery elderly Englishman and not who he is claiming to be. 

‘The people he lives with know he has a mystery past and what he tells them does not add up. They have had their suspicions for many years.

‘Lucan is a deceitful conman and he is the man who murdered my mother.’ 

In 1975, an inquest jury declared Lucan to have been Ms Rivett’s killer. 

The High Court declared him dead for probate purposes in 1999, but there have been scores of reported sightings around the world, in countries including Australia, Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand.

In an ITV documentary in 2017, Lady Lucan said she believed Lord Lucan had jumped off a ferry shortly after the killing.

‘I would say he got on the ferry and jumped off in the middle of the Channel in the way of the propellers so that his remains wouldn’t be found,’ she said, calling what she believed to be his final act ‘brave.’  

Lady Lucan was found dead in September 2017 at her home in Belgravia where her husband Lord Lucan famously disappeared.

Lady Lucan was one of the last people to see her husband alive.

The countess was in the house watching TV in her bedroom that night when the 29-year-old nanny Sandra Rivett was killed as she went downstairs to the unlit basement to make her employer a cup of tea.

The countess contends that she disturbed her husband after the fatal assault. He hit her four times with a length of bandaged metal piping before she grabbed his genitals. 

Lord and Lady Lucan with their son George, then aged 3, taken from Lady Lucan’s photo album

Recalling the attack she said: ‘I’d started moving towards the cloakroom when someone rushed out and hit me about four times on the head with something hard. I screamed.

‘A voice said: ‘Shut up!’ I just had time to register that the man was my husband when he thrust three gloved fingers down my throat.

‘At this point, I started fighting back in earnest, but he switched tactics — trying to strangle me and then to gouge out my eyes. I gasped: ‘Please don’t kill me, John!’

Then, after she had persuaded her husband to get her a glass of water, she fled to a nearby pub and raised the alarm.

She recalled: ‘He told me, ‘I’ll go to Broadmoor for this’. [Our children] George and Camilla were seven and three when it happened, and asleep in bed.’

Lord Lucan fled the murder scene in a car he had borrowed. 

His body has never been found.

Over the years several fantastical theories about his disappearance have placed him in the Australian outback, as a hippy drop-out in Goa, and even fed to the tigers at his friend John Aspinall’s zoo.

Although a High Court judge granted a death certificate last year allowing his son to inherit his title, this has provided neither resolution nor a conclusion to the mystery.

Lady Lucan remained closer to the truth than anyone and with her death, the possibility of her husband’s disappearance being solved looked ever more remote. 

She believed that the note he left, with the poignant sentence, ‘Please tell those that you know, that all I cared about was them [the children]’, was proof her husband intended suicide.

That night he called at the home of friends in a Sussex village, before leaving in the early hours. Lucan told them he had happened on an attacker hitting his wife as he passed the family home.

His version of the story was that his wife had accused him of hiring a hitman to kill her and he claimed he was going to ‘lie doggo’ for a while.

Three days later his borrowed car was found abandoned and blood-splattered – with a section of bandaged lead piping in the boot – at the cross-Channel port of Newhaven, East Sussex.

Lord Lucan’s life and grizzly legacy 

The Daily Mail from November 1974 as police hunt for Lucan’s body at sea and his estranged wife Lady Lucan leaves a police station after saying he was guilty of the murder – and trying to kill her

December 18 1934: Richard John Bingham is born in London into an aristocratic family with connections to Ireland.   

1955: He got a job with a small merchant bank, William Brandts, for £500 a year. 

1960: He retires having won £26,000 – around £600,000 in today’s money – over two nights playing ‘chemin de fer’ at a gambling party run by John Aspinall.

1963 Marries Veronica Duncan – the couple have three children

1964 Becomes an earl after the death of his father, the 6th Earl of Lucan

1972 Their marriage collapses and Lucan moves out of the family home at 46 Lower Belgrave St, London. He loses a custody battle and accrues gambling losses

November 7 1974 The children’s nanny Sandra Rivett is found dead. At 9.45pm, Lady Lucan, in great distress, burst into the Plumber’s Arms, the pub near her home in the exclusive area of Belgravia in central London. 

With blood streaming from several wounds on her head, she cried: ‘Help me, help me, help me! He’s in the house! He’s murdered my nanny!’

Lady Lucan, who was estranged from her husband, told police her estranged husband had killed their nanny and tried to kill her. Police found the couple’s three children asleep in their beds, unharmed, and when they went to the basement they were greeted by a macabre scene.

The basement lightbulb had been removed, but in the semi-darkness, officers made out a pool of blood with a man’s footprint in it, a blood-stained length of lead piping and a mailbag containing a body.

November 14 1974: Lucan’s car is found abandoned near Newhaven and police begin seraching for his body at sea after his speedboat was found scuppered.      

June 1975 Lucan is named as Ms Rivett’s killer at the inquest into her death. 

1999 His family is granted probate over Lord Lucan’s estate, but no death certificate is issued.

2016: A court issued a ‘presumption of death’ certificate for Lord Lucan, a ruling that cleared the way for the couple’s son, George Bingham, to become the 8th Earl of Lucan. 

Lady Lucan, prisoner of a macabre past she refused to relinquish: The last writer to interview her reveals how she foretold her own solitary death – and why she never healed the 30-year rift with her children

by Frances Hardy for the Daily Mail

Her words were both prescient and full of pathos; her own death was in the forefront of her mind as she turned 80.

Just four months before she was found dead, Veronica, the Dowager Countess of Lucan told me that she did not fear a solitary end.

Veronica, the Dowager Countess of Lucan (pictured in June 2017) told Frances Hardy last year that she did not fear a solitary end

Bereft of loved ones, her greatest terror, she confided, was becoming reliant on others to care for her.

‘I don’t fear dying alone — not at all,’ she said. ‘But I do fear dependency. I’d find that very depressing. It would be horrible to feel you were a burden.

‘Your faculties start to fade when you reach 80, so I’ve been thinking about my death. I’d quite enjoy the rest of my life if I knew it was not going to end in something horrific. I’ve given it some thought, and I support the idea of assisted suicide.’

Lady Lucan did indeed die alone last September in the mews house in Central London that had been her home for 40 years.

It would be premature to suggest that she might have opted to take her life — her son George Bingham, the 8th Earl Lucan, said she had passed away ‘apparently peacefully’ — but I can attest that the idea was certainly in her mind when we spoke.

I spent an afternoon with her in late spring and was the last journalist to interview her.

Lady Lucan was last seen by neighbours when she answered the door to the postman.

Police battered down her door after she had failed for three days in a row to turn up for a daily walk with a friend.

It was the end she had wished for, and she had not become a burden. But Lady Lucan’s old age was spent in frugal routine and quiet desperation. She remained obdurately alienated from her sister and three adult children.

Yet after her death in September, they paid warm tribute to her.

‘Although Veronica severed relations with her family in the Eighties, and continued to decline contact with them right up until her death, all of them remember her lovingly and with admiration,’ according to the statement they released.

‘She had a sharp mind, and when she spoke it, she did so eloquently. She was courageous and, at times, outrageous, with a mischievous sense of humour.

‘She was, in her day, beautiful and throughout her life fragile and vulnerable, struggling as she did with mental infirmity. To us she was and is unforgettable.’

Lady Lucan decorates a Christmas tree with her children Camilla, Frances and George in 1974

Lady Lucan was a woman who was both defined and imprisoned by a past she stubbornly refused to relinquish, even choosing to remain living in the same house she and her late husband, John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, had bought as a guest house (close to the family home), during their ill-fated marriage.

In November 1974, after 11 years together, Lord and Lady Lucan had separated.

Lucan, a 39-year-old professional gambler and inveterate drinker, disappeared on the night of November 7, after visiting the five-storey family home in Lower Belgrave Street and bludgeoning to death Sandra Rivett, 29, his children’s nanny, in the mistaken belief that she was his estranged wife.

Lucan then violently assaulted Veronica. His body has never been found and the mystery of his disappearance — one of the most compelling in recent history — has given rise to myth and speculation, and continues to fascinate today.

There seemed a perverseness in Lady Lucan’s decision to remain so enmeshed in this lurid story, eking out a modest state pension with her dwindling savings.

When we met, she described for the first time in such graphic detail the events of the awful night: how she disturbed her husband after he’d killed Mrs Rivett. How she was then set upon herself with a metal pipe before she managed to flee and raise the alarm, while her children slept in their beds.

Portraits of her husband loomed over us as we talked in the home where Lady Lucan imposed reclusiveness on herself. Heavy curtains, closed to deter snoopers, had shut out any vestige of daylight for the preceding four decades.

Tall, elegant and slender, her silver hair tied in a girlish ponytail, she sat ramrod straight in the fusty darkness of her airless home, among memorabilia that had remained preserved in time, like some parody of Dickens’s Miss Havisham, repining a dreadful marriage but determined never to forget it.

Lady Lucan, pictured with a portrait of her husband in 1976, had previously discussed assisted suicide if she had a terminal illness or a degenerative disease

She told me why she had never left the area: she liked the familiarity of the place, the predictability of her routines — a stroll in nearby Green Park preceded by a visit to Victoria library. It was around these humdrum activities that her life revolved.

Lady Lucan affected not to care that her children, Frances, 52, George, 50, and Camilla, 47, as well as her sister Christina Shand Kydd — distantly related by marriage to the late Princess Diana — were estranged from her.

She was blithely unconcerned too, that she had never met any of her five grandchildren. Neither did she express regret — nor regard it as odd — that she did not know the identity of her eldest daughter’s husband.

‘Frances didn’t tell me she was married,’ she told me, ‘but she was, recently. I don’t really know to whom, because I have no contact with them at all.’

Was this alarming disregard for all those who should have been dearest to her genuine? Actually, I believe not. I think it was the bravado of a stubborn woman who was not prepared to capitulate.

Her thoughts were very much focused on death and she revealed that she campaigned actively for assisted euthanasia, showing me a placard she had taken on a march, printed with the slogan Give Me A Choice Over My Own Death.

Following publication of the interview in the Mail, we kept up a short correspondence. She wrote to me: ‘I was happy about the article and especially for including my thoughts on death and disability.’

It was a sentiment I am certain was sharpened by the fact there was no close family member she would have been willing to turn to if her health failed.

So why did she never seek a rapprochement with her children? This is yet another of the abiding mysteries about the Lucan affair — especially as she had fought so hard to keep them when they were young.

Living apart from his family and on the brink of divorce, Lord Lucan had lost a ruinously costly and acrimonious battle for custody of his children and was mired in spiralling gambling debts when he tried to kill his wife. Frances was then nine, and George and Camilla respectively seven and three.

A 1975 inquest jury at a coroner’s court named him, in his absence, as Mrs Rivett’s murderer — he was the last person in Britain to be declared a murderer by an inquest jury (the procedure was later outlawed) — although he was never convicted in a criminal court.

Some have suggested a hired or unknown assailant was the nanny’s killer, and indeed Camilla, a QC, and George, a merchant banker, have always insisted their father should not be assumed guilty of their nanny’s murder.

This enraged Lady Lucan, who regarded it as a betrayal, and it may be one of the reasons she refused to be reconciled with them. Neither did it help that in their teens, the children opted to live in the country with their maternal aunt, rather than their mother.

Extravagant theories as to Lord Lucan’s whereabouts persisted for years: one posited the idea that he had been eaten by a lion in his friend John Aspinall’s zoo; another that he became a hippie in Goa; yet another that he’d disappeared into the Australian Outback. But Lady Lucan made clear to me she believed her husband had committed suicide.

After fleeing the murder scene, he visited friends in Sussex. Then a car he had borrowed from a friend was found — a length of bloodied lead piping in its boot — abandoned in the port of Newhaven.

‘He got on a ferry and jumped off mid-Channel, and was then chopped up by the propeller — which is why his body was never found,’ Lady Lucan told me. She said that as a powerboat racer, he had a detailed knowledge of propellers, and would have known precisely where to jump so his remains were destroyed.

Theirs had been a sorry union, a joyless marriage she said, describing her constant anxiety over the vast sums he regularly lost at the gaming tables.

She also recounted how, driven by loneliness — her frequently absent husband was taciturn and remote — she had sought solace in a platonic friendship with another man.

When Lucan found out, the man was warned off and she fell into a profound depression and was prescribed powerful anti-psychotic drugs, the dire side-effects of which convinced her, and her family, that she was losing her mind.

There was lacerating honesty, too, in Lady Lucan’s admission that she had taunted her husband about his ineptitude as a lover and in the humiliating confession that he beat her for his own sexual gratification. Her husband, she said, insisted she was both mad and an unfit mother; two suggestions she fervently denied. Twice, she recalled, she was taken by Lucan to psychiatric units against her will and twice she escaped.

The question that touched a nerve most acutely was whether she was a good mother. She wrote to me expressing regret that a newspaper article had suggested she neglected her children and accused her of spending too much time in bed. In fact, she countered, she was a conscientious parent; her children were always well turned-out and advanced in their schooling.

She resolutely denied, too, that she was ever psychotic, though she conceded: ‘I was pushed to the brink of madness. My husband manipulated me psychologically, so I began to think I was mad.

‘He had a campaign to destroy me. I was a nuisance. He was an imposing character, an earl, and the doctors believed all he told them about me.

‘I, in turn, just accepted what the doctors said. I had injections [of anti-psychotics] and their side-effects were horrible. I had hallucinations, restlessness — I walked for miles and miles — and the drugs induced Parkinson’s disease.’

Lady Lucan, there is little doubt, could be difficult, intransigent and self-serving. Yet there was something profoundly sad about her.

She told me she was fit — she took no medication now, endured no ailments — and neither was she suffering from depression.

Yet her existence, in a house that seemed to be suffocating her, was meagre and joyless. There had, she said, been lovers since her husband disappeared, but there were no more. All her friends from the old days — when there had been money for servants, private hospitals, lavish holidays — were dead.

All that remained were her daily visits to the library, where she used the computer, and those walks in the park.

The coffee she served me was instant, and the chocolate she offered a supermarket’s own budget brand.

She said she regretted proposals to end the winter fuel allowance for all but the poorest pensioners, and I wondered whether she was dreading the impending chill of another lonely winter.

This cannot have been the future she envisaged for herself, when — in part out of expediency — she agreed to marry John, then Lord Bingham, in March 1963.

They had met at a point-to-point — the then Veronica Duncan was there with her sister, Christina, and her husband, businessman Bill Shand-Kydd, whose half-brother, Peter, would later marry Princess Diana’s mother, Frances.

‘There was John, standing against the rails and laying bets, looking like a caricature of a gentleman: baggy cavalry twills, tweed cap, moustache,’ she said.

He was a professional gambler, and she the daughter of an Army officer who’d won the Military Cross in World War I but died before she was two.

Veronica’s mother had married again, and from the age of 13, Lady Lucan grew up living in a pub in North Waltham, Hampshire, ‘a typical country girl, obsessed with my pony and gymkhanas’.

She conceded that she felt ‘no chemistry’ when John chatted her up, but fearing, aged 26, that time was running out for her to snare a decent catch as a husband, she agreed to marry him.

It was not the most auspicious start to a relationship that descended into acrimony, recrimination and bitterness — and ultimately attempted murder — yet extraordinarily, when I asked Lady Lucan if she regretted it, she replied: ‘I can’t say that I’m sorry I married him because I would not have had three beautiful children, would I?

‘I was never so happy in my life as when George was born.’

George, she told me, had once proposed a meeting in a nearby hotel, but she had declined because she would have preferred a rendezvous at his home.

They did not meet.

Did she regret her obduracy? We will never know.

Yet, Lady Lucan’s family say they will remember her ‘lovingly’ despite the severing of ties. But surely it is part of this family’s abiding tragedy that it was a love never returned while she was still alive.

How bludgeoned Lady Lucan was one of the last people to see Lord Lucan alive before he disappeared

John Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, vanished after the body of nanny Sandra Rivett was found at the family’s London home on November 7, 1974.

Lady Lucan was bludgeoned when she ran downstairs to investigate, but managed to escape and raise the alarm.

Lord Lucan’s blood-stained car was later found abandoned in Newhaven, East Sussex, but he was never successfully traced.

Lucan was never seen in public again, and his body was never found, leading to decades of fevered speculation about his whereabouts.

In 1975, an inquest jury declared him to have been Ms Rivett’s killer.

Detectives believe the aristocrat – an abusive husband and heavy gambler nicknamed ‘Lucky Lucan’ – intended to murder his wife and killed the nanny by mistake.

His marriage to Lady Lucan had been described as ‘grimly unhappy.’ The mystery of Lord Lucan’s disappearance still intrigues Britain.

The High Court declared him dead for probate purposes in 1999, but there have been scores of reported sightings around the world, in countries including Australia, Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand.

In an ITV documentary last year, Lady Lucan said she believed Lord Lucan had jumped off a ferry shortly after the killing.

‘I would say he got on the ferry and jumped off in the middle of the Channel in the way of the propellers so that his remains wouldn’t be found,’ she said, calling what she believed to be his final act ‘brave.’

The couple had three children.

In 2016 a court issued a ‘presumption of death’ certificate for Lord Lucan, a ruling that cleared the way for the couple’s son, George Bingham, to become the 8th Earl of Lucan.

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