John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan

The Right Honourable
The Earl of Lucan
Lord and Lady Lucan.jpg
With his wife in 1963
BornRichard John Bingham
(1934-12-18)18 December 1934
Marylebone, London, England
Other titles
Disappeared8 November 1974 (aged 39)
England
StatusDeclared dead 3 February 2016
ResidenceBelgravia, London
Other namesLucky Lucan
Occupation
  • Banker
  • Professional gambler
Title7th Earl of Lucan
PredecessorGeorge Bingham, 6th Earl of Lucan
SuccessorGeorge Bingham, 8th Earl of Lucan
Spouse(s)
Veronica Mary Duncan
(m. 1963; died 2017)
Children3, including:
George Bingham, 8th Earl of Lucan
Lady Camilla Bloch
Parents
  • George Bingham, 6th Earl of Lucan (father)
  • Kaitlin Elizabeth Anne Dawson (mother)
Military career
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1953–55
RankSecond lieutenant
UnitColdstream Guards

Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan (18 December 1934 – disappeared 8 November 1974), commonly known as Lord Lucan, was a British peer who disappeared after being suspected of murder. He was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, the eldest son of George Bingham, 6th Earl of Lucan by his mother Kaitlin Dawson. He was an evacuee during the Second World War but returned to attend Eton College, and he served with the Coldstream Guards in West Germany from 1953 to 1955. He developed a taste for gambling and became skilled at backgammon and bridge, and he was an early member of the Clermont Club. His losses often exceeded his winnings, yet he left his job at a London-based merchant bank and became a professional gambler. He was known as Lord Bingham from April 1949 until January 1964, during his father's lifetime.

Lucan was considered for the role of James Bond in the cinematic adaptations of Ian Fleming's novels. He was known for his expensive tastes; he raced power boats and drove an Aston Martin. In 1963, he married Veronica Duncan, with whom he would have three children. The marriage collapsed late in 1972, and he moved out of the family home at 46 Lower Belgrave Street in London's Belgravia to a property nearby. A bitter custody battle ensued which Lucan lost, and he began to spy on his wife and record their telephone conversations, apparently obsessed with regaining custody of the children. This fixation and his gambling losses had a dramatic effect on his life and personal finances.

On the evening of 7 November 1974, the children's nanny Sandra Rivett was bludgeoned to death in the basement of the Lucan family home. Lady Lucan was also attacked; she later identified Lucan as her assailant. As the police began their homicide investigation, Lucan telephoned his mother, asking her to collect the children, and then drove a borrowed Ford Corsair to a friend's house in Uckfield, East Sussex. Hours later, he left the property and disappeared. The car was found abandoned in Newhaven, its interior stained with blood and its boot containing a piece of bandaged lead pipe similar to one found at the crime scene. The police issued a warrant for Lucan's arrest a few days later, and the inquest into Rivett's death named him as her murderer.

There has been continuing interest in Lucan's fate, and hundreds of alleged sightings have been reported in various countries around the world, none of which have been substantiated. Lucan has not been found, despite a police investigation and widespread press coverage. He was presumed dead in chambers on 11 December 1992[1] and declared legally dead in October 1999.[2] A death certificate was issued in 2016.

Early life and education

Richard John Bingham was born on 18 December 1934 at 19 Bentinck Street, Marylebone, London, the second child and elder son of George Bingham, 6th Earl of Lucan, an Anglo-Irish peer, and his wife Kaitlin Elizabeth Anne Dawson. A blood clot found in his mother's lung forced her to remain in a nursing home, so John, as he became known, was initially cared for by the family's nurserymaid. Aged three years, he attended a pre-prep school in Tite Street with his elder sister Jane, but in 1939, with war approaching, the two were taken to the relative safety of Wales. The following year, joined by their younger siblings Sally and Hugh, the Lucan children travelled to Toronto, moving shortly thereafter to Mount Kisco, New York. They stayed for five years with multi-millionairess Marcia Brady Tucker. John was enrolled at The Harvey School and spent summer holidays away from his siblings at a summer camp in the Adirondack Mountains.[3][4]

While in the United States, John and his siblings lived in grandeur and wanted for nothing, but on their return to England in February 1945 they were faced with the stark realities of wartime Britain. Rationing was still in force, their former home at Cheyne Walk had been bombed, and the house at 22 Eaton Square had had its windows blown out. Despite the family's noble ancestry,[nb 1] the 6th Earl and his wife were agnostics and socialists and preferred a more austere existence than that offered by Tucker, an extremely wealthy Christian. For a time, John suffered nightmares and was taken to a psychotherapist. As an adult he remained an agnostic, but ensured that his children attended Sunday school, preferring to give them a traditional childhood.[4][6]

At Eton College,[7] John developed a taste for gambling. He supplemented his pocket money with income from bookmaking, placing his earnings into a "secret" bank account, and regularly left the school's grounds to attend horse races. According to his mother his academic record was "far from creditable",[8] but he became Captain of Roe's House, before leaving in 1953 to undertake his National Service. He became a second lieutenant in his father's regiment, the Coldstream Guards, and was stationed mainly in Krefeld, West Germany. While there, he also became a keen poker player.[4][9]