Kind Hearts and Coronets

“Kind hearts are more than coronets, and simple faith than Norman blood.”  Alfred Lord Tennyson

As someone who began in the world of the unexplained by investigating and chasing disappearances, the Lord Lucan case is one well known to me. It is not just because it is a quest to solve a mystery; it is the quest to explain a brutal crime.

There was much published on the case over the decades, but much of it was often economic rehash. Then in 2001 I did a TV show produced by Robert Strange. He was the co-author with Roy Ranson of Looking for Lucan: The Final Verdict. Roy Ranson had been the chief inspector on the case originally, so that Looking for Lucan sounded authoritative.  Still it left many questions.

Now that Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, has finally been declared dead, let’s take a brief look at some of the imponderables of the case.

In his robes of state.

Lord Lucan was spiraling into debt, and though a natural card player his gambling was no longer paying off. He was now separated from his wife, and she had the custody of their children and the expensive Belgravia townhome.

On the night of November 7, 1974, Lady Lucan burst into the Plumber’s Arms pub calling for help, saying she had been attacked. The police were quickly called. The front door of their townhome at 46 Lower Belgrave, strangely, was found to be locked. The police had to kick it in. The townhome’s kitchen was on the basement level. It was a bloody mess. The lightbulb had been unscrewed from the socket and placed on a chair. A body was stuffed into a US Mail burlap bag. Since this is not liquid proof material, a pool of blood oozed out around it.  There was a footprint in a puddle of blood. It was that of a man’s shoe. The wrought iron hand rail was damaged, remnants of tea service smashed and in a pool of blood.

Lord and Lady Lucan

Inside the burlap bag was the kids’ nanny, 29 year old Sandra Rivett. She had been bludgeoned to death. A crude and messy way to kill. The weapon was found. It was a lead pipe with tape wrapped around part of it for use as a handle. You would think that Lucan would be incapable of that type of murder on his own wife, with his own children just upstairs.

The theory is he intended to kill his wife. He stole into the house quietly, went to the basement and removed the lightbulb. There he lurked. When the light switch at the top of the stairs was repeatedly flicked, he prepared. Down the steps came the foot padding, into the dark.  He was sure it had to be his wife. He started clubbing. It turns out he got the nanny by mistake. She was coming down to make her mistress a cup of tea.

Sandra Rivett

The number one witness against the noble lord was his countess. Lady Lucan blamed him. She told police that when she came to see what happened to the nanny, Lord Lucan jumped out from behind her at the top of the stairs that led down to the kitchen.  He was blood-soaked. He tried to kill her in a fit. After being beaten and mauled, she was able to get away out of the house and down to the Plumber’s Arms. She didn’t know how the front door got locked. When the police arrived, the children were still upstairs in bed. He was gone.

Investigation uncovered he had written a letter and visited friends that night after the incident. He claimed unbelievable circumstances and that he would never be believed.  His car was found in Newhaven, near the Channel, bloodstained. Lord Lucan was never seen again.

Did he commit suicide in the Channel or did one of his wealthy London friends fly him out of England to Africa?

Plumbers Arms2
Plumbers Arms on Lower Belgrave Street

The 1970s was the era of being casual, free and easy. Yet society, that is, high society still favored style. It was a sort of Bond style. Formal but functioning. The world’s fascination with les crème personnel made Lucan look both sophisticated and yet sinister = quite intriguing. He was the world’s most famous missing person, at least one still thought to be alive. He ranked up there with Amelia Earhart and Glenn Miller. Only in Lucan’s case the disappearance was thought to be intentional.

It is not necessary to go into the details here of the legends of Lord Lucan’s fate. The major question remaining today is, was he truly guilty of bludgeoning Sandra Rivett to death thinking it was his nuisance of a wife?

Lucan’s abandoned cart on Norman Road, Newhaven.

In his book, Roy Ranson was incredibly thin about crime scene information. How did Lucan get a hold of a US mailbag? What for? Well, it would seem to cart the body off. Really? Burlap?  Hardly wise. Any amateur would know what a bloody mess it is to bludgeon. Why a bag at all? What’s the point of making it look as if his wife was clubbed to death by a stranger and then hide the body? None of this is addressed by Ranson.

Moreover,  the crime scene itself is barely described.  When beating someone to death, the bludgeon leaves unique clues. Specifically, when the killer raises the bloody instrument back up, he will streak the ceiling with blood. The dots or streaks will form certain directions and the police can tell where the killer was standing while he raised and plunged the weapon. Nothing is clearly described that indicates Sandra Rivett was killed in the basement, though it seems that is the obvious deduction. Still nothing else makes sense.

Norman Road today.

Before any believable progress can be made on this case, the crime scene photos, including all photos of the walls and ceilings of the crime area, must be released. It is unfathomable to believe that anybody is going to beat his wife to death in the dark and then stuff her pulp-like broken body into a leaky burlap bag. Where did a society Lord get such a US mailbag to begin with? This should have been a clue worthy of backtracking.

Lord Lucan is missing. Now he is legally dead. But is Lord Lucan guilty? We can only discover this by starting from the beginning again, and now that he is declared dead hopefully the crime scene photos will be released.

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress. 


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