On the first day of most inquests only very elemental and routine things are agreed to and acted upon. For the first day of the inquest of Sandra Rivett’s murder (November 13, 1974) this rings true. Little was done, and the coroner acquiesced to the police request for adjournment so they could continue their investigation. Lord Lucan had not yet been found, and there really was no trail leading anywhere after the car he had apparently driven had been found on Norman Road in Newhaven.
Sittings and adjournments followed, one on December 13, 1974, one on March 10, 1975. Roy Ranson considered them little more than “formal remands.” The real inquest was finally convened on 16 June 1975.
Due to legalities, Lady Lucan, when called, would not be allowed to discuss what the police considered the “virtual confession” of her husband. A wife cannot bear testimony harmful to her husband. She could only testify as to Lord Lucan’s attack on her, but not reveal anything about the death of Sandra Rivett. Her evidence for the murder she claimed her husband attempted against her would have to be heard at a full and separate trial.
Legalities, legalities. The Coroner, Dr. Thurston, knew, however, that some of the strict rules did not apply to a coroner’s jury. Lady Lucan could be asked most anything else and respond about her husband, but would Thurston allow it?
For all intents and purposes, the most exciting witness was, naturally, Lady Lucan. She was, after all, the only eyewitness to most of this horrid scene. She was sworn in and testified to the basics of marriage, three children with her husband and that the marriage was on the rocks of late. The coroner was careful. Ranson even considered him to be guiding Lady Lucan with questions worded so carefully they only needed a yes or no answer.
Some other basic things came out. They had not lived together since January of 1974, after Lord Lucan had moved out. Her husband was basically a professional gambler. However, Lord Lucan’s life was still largely filled with his children. He was very affectionate toward them and was essentially a doting father. During the separation every other weekend he collected them and spent the whole weekend with them.
Then some interesting tidbits came out. Lady Lucan admitted that she had not spoken to her husband since July 18, 1974, but had last seen him on October 24, 1974, when she had merely looked out the window and saw her husband. She elaborated and said he was sitting in his car and wearing dark glasses. It cannot be said he was watching the house. She said he was about to drive away.
Further questioning elicited some interesting responses. Lord Lucan paid a regular allowance for the monthly upkeep. Lady Lucan admitted payment was erratic, but she always got it eventually. From personal knowledge she didn’t know her husband had financial problems. She had read an article in the Daily Express which suggested it. That was it.
The next questions surrounded, subtly, whether Lord Lucan could have made an escape by sea. Lady Lucan knew he owned power boats in the past. But she didn’t think he had any connection with Newhaven. Rather he had docked his boats at Hamble, near Southampton. One of his boats had sunk, another had been crushed when it was dropped on a quay.
So far, nothing suggested why something should be escalating between her and her husband to prompt an attempt by him to murder her. They hadn’t even seen each other to speak to since July 18, over 3 months before. Lady Lucan and her family didn’t have money, so that Lord Lucan’s financial problems could not be corrected by her murder.
But these questions were only preliminary. She would be called again, and finally the coroner Dr. Thurston would get to the events of that night now long ago on November 7, 1974.
In our next Lord Lucan post we will get to the details of Lady Lucan’s testimony.
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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.