The British press has been reporting this week that the infamous aristocrat Lord Lucan has been officially declared dead. This comes nearly 42 years after the playboy gambler disappeared following the murder of his children’s nanny in an unsolved mystery.
The whereabouts of Richard John Bingham, the seventh Earl of Lucan, has been a mystery since he vanished in 1974 at the age of 39, after his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett, was bludgeoned to death at the home of Lucan’s estranged wife in London. The Lucan's had been involved in a bitter custody battle over their children, during which Lord Lucan had begun spying on his wife.
On 7 November 1974, Sandra Rivett was killed in the basement of the family home. An inquest into the murder raised the theory that Lucan may have mistaken the nanny for Lady Lucan. She said that she fought with the attacker in the dark after she heard noises in the basement, but recognised the man’s voice as her husband’s.
Injured and bleeding, Lady Lucan clearly fearing for her life said that she had told him she could help him escape if he helped her. As he went to the bathroom she said she had managed to escape. Lord Lucan then borrowed a car and drove to a friend’s house. He left a few hours later, and his car was later found abandoned. It had blood stains inside, and a lead pipe of a similar type to the one found at the murder scene, was found in the boot. A warrant for Lucan’s arrest was issued, but he was never found.
The now declared dead Lord Lucan was not the only notorius member of his family. The third Earl, George Charles Bingham, (16 April 1800 – 10 November 1888), was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat and served as a British Army officer. He was hated by the Irish because of his bigoted behaviour as a land owner during the Great Famine in the late 1840s. Declaring that he would not "breed paupers to pay priests", he evicted thousands of tenants during the famine.
The third Earl of Lucan's bad reputation followed him onto the battlefield. In 1854, in Crimea, he along with Lord Raglan and Captain Nolan, were responsible for the order leading to the Charge of the Light Brigade. A futile and reckless action against a well prepared Russian artillery battery which resulted in 118 men killed, 127 wounded, and about 60 taken prisoner.
The legacy of the Lucan family still haunts the Irish town of Castlebar, County Mayo (Irish: Caisleán an Bharraigh, Contae Mhaigh Eo). Castlebar continues to be a money-spinner for the aristocrat family. The Lucan estate owns the freehold for a large number of Castlebar properties, with ground rents due on these properties every year, but many of the bills, quite rightly, went unpaid when the now declared dead Lord Lucan went missing 42 years ago.
Now Lord Lucan’s son, George Bingham, aged 48, is set to inherit the title of Lord Bingham, Earl of Lucan. It is now time for any claim on the Castlebar property that remains in the hands of this aristocratic family to be removed. No back rents should be paid and all freehold rights taken away from these absentee landlords. This is something that should, of course, have been done at the time of Ireland's independence from British rule.