Wife of vanished British lord at heart of murder mystery found dead

Lord Lucan murdered his children's nanny but the intended victim was his wife, Veronica.

FILE  Lady Lucan Dies Aged 80 15th November 1974:  Veronica Lucan, Countess of Lucan,  wife of the missing Earl, Lord Lucan  who disappeared following the murder of their nanny.  (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
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She was at the heart of one of the greatest scandals to rock British high society and an enduring mystery which has fascinated the public for decades.

And with the death of Veronica Bingham, wife of the aristocrat Lord Lucan, the mystery is unlikely ever to be solved. Police on Wednesday said they had found the body of Lady Lucan  after forcing entry into a house in the upmarket London district of Belgravia. She was 80 and had not been seen for three days. Her death is being treated as "unexplained but not suspicious," a police spokesman said.

Lady Lucan was married to Richard Bingham, the dapper, mustachioed  7th Earl of Lucan and banker-turned-professional gambler whose nickname was "Lucky". He disappeared 43 years ago after his children's nanny was found murdered. Despite endless speculation and dozens of supposed sightings around the world over the years, what happened to Lucky Lucan  has remained a mystery ever since.

He had three children with Veronica but the marriage broke down in 1972 because of his gambling lifestyle and the debts he had accrued. Lucan moved out of the family home to another house nearby and a bitter custody battle for the children ensued. He tried to have his wife declared an unfit mother and employed private detectives to spy on her but ultimately, he had to  give in when he was forced to defend his own behaviour.

On November 7, 1974, his children's nanny, 29-year-old  Sandra Rivett was found bludgeoned to death in his house in central London. Lady Lucan was also attacked but managed to escape, covered in blood, to a nearby pub to raise the alarm. She later identified Lucan as her assailant, saying she had recognised his voice when the attacker told her to "shut up."

She also said he admitted to her that he had killed Sandra Rivett  Lady Lucan promised to help him escape but instead, managed to flee the house while Lucan was in the bathroom.

It was alleged that Lucan had mistaken the nanny for his estranged wife. A borrowed car Lucan was using was later found on the south English coast with bloodstains inside and a length of lead piping in the boot. But the earl, who was 39 at the time, was never seen again.

Over the years, there were reported sightings of him across the world, including in Australia, India, the Netherlands, Colombia and South Africa.  One of numerous theories about what became of Lucan, who would now be 82, was that he shot himself and was then fed to tigers at the zoo of his friend John Aspinall.  In 2000, Aspinall himself said Lucan had weighted himself down with a stone before throwing himself off the ferry crossing the English Channel and drowning himself.

The London High Court declared him dead in 1999 and last year a judge issued a death certificate allowing his son George Bingham to inherit his title.

But his relatives believe him to be dead. His son said last year, "My own personal view, and it was one I took I think as an eight-year-old boy, is he’s unfortunately been dead since that time (of his disappearance)."

Lady Lucan, the only witness to the events leading to the murder of Sandra Rivett, suffered from depression and  became estranged from her three children. But she too believed her husband had killed himself in the Channel  "like the nobleman he was."