Lucan's son inherits title 42 years after dad's disappearance
Lord Lucan, the British aristocrat who vanished without trace 42 years ago after the murder of his children's nanny, has officially been declared dead by London's High Court, allowing his son to inherit the title.
The dapper, moustachioed peer disappeared hours after Sandra Rivett was found bludgeoned to death in his house in central London in 1974. A car he was using was later found at Newhaven on the English coast with a length of lead piping.
The fate of Richard Lucan, a gambler and socialite known as 'Lucky', has intrigued people ever since and there have been reported sightings across the world, including in Australia, India, the Netherlands and South Africa.
The High Court in London declared him dead in 1999 but the law at the time did not allow his only son, George Bingham, to inherit his title. Yesterday, Bingham used new legislation to successfully apply for a death certificate to be issued.
"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," Mr Bingham, now Earl of Lucan, said outside court.
"In the circumstances, I think it's quite possible he saw his life at an end, regardless of guilt or otherwise. Being dragged through the courts and through the media would have destroyed his personal life, his career and the chances of getting custody of his children back.
"That may well have pushed a man to end his own life but I have no idea," he added.
Mr Bingham expressed his sympathy with Ms Rivett's son, Neil Berriman, describing Ms Rivett as a "lovely lady".
He added: "Our family has no idea how our own father, my father, met his own end and whether he did so at his own hand or the hand of others on that fateful evening. It is a mystery, and it may well remain that way forever.
"I would ask, with a very quiet voice, for everyone to consider a person did die here in terrible circumstances, and a family lost a father.
"We, none of us, know actually what happened, nor will we ever. And as a British person, I still prefer to consider a person innocent until proven guilty in a court of law."
One of numerous theories about what became of Lucan, pictured left, was that he shot himself and was then fed to tigers at the zoo of his friend, John Aspinall.
Aspinall said in 2000 that Lucan had weighted himself down with a stone and drowned himself in the English Channel.
Mr Berriman said he bore no ill feeling towards Mr Bingham but hoped the mystery would be explained with the help of new evidence in the next year.
"There is no getting away from the fact that whatever happened that night, Lucan is guilty of something in my eyes," he said, without giving details of the evidence he referred to.