Wednesday 21 August 2019

'Closure' sought by heir in Lucan family's seedy scandal

Suspect: Lord Lucan
Suspect: Lord Lucan

Allison Bray

After 500 years, the people of Castlebar, Co Mayo may finally be willing to mend bridges with the Lucan dynasty - if the heir turns over a new leaf by making a goodwill gesture to the community.

Friday marked the last day that objections could be lodged to the High Court that would prevent the son and heir of the late Lord Lucan from inheriting his father's title. It is understood that no objections have been made.

George Bingham, a financier in his late 40s who lives in salubrious St James in west London, applied to the court for the issuing of his father's death certificate.

It would grant him the title of eighth Earl of Lucan and, he claims, provide "closure" to the tawdry scandal that still plagues the family to this day after Bingham's father, Richard John Bingham, the seventh Earl of Lucan, vanished on November 8, 1974 when George was just seven.

The Earl, a notorious gambler with a reputation as a playboy peer, was convicted in absentia in 1976 of the murder of his children's nanny at the Lucan family home in London on the day the Earl disappeared. His bloodstained car was found abandoned in Sussex soon after the gruesome murder.

Although no trace of the Earl has ever been found, he was declared legally dead for the purpose of probating his vast will in 1999. But the courts never issued a death certificate that would allow his son and heir to claim the title until the Presumption of Death Act came into effect last year, paving the way for George Bingham to claim the title, which he could also pass on to his own heir, should he have children. The court will hear the case in December.

But in the meantime, the people of Castlebar, Co Mayo where the Lucan dynasty presided in effectively a reign of callous cruelty for hundreds of years, are hoping the eighth earlship, if it transpires, will mark the beginning of a new era for a title whose name and reputation has been synonymous with Satan.

"He (Richard John Bingham) comes up as Castlebar's Loch Ness monster," local historian Ernie Sweeney told the Sunday Independent.

But local hatred of the lord goes back centuries to when the wealthy landowners, who lived in a sprawling mansion, owned 60,000 acres in the area and lived the high life while their tenants starved.

The third Earl, who lived on the vast estate in the 19th century, was known locally at 'The Exterminator' after infamously declaring he wouldn't "breed paupers to pay priests" before heartlessly evicting thousands of them during the Famine.

But it is the ground rents that the Lucan estate is entitled to to this day that have continued to fuel the flames of hatred for the family.

While local councillor Frank Durcan claims that most Castlebar property owners have refused to pay the rents, some - including Castlebar native Taoiseach Enda Kenny - have quietly paid hundreds of euro in rents as a result of complicated property law requirements under a 999-year freehold that is owned by the Lucan estate.

But Mr Sweeney said some locals seemed to be willing to forgive and forget if Mr Bingham arranges some kind of goodwill gesture, such as donating rents to local charities.

"Why not turn the wheel of history around and help the poor instead of evicting them?" he suggested.

"It would be nice if the family gave back for the first time in 500 years."

But some locals would rather sever all ties with the aristocratic family entirely, added Mr Durcan.

Sunday Independent

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