Saturday, October 10, 2009

What Happened to Lord Lucan?

By William Coles

I would hazard that hardly anyone, over the age of 35, in Britain today has not at some stage wondered what happened to Lord Lucan. And the sheer beauty of this conundrum is that no-one has the first clue what happened. There are so few facts to go on, that you can surmise anything you like - he could be dead; ekeing out his life as a vagabond in South America; or even living like a sultan in some Asian palace. Who knows?

All we know for certain is that his nanny, Sandra Rivett, was murdered in November 1974 - though by Lucan's hand or someone else's, no-one has any idea. We know that Lucan made a few phone calls, wrote a few letters, dropped in on a friend, and then ... disappeared off the face of the earth.

Despite his thoroughly pedestrian life before then, Lucan has become one of the most extraordinary legends in British history. How different it would have been if, a few weeks after the murder, Lucan's body had been discovered. It would have been a great scandal for a few months - but within a year or two, Lucan himself would have been forgotten.

No, what makes it so interesting is that we all of us revel in this delightful mystery. The murder itself is now forgotten, and few people can even remember the name of the nanny. Instead, all that we are left with is this intoxicating tale of a very handsome British Earl becoming a fugitive.

Anyone else, of course, wouldn't have stood a chance of getting away from the country. A mere English citizen would have been caught within a few weeks, because without help and money, it would have been quite impossible to have stay hidden.

But Lucan was quite, quite different. He had contacts the like of which we can only dream of. Not only were they rich, but fabulously rich. The likes of Sir James Goldsmith and John Aspinall didn't just have the means to help Lucan out; they'd have loved to have helped out their old mate. They wouldn't have minded in the least at helping out a mate who was a murderer. Breaking the law of the land? No problem at all - at least not to help out a friend. This, then, is what makes the Lucan story so enticing. Not only is it possible that the fugitive Lucan managed to escape from Britain, it's highly probable.

But did they do it? Could they have done it? Both of them had a well of low-life contacts who could easily have spirited Lucan out of England. Aspinall, in particular, was thick in with several London gangsters; the actual mechanics of making Lucan disappear were not going to be a problem.

And, the sheer beauty of this mystery is that both Aspinall and Goldsmith did their old one last big favour - by taking his secret to their graves. They both of them died without revealing a single word about Lucan's whereabouts. In fact, the very contrary: right to the end, they both maintained that Lucan had killed himself.

William Coles is the talented English editor of Lord Lucan My Story. He is also the author of a moving novel, Prelude, which was published in the UK under the title The Well Tempered Clavier.

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1 comment:

  1. It is certainly an odd mystery- I have sometimes wondered whether there would be a revelation appearing in the British press- but no such luck. Similarly, I have been intrigued all my life by the Bogle-Chandler murders in Sydney (Australia). There seems no plausible explanation for the state of the pair's bodies just lying on the river bank, apparently untouched. Perhaps modern forensics could have sorted something out, since the explanation of them BOTH being overcome by "swamp gas" seems totally ridiculous. Surely their lungs would have shown changes if this had been the case- and why both?- one person might have poor oxygen uptake, but not both- they were only young and previously healthy.
    With Lord Lucan, who knows?- I'm still keeping my eye out for further developments.