Saturday, October 10, 2009

Will Lord Lucan's Disappearance Remain a Mystery Forever?

By William Coles

One of the reasons that the Lord Lucan mystery exerts such a peculiar fascination is that, for many people, there is something very enticing about the idea of ... disappearing off the face of the earth. Men, in particular, seem to love the dog of abandoning their wives, children, jobs, mortgages and all the other bits of paraphernalia that we acquire in our lives. And with one single slash, we can be done with this great Gordian knot of mundane boredom that binds us to our middle-class lives.

Of course we can, if we want to, get a divorce and leave our jobs and abandon our children ... yet the actual practicalities are always going to be rather difficult. Going to take a few months to get shot of your commitments, and in that time - well, your resolve might start to falter. You might start to see your wife in a slightly better light; children might not be such a pain; even the job might not seem so bad. Life, in short, might be a bit boring, but not worth abandoning completely. However, there remains that little bit in all of us which thinks, just for the briefest of seconds, "Wouldn't it be great to have done with it all?"

Lucan didn't just manage to disappear, he did it from a standing start. One moment he's booked in to have dinner with three friends at the Clermont Club; the next, he's on the run and never to reappear. No time for him to change his clothes; get a passport; grab some money. Lucan, quite literally, fled in the clothes he stood up in. Is there a family man on earth, married with children, who hasn't at some stage fantasized about just that. Why else was Britain so in awe of John Darwin, the famous Port Seton canoeist who faked his own death.

We wanted to know all of the details - though I must admit, the whole story did rather turn to farce when it became apparent that he'd been spent at least a year skulking in a secret apartment. For a few short seconds though, we all of us were living the dream. We were the man who'd faked his own death and gone on to carve out a new life in Panama. John Darwin, of course, was caught. Lucan, however, is of a quite different category altogether. Because there's quite a sporting chance that Lucan is in fact living the dream: that not only did he cut loose, but that he made it out to the other side.

And, part of the proof of his success is that, even 35 years on, none of us have a clue what happened to him. I wonder if, in the next 50-odd years, some new clue will turn up. Or will Lord Lucan become like the Marie Celeste and remain a mystery for all time?

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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