For the staff and patrons of The Plumbers Arms, a pub in London’s upmarket Belgravia district, the evening of 7 November 1974 began like any other. But at around 10pm, the night’s familiar rhythm was shattered when a woman stumbled in drenched in blood and screaming: “Help me, help me, help me! I have just escaped from being murdered! He’s in the house! He’s murdered the nanny!”


The woman was Lady Lucan, a familiar face in the nation’s press, and, what’s more, she knew the murderer’s identity: her own husband, the Earl of Lucan.

At the beginning, their relationship seemed to have been ripped from the pages of a romance novel. English aristocrat, Richard John Bingham, met Veronica Duncan at a golfing event in early 1963, and they were wed before the year was out and inherited the titles of Lord and Lady Lucan. He was a dashing and suave gentleman who had been considered for the role of James Bond; she was a glamorous beauty and a former model.

But through the façade of their high-end lifestyle, cracks soon appeared. Lord Lucan discovered a passion for gambling when he won big at a friendly game at the Clermont Club, and quit his job as a banker to dedicate himself to gambling full time. Most nights, he would drag his wife to the club and make her watch from the ‘widow’s bench’ as he played game after game of cards (be it baccarat or bridge) and backgammon.

He picked up the nickname ‘Lucky Lucan’, but his success as a professional gambler soon ran out and the debts began to mount. Lady Lucan had her own problems, too, as she struggled with post-natal depression after the births of their three children. By early 1973, Lord Lucan had packed his bags and moved out of the family home. Yet he was terrified of losing access to his children; a fear that came true in 1974 after an embittered custody battle ended in Lady Lucan’s favour.

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A policeman stands outside a grand townhouse
A police officer outside 46 Lower Belgrave Street in Belgravia, London, the home of John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, after his disappearance. (Photo by Steve Wood/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Desperate to win them back, and with his gambling and drinking only worsening, Lord Lucan decided to take matters into his own hands, it appears. Friends claimed that he talked of murdering his wife. On the evening of 7 November, Lady Lucan, their children and the nanny Sandra Rivett were at 46 Lower Belgrave Street. Shortly before 9pm, Rivett went down to the basement kitchen to make a cup of tea, but when she did not reappear, Lady Lucan went to investigate.

The kitchen was in total darkness. Lady Lucan heard a clatter, before a blunt object smashed into her head. It was only when her attacker snarled for her to be quiet that she recognised her husband’s voice. Managing to escape, she fled the house and made her way to The Plumbers Arms, where the alarm was raised.

Mistaken identity

When the police arrived, they found Rivett’s body in a sack, along with a blood-covered lead pipe. A distraught Lady Lucan was convinced her husband had intended to kill her and, in the dark, mistook the nanny for her. Rivett usually had that night of the week off.

Lord Lucan was nowhere to be found. Instead, it turned out, he had driven out of London to Sussex to the home of his friend, Susan Maxwell-Scott. This is the last confirmed sighting of him. He insisted on his innocence, writing letters to other friends detailing his “traumatic night of unbelievable coincidences”, in which he claimed he had just happened to walk past his former home and spotted the attack by an unknown assailant through the window. He then ran in to help. On 11 November, the car Lord Lucan was driving was discovered, abandoned, at Newhaven on the south coast. Blood stained the upholstery, and another lead pipe was hidden in the boot.

Police search with dogs
Police with tracker dogs search cliff tops and harbour for missing Lord Lucan, now wanted on a murder charge.(Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Lord Lucan was the prime suspect for the murder, yet he has never been, officially, seen again. There are dozens of conspiracy theories to explain what happened to him, from drowning in the Channel to the wild idea that he shot himself and asked for his body to be fed to a tiger at a zoo. Others are convinced that he fled to foreign shores: there have been more than 70 supposed sightings, from Ireland to New Zealand.


This article was first published in the November 2022 issue of BBC History Revealed


Rhiannon DaviesFreelance journalist

A former BBC History Magazine section editor, Rhiannon has long been fascinated by history and continues to write for She has appeared on the award-winning HistoryExtra podcast, interviewing experts on a variety of subjects, from Lucy Worsley discussing Agatha Christie to Sir Ranulph Fiennes on the perils of polar exploration