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Murder::John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan

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Murder

Sandra Rivett

File:Sandra Rivett Daily Mail.jpg
Sandra Eleanor Rivett

Sandra Eleanor Rivett was born on 16 September 1945, the third child of Albert and Eunice Hensby. The family moved to Australia when she was two years old, but returned in 1955. Sandra was a popular child, described at school as "intelligent, although she does not excel academically".<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> She worked for six months as an apprentice hairdresser before taking a job as a secretary in Croydon. Following a failed romance she became a voluntary patient at a mental hospital near Redhill, Surrey, where she was treated for depression. She became engaged to a builder named John and took a job as a children's nanny for a doctor in Croydon. On 13 March 1964, she gave birth to a boy named Stephen, but, as her relationship with John was failing, she returned home to live with her parents and considered giving the baby up for adoption. Her parents took on the responsibility and adopted him in May 1965. Sandra later worked at an old people's home, before moving to Portsmouth to stay with her elder sister. While there she met Roger Rivett; the two married on 10 June 1967 in Croydon. Roger was serving as a Royal Navy able seaman and later worked as a loader for British Road Services, while Sandra worked part-time at Reedham Orphanage in Purley. In summer 1973 he took a job on an Esso tanker, returning to their flat in Kenley a few months later by which time Sandra was employed by a cigarette company in Croydon. Their marriage collapsed in May 1974 when, suspicious of Sandra's movements while he was away, Roger went to live with his parents. She was by then listed on the books of a Belgravia domestic agency and had been caring for an elderly couple in that district. A few weeks later she began to work for the Lucans.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

Sandra normally went out with her boyfriend, John Hankins, on Thursday nights, but had decided to change her night off and thus, had seen him the previous day. The two last spoke on the telephone at about 8:00 pm on 7 November.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref><ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> After putting the younger children to bed, at about 8:55 pm she asked Veronica if she would like a cup of tea, before heading downstairs to the basement kitchen to make one. As she entered the room, she was bludgeoned to death with a piece of bandaged lead pipe. Her killer then placed her body into a canvas mailsack. Meanwhile, wondering what had delayed her nanny, Lady Lucan descended from the first floor to see what had happened. She called to Rivett from the top of the basement stairs and was herself attacked. As she screamed for her life, her attacker told her to "shut up".<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Lady Lucan later claimed at that moment to have recognised her husband's voice. The two apparently continued to fight; she bit his fingers, and when he threw her face down to the carpet, managed to turn around and squeeze his testicles, causing him to release his grip on her throat and give up the fight. When she asked where Rivett was, Lucan was at first evasive, but eventually admitted to having killed her. Terrified, Lady Lucan told him she could help him escape if only he would remain at the house for a few days, to allow her injuries to heal. Lucan walked upstairs and sent his daughter to bed, then went into one of the bedrooms. When Veronica entered, to lie on the bed, he told her to put towels down first to avoid staining the bedding. Lucan asked her if she had any barbiturates and went to the bathroom to get a wet towel, supposedly to clean Veronica's face. Lady Lucan realised her husband would be unable to hear her from the bathroom, and made her escape, running outside to a nearby public house, the Plumbers Arms.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

Lucan may have called at the Chester Square home of Madelaine Florman (mother of one of Frances's school friends) sometime between 10:00 pm and 10:30 pm. Alone in the house, Florman ignored the door, but shortly afterwards she received an incoherent telephone call and put the receiver down.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Blood stains, which after forensic examination were found to be a mixture of blood groups A and B, were later discovered on her doorstep. Lucan certainly called his mother between 10:30 pm and 11:00 pm and asked her to collect the children from Lower Belgrave Street. According to the Dowager Countess, he spoke of a "terrible catastrophe"<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> at his wife's home. He told her that he had been driving past the house when he saw Veronica fighting with a man, in the basement. He had entered the property and found his wife screaming.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> The location from which he made this, and possibly the call to Florman, remains unknown. The police forced their way into Lady Lucan's home and discovered Sandra Rivett's body, before his wife was taken by ambulance to St George's Hospital. Lucan drove the Ford Corsair {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} to Uckfield, in East Sussex, to visit his friends, the Maxwell-Scotts. Susan Maxwell-Scott's meeting with Lucan was his last confirmed sighting.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

Investigation

The front entrance to 46 Lower Belgrave Street.

By the time Detective Chief Superintendent Roy Ranson arrived at Lower Belgrave Street early on Friday 8 November, the divisional surgeon had pronounced Sandra Rivett dead and forensic officers and photographers had been called to the property. Other than the front door, which the first two officers on the scene had kicked in, there was no sign of a forced entry. A blood-stained towel was found in Veronica's first-floor bedroom. The area around the top of the basement staircase was heavily blood-stained. A blood-stained lead pipe lay on the floor. Pictures hanging from the staircase walls were askew and a metal banister rail was damaged. At the foot of the stairs, two cups and saucers lay in a pool of blood. Rivett's arm protruded from the canvas sack, which lay in a slowly expanding pool of blood. The light fitting at the bottom of the stairs was missing its bulb; one was noted nearby, on a chair. Blood was also found on various leaves in the adjoining rear garden.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref><ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

Officers also searched 5 Eaton Row, into which Lucan had moved early in 1973, and after interviewing his mother (who had called to take the children to her home in St John's Wood), his last address at 72a Elizabeth Street. Nothing untoward was found, although on the bed, a suit and shirt lay alongside a book on Greek shipping millionaires, and Lucan's wallet, car keys, money, driving licence, handkerchief and spectacles were on a bedside table.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> His passport was in a drawer and his blue Mercedes-Benz parked outside, its engine cold and its battery flat.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref><ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Ranson then visited Veronica Lucan at St George's Hospital. Although heavily sedated, she was able to describe what had happened to her. A police officer was left to guard her, should her assailant return. Rivett's body was taken to the mortuary, and a search was undertaken of all local basement areas and gardens, skips and open spaces.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

After removing her corpse from the canvas sack and beginning the post mortem examination, pathologist Keith Simpson told Ranson he was certain that Rivett had been killed before her body was placed in the sack, and that in his opinion the lead pipe found at the scene could be the murder weapon.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Her estranged husband, Roger, had an alibi for the night concerned, and was eliminated from the police's enquiries. Other male friends and boyfriends were questioned and discounted as suspects. Her parents confirmed that Sandra had a good working relationship with Lady Lucan, and was extremely fond of the children. Meanwhile, Lucan had yet to make an appearance, and so his description was circulated to police forces across the country. Newspapers and television stations were told only that Lucan was wanted by the police for questioning.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

Hours earlier, Lucan had again called his mother, at about 12:30 am. He told her that he would be in touch later that day, but declined to speak with the police constable who had accompanied her to her flat; instead, he said he would call the police later that morning.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Ranson discovered that Lucan had travelled to Uckfield when he was called by Ian Maxwell-Scott, who told him that Lucan had arrived at his home a few hours after the murder, and spoken with his wife, Susan. While there, the earl had written two letters to his brother-in-law, Bill Shand-Kydd, and posted them to his London address. Maxwell-Scott also called Shand-Kydd at his country house near Leighton Buzzard and told him about the letters, prompting the latter to immediately drive to London to collect them.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> After reading them, and noting that they were bloodstained, he took them to Ranson.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

7th Nov. 1974

Dear Bill,
The most ghastly circumstances arose tonight which I briefly described to my mother. When I interrupted the fight at Lower Belgrave St. and the man left Veronica accused me of having hired him. I took her upstairs and sent Frances up to bed and tried to clean her up. She lay doggo for a bit and when I was in the bathroom left the house. The circumstantial evidence against me is strong in that V will say it was all my doing. I will also lie doggo for a bit but I am only concerned for the children If you can manage it I want them to live with you
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{{#invoke:Message box|mbox}} Coutts (Trustees) St Martins Lane (Mr Wall) will handle school fees. V. has demonstrated her hatred for me in the past and would do anything to see me accused For George and Frances to go through life knowing their father had stood in the dock for attempted murder would be too much. When they are old enough to understand, explain to them the dream of paranoia, and look after them.
  Yours ever
  John

FINANCIAL MATTERS
There is a sale coming up at Christies Nov 27th which will satisfy bank overdrafts. Please agree reserves with Tom Craig.
Proceeds to go to:
Lloyds: 6 Pall Mall,
Coutts, 59, Strand,
Nat West, Bloomsbury Branch,
who also hold an Eq. and Law Life Policy.
The other creditors can get lost for the time being.
   Lucky

When asked why she did not immediately inform the police of Lucan's presence, Susan Maxwell-Scott said she had not seen any newspapers or television news, or listened to any radio broadcasts that might have warned her of the importance of his visit.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Meanwhile, Lucan's children were taken by their aunt, Lady Sarah Gibbs, to her home in Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, where they would remain for several weeks.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> On the day Veronica Lucan was discharged from hospital, a High Court hearing confirmed that the children could return to live with her. Repeated press intrusions later forced the family to move to a friend's home in Plymouth.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

The Ford Corsair that Lucan had been seen driving and whose details had the previous day been circulated across the country was found on Sunday in Norman Road, Newhaven, about {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} from Uckfield. In its boot was a piece of lead pipe covered in surgical tape, and a full bottle of vodka. The car was removed for forensic examination.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Later statements from two witnesses suggest that it was parked there sometime between 5:00 am and 8:00 am on the morning of Friday 8 November.<ref name="Ransonp100">{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Its owner, Michael Stoop, also received a letter from Lucan, delivered to his club, the St James's. However, Stoop threw the envelope away and it was therefore not possible to check its postmark to see where it had been sent from.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

My Dear Michael,
I have had a traumatic night of unbelievable coincidence. However I won't bore you with anything or involve you except to say that when you come across my children, which I hope you will, please tell them that you knew me and that all I cared about was them. The fact that a crooked solicitor and a rotten psychiatrist destroyed me between them will be of no importance to the children. I gave Bill Shand-Kydd an account of what actually happened but judging by my last effort in court no-one, yet alone a 67 year old judge

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{{#invoke:Message box|mbox}}would believe

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{{#invoke:Message box|mbox}}and I no longer care except that my children should be protected.
  Yours ever,
  John

Ranson suspected a suicide, but a thorough search of Newhaven Downs was judged impossible. A partial search was made, using tracker dogs, although all that was found were the skeletal remains of a judge who had disappeared years earlier. Police divers searched the harbour,<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> and a partial search using infra-red photography was undertaken the following year, to no avail.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> A warrant for Lucan's arrest, to answer charges of murdering Sandra Rivett, and attempting to murder his wife, was issued on Tuesday 12 November 1974. Descriptions of his appearance, already issued to police forces across the UK, were then issued to Interpol.<ref name="Ransonp100"/>

Forensics

Lucan was last seen driving a Ford Corsair similar to this.

The forensic examination of the lead pipes found at the murder scene and in the Corsair's boot revealed traces of blood on the pipe from 46 Lower Belgrave Street. This proved to be a mixture of Lady Lucan's (blood group A) and Sandra Rivett's (B) blood. Hair belonging to Veronica Lucan was also found on that pipe, but none belonging to Sandra Rivett. The pipe found inside the car had neither blood nor hair on it. Home Office scientists were unable to prove conclusively that both pipes were cut from the same, longer, piece of piping, although they thought it likely. The tape wrapped around both was similar, but those too could not be conclusively linked. The letters written to Bill Shand-Kydd were stained with blood considered to be from both women. The letter to Michael Stoop had no blood on it, but it was later proven that the paper it was written on had been torn from a writing pad found in the Corsair's boot.<ref name="Ransonpp104106">{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

An examination of the blood stains found inside 46 Lower Belgrave Street demonstrated that Rivett had been attacked in the basement kitchen, while Lady Lucan had been attacked at the top of the basement stairs. The bloodstains found inside the Ford Corsair were of the AB blood group; the report concluded that this might have been a mixture of blood from both women. Hair similar to Lady Lucan's was also found inside the car.<ref name="Ransonpp104106"/>

Media reaction

By the afternoon of Friday 8 November, the newspapers' early editions carried photographs of the Lucans across their front pages, accompanied by headlines like "body in sack ... countess runs out screaming", and "belgravia murder – earl sought".<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> A meeting that day at the Clermont, between John Aspinall, Daniel Meinertzhagen, Charles Benson, Stephen Raphael, Bill Shand-Kydd and Dominic Elwes, became the cause of much press speculation. Meinertzhagen and Raphael later insisted that the gathering was just a rational discussion between concerned friends, keen to share anything they knew about what had happened, but the relationship between the police and Lucan's social circle was strained; some officers complained that an "Eton mafia" worked against them.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Susan Maxwell-Scott refused to add to her statement, and when Aspinall's mother, Lady Osborne, was asked if she could help locate Lucan's body, she replied "The last I heard of him, he was being fed to the tigers at my son's zoo",<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> prompting the police to search the house and the animal cages there. They searched fourteen country houses and estates, including Holkham Hall and Warwick Castle, to no avail.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Amidst concerns expressed by the Labour MP Marcus Lipton that some people were "being a bit snooty" with the police, Benson wrote a letter to The Times asking him to either identify those people or "kindly withdraw his remarks".<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> To their cost, Private Eye accused James Goldsmith of being at the Clermont meeting, when he was actually in Ireland.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Dominic Elwes went to see Lady Lucan in hospital and was reportedly deeply shocked both by her appearance and her statement "Who's the mad one now?"<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Elwes was apparently unhappy at some of the negative press coverage of the countess, and was later ostracised by his friends for his part in an article critical of Lucan, which appeared in the Sunday Times Magazine. He committed suicide in September 1975.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=citation }}</ref>

Rivett's case made headlines around the world.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Within days of the murder, newspapers reported on Veronica Lucan's statement to the police, with claims that she had pretended to collude with her husband to ensure her safety. In January 1975 Veronica gave an exclusive interview to the Daily Express. She also appeared in a murder reconstruction, in the same newspaper, complete with posed photographs taken inside the house.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

Inquest

"The Plumbers Arms" public house

The inquest into Sandra Rivett's death opened on 13 November 1974 and was led by the Coroner for Inner West London, Dr Gavin Thurston. Two witnesses were called to the courtroom, which was packed with reporters; Roger Rivett, who confirmed that he had identified his wife's body, and the pathologist, Keith Simpson, who confirmed that Rivett had died from being hit on the head with a blunt instrument. At Ranson's request, the hearing was then adjourned. Further adjournments were made on 11 December 1974 and 10 March 1975, before a full inquest was scheduled for 16 June 1975.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>Unknown extension tag "ref"

The hearing began with the swearing-in of the jury and introductions from various legal representatives, including a lawyer hired for Lucan by his mother. Thurston introduced the jury to the case and explained their duties.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> He had selected 33 witnesses to be called over the following few days, including Veronica Lucan, who each day wore a dark coat and white headscarf.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Thurston questioned her on her relationship with Lucan, her marriage, her financial affairs, her employment of Rivett and what had happened on the night of the attack. The Dowager Countess's QC attempted to ask Lady Lucan about the nature of their relationship, if she hated her husband, but Thurston ruled his line of questioning inadmissible.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Woman Detective Constable Sally Blower, who had taken a statement from Frances on 20 November 1974, read the young girl's words to the court. Frances had heard a scream, and a few minutes later had watched as her mother (blood on her face) and father had entered the room. Her mother had then sent her to bed. She later heard her father calling for her mother, asking where she was, and watched as he left the bathroom and walked downstairs. She also described how Sandra Rivett did not normally work on Thursday nights.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

The landlord of "The Plumbers Arms" described how Lady Lucan had entered his bar covered "head to toe in blood" before she fell into "a state of shock".<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> He claimed that she shouted "Help me, help me, I've just escaped from being murdered" and "My children, my children, he's murdered my nanny", although no name was mentioned.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Pathologist Keith Simpson outlined his post mortem examination, concluding that death was caused by "blunt head injuries" and "inhalation of blood".<ref name="Ransonp131">{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> He confirmed that the lead pipe found at the scene was most likely responsible for Rivett's injuries, although some, to the left eye and mouth, he thought more likely to have been caused by punches from a clenched fist.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> The last person to confirm seeing Lucan alive, Susan Maxwell-Scott, told the court that the earl looked "dishevelled", and his hair "a little ruffled".<ref name="Ransonp131"/> His trousers had a damp patch on the right hip. Lucan had told her that he was walking, or passing by the house when he saw Veronica being attacked by a man. He let himself in but slipped in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs. He told Maxwell-Scott that the attacker ran off, and that Veronica was "very hysterical" and accused him of having hired a hitman to kill her.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

I will record that Sandra Eleanor Rivett died from head injuries, that at 10:30 pm on 7 November 1974 she was found dead at 46 Lower Belgrave Street ... and that the following offence was committed by Richard John Bingham, Earl of Lucan – namely the offence of murder.

Dr Gavin Thurston<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

Once the hearing had ended, Thurston made a summary of the evidence presented and told the jury their options. At 11:45 am, their foreman announced "Murder by Lord Lucan".<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Lucan became the first member of the House of Lords to be named a murderer since 1760, when Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers, was hanged for killing his bailiff.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> He was also the last person to be committed by a coroner to a Crown Court for unlawful killing; the coroner's power to do so was removed by the Criminal Law Act 1977.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

Rivett's body, which had been held for several weeks following the murder, was released to her family and cremated at Croydon crematorium on 18 December 1974. Lady Lucan did not attend, a police spokesman citing her desire not to upset the family.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

Lucan's defence

Lucan's friends and family were critical of the inquest, which they felt offered a one-sided view of events. His mother told reporters that it did not serve "any useful purpose at all".<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Veronica's sister, Christina, said she felt "great sadness and sorrow"<ref name="Moorep201">{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> at the verdict. Susan Maxwell-Scott continued to press the earl's claims of innocence and claimed to feel "awfully sorry"<ref name="Moorep201"/> for the countess. However, as Lucan remained absent, his description of "a traumatic night of unbelievable coincidence"<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> came only from the letters he authored and the people he spoke with soon after Rivett's murder. While his fingerprints were not found at the scene, his assertions make no provision for the lead pipe discovered in the boot of the Ford Corsair, the claims by some that he discussed murdering his wife, or the lack of a viable suspect for the man he claimed to have seen fighting her.Unknown extension tag "ref" No sign of a forced entry was found, and officers attempting to demonstrate that Lucan could have seen into the basement kitchen, from the street, could only do so by stooping low to the pavement. The basement light was not working, making it even more difficult to see into the room; its lightbulb (which was tested and found to be in working order) was found removed from its holder and left lying on a chair. Furthermore, Lady Lucan claimed not to have entered the basement that night, contradicting the earl's version of events; his wife's account is supported by the forensic examination made of the blood splashes and stains around the property. Some traces of her blood were found in the basement, the rear garden and on the canvas sack used to store Rivett's body, although this may have been due to contamination at the scene. The man Lucan claimed to have seen could not have left through the basement's front door as it was locked, and the rear door led to a walled garden through which no trace of an escape was found. No signs that the man left by the ground level front door were discovered, and no witnesses reported seeing any such person near 46 Lower Belgrave Street.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>

In contrast to his defenders, the national press were almost unanimous in their condemnation of Lucan. Their leader-writers ignored the threat of libel and identified him as Rivett's killer.<ref>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref>


John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan sections
Intro  Early life and education  Career  Personal life  Murder  Bankruptcy and estate  Ultimate fate and reported sightings  See also  References  Further reading  External links  

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