Lady Lucan, Last Witness to a Murder Most Lurid, Dies at 80

The earl became Britain’s answer to Judge Crater, the dodgy American jurist who disappeared in 1930 after leaving a restaurant near Times Square.

Lady Lucan’s death eliminates perhaps the last primary eyewitness able to provide — as the title of a popular book about the bungled Charge of the Light Brigade by British troops in 1854 in Crimea put it — “The Reason Why.” (That assault was ordered by one of Lord Lucan’s forebears, the third earl.)

Imperious and wickedly witty, Lady Lucan had insisted over the years since the murder that her husband was long dead. She speculated that rather than flee Britain, he — a rakishly debonair and reputedly self-indulgent aristocrat — had killed himself immediately after realizing that he had murdered the wrong woman in what she saw as an attempt to terminate their abusive marriage.


Lady Lucan in November 1974, shortly after the disappearance of her husband, who she said had struck her with a pipe in their London home.

Central Press/Hulton Archive

“He was not the sort of Englishman to cope abroad,” Lady Lucan once explained. “He likes England, he couldn’t speak foreign languages, and he preferred English food.”

She suggested instead that Lord Lucan, an accomplished powerboat racer who knew something about propellers, could have leapt into the English Channel from the Newhaven-to-Dieppe ferry.

“I would say he got on the ferry and jumped off in the middle of the channel in the way of the propellers so that his remains wouldn’t be found,” Lady Lucan said on ITV this year.

It was, she suggested, “quite brave.”

Some have posited that he did not want his body to be found, to ensure that it would be more difficult for his wife to declare him dead and gain custody of their children and his family…

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