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'Dead' father 'innocent until proven guilty', says the new Lord Lucan

Published 03/02/2016

George Bingham arriving at court for a hearing over his application to obtain a death certificate for his father, Lord Lucan
George Bingham arriving at court for a hearing over his application to obtain a death certificate for his father, Lord Lucan

The only son of missing peer Lord Lucan has spoken for the need to move on now he has been granted a death certificate 42 years after his father vanished.

Lord George Bingham - now the 8th Earl of Lucan - applied for a declaration under the Presumption Of Death Act, which came into effect in 2014, so he could inherit the title.

His father vanished after nanny Sandra Rivett was found murdered at the family home in London on November 7 1974.

At London's High Court on Wednesday, Mrs Justice Asplin said that none of Lord Lucan's family members or closest friends had seen or heard from him, or had any reason to believe he was still alive.

Agreeing that the evidence all pointed in one direction, she said she was satisfied that the missing peer had not been known to be alive for a period of at least seven years.

Afterwards, Lord Bingham said: "My own personal view, and it was one I took as an eight-year-old boy, is that he has unfortunately been dead since that time.

"In the circumstances I would think it possible that he saw his life at an end, regardless of guilt or otherwise.

"Being dragged through the courts and the media would have destroyed his personal life, his career and the chances of getting the custody of his children back.

"And that may well have pushed a man to end his own life, but I have no idea."

He added that the title was his legal right and he would be adopting it immediately.

Expressing his sympathy with Ms Rivett's son, Neil Berriman, he said: "Our family has no idea how our own father, my father, met his own end and whether he did so at his own hand or the hand of others on that fateful evening. It is a mystery, and it may well remain that way forever.

"I would ask, with a very quiet voice, for everyone to consider a person did die here in terrible circumstances, and a family lost a father.

"We, none of us, know actually what happened, nor will we ever. And as a British person, I still prefer to consider a person innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

"Nonetheless I am very pleased with the result that we achieved today."

He continued: "To some extent it has been a bit of a jaunt, at other times it has been very difficult.

"I would be very grateful if we all moved on and found another Loch Ness Monster out there."

But Mr Berriman said: "This is closure and a time to move on for him and his family. I can understand that he wants to move on with his life but for me this is something, at this moment, that cannot happen.

"I do feel and hope that the Lucan mystery will come to a possible end in 12-14 months time, through various new evidence and lines of inquiries."

He added: " But at the end we have to get to the truth and justice for Sandra. A horrible death, a young woman beaten - my mother."

Even though Lord Lucan was officially declared dead by the High Court in 1999, there have been reported sightings in Australia, Ireland, Africa and New Zealand, and even claims that he fled to India and lived life as a hippy called "Jungly Barry".

Lord Bingham argued that the 1999 declaration had not proved death "for all purposes" and the new Presumption Of Death Act allowed for a "more complete process".

On the night of the peer's disappearance, the nanny's attacker also turned on Lord Bingham's mother, Lady Lucan, beating her severely before she managed to escape and raise the alarm at a nearby pub.

Lord Lucan's car was found abandoned and soaked in blood in Newhaven, East Sussex, and an inquest jury declared him the killer a year later.

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