Lucan is alive and well (part 174). Does anyone suspect an anniversary?

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The Independent Online

Cancel all police leave, unleash the bloodhounds, and hand me my magnifying glass, Watson ­ the hunt for Lord Lucan is on again.

Cancel all police leave, unleash the bloodhounds, and hand me my magnifying glass, Watson ­ the hunt for Lord Lucan is on again.

The case of the aristocrat and gambler who vanished in 1974 after the murder of his children's nanny, Sandra Rivett, was reported yesterday to have been reopened. One paper even published a computer-generated picture of how the desperate fugitive would look now, together with the headline: "Police reopen the Lucan inquiry".

Such reports follow several weeks in which the trail of the missing earl ­ cold these past three decades ­ warmed up again. First the death of Susan Maxwell-Scott, "the last person to see Lucan alive", was reported. Sadly, she went to her maker "taking her secrets to the grave", as one paper's teasing copy went. Then, last Sunday, "Lord Lucan and the mystery of the missing letter" appeared in a broadsheet.

Now, we are told, the Met's finest are on the case again, revisiting the saga which, Lucan's friends insisted, really ended when the peer "did the decent thing" and tossed himself into the English Channel. The suspicion has persisted, however, that this was a cover story and that the seventh earl escaped to some extradition-free paradise, surrounded by endless supplies of cocktails and a bevy of tropical lovelieswafting palm fronds over his brow. The High Court was having none of this nonsense, declaring him dead in 1999. Thus did the mystery ­ and the sightings ­ go on.

And, as it turns out, so did the police investigation. Scotland Yard said yesterday that, far from being reopened, the inquiry had never been closed, thus confirming what many of us had long suspected: this was no open-and-shut case. Indeed, there was now a further mystery: what had set off the new hue and cry? Had some clue hitherto overlooked by decades of work by police and catchpenny journalists come to light?

It appears not. Despite the Press Association's communiqué on the subject, reporting breathlessly that "police ... will use new techniques like DNA profiling to help solve the high-profile case", no new evidence has been found. In the unambiguous words of Scotland Yard yesterday: "There are absolutely no new lines of inquiry." The peer of the realm, despite a brief thrill last year involving a dead banjo player from St Helens, is as missing as ever.

But this newspaper may have deduced the reason for the latest Lucan revelry. The mystery began 30 years ago. Newspapers rather like anniversaries, Watson, and there, I think, you have it.

Cancel our reservation for the boat train, Mrs Hudson, we shan't be needing it after all. Or then again ...