The Lucan industry is alive and well 30 years after murder

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The Independent Online

Tomorrow, it will be exactly 30 years since Lord Lucan performed his infamous vanishing act and fled into the night leaving behind a nanny bludgeoned to death at his Belgravia home.

Yet despite the 7th Earl of Lucan being declared officially dead, the case remains one of Britain's most enduring murder mysteries. The brutal killing and the ensuing manhunt has spawned a "Lucan industry" that includes scores of books by former police detectives, a film, hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, at least three websites, and one lookalike Lord Lucan available for hire.

The failure to find the missing earl or his grave has also led to a fierce battle of words between his family members and resulted in numerous conspiracy theories. In the latest twist, Scotland Yard has had a digitally altered photograph created to show what the earl might look like if he was alive today. Officers intend to release it this weekend.

Ian Crosby, a Welsh-based private investigator, has spent nearly three years trying to track down the runaway peer or his remains. He believes he has come closer to anyone in uncovering the fate of the man nicknamed "Lucky Lucan".

Mr Crosby rejects the theory that Lucan killed himself, believing instead that the earl, aged 39 when he disappeared, was on the run for more than 25 years, living off handouts from friends and eventually dying from natural causes.

Mr Crosby is offering a "substantial reward" to anyone who can provide proof of the location of Lord Lucan or his grave. He says: "My theory is that Lord Lucan left this country and probably went into hiding via Portugal. I believe he probably spent some time in Mozambique. I have information however, that indicates he is dead."

Mr Crosby said he could not provide any more details because he was planning to write a book about the case.

The Lucan legend has been given renewed interest with the 30th anniversary of the murder. It was on the night of 7 November 1974 that the Lucan family nanny, Sandra Rivett, 29, was beaten to death with a piece of metal piping in the basement of the earl's house at 46 Lower Belgrave Street, west London. Minutes after the murder, the earl's wife, Veronica, was attacked on the staircase.

An inquest in 1975 named Lord Lucan as Mrs Rivett's killer. Lady Lucan says her husband wanted to kill her, but killed the nanny by mistake. She says her husband, with heavy gambling debts and on the losing side of a custody battle over their three children, committed suicide by jumping into the English Channel from a ferry hours after the killing. Five days after the murder, police issued a warrant for the Old Etonian peer's arrest, but he has never been found.

Despite many alleged sightings in places including Mozam-bique and South Africa, police searches across the world have proved fruitless. Police officers working on the case have always suspected the fugitive was aided by some well-connected friends, including the late financier Sir James Goldsmith and the former racing driver Graham Hill.

The police investigation has been closed, and although Scotland Yard has created a mock up of how a 70-year-old earl might now look, it insists that it is not reopening the inquiry. The age-progression image was created using special software by an expert at the National Missing Persons Helpline, who analysed pictures of the murder suspect and his father, the 6th Earl of Lucan, who died in 1964.

A spokesman for the Met said the murder was to be reviewed in the near future to discover whether the police had missed any clues or if advances in technology, such as DNA, could be used to further the inquiry.

To add to the confusion, Lord Lucan's son has claimed that the nanny was murdered by a burglar. George Bingham, 36, says his father hired a burglar to raid their home as part of an insurance fraud, but did not intend that the man should kill anyone.

Lady Lucan believes the renewed interested in the case is a waste of time. She told The Independent: "This long running saga has been turned into a Boy's Own adventure story. "The ex-police officers have written books to make money and top up their pensions. They actually all believe my late husband to be dead."

She added: "As to living in Mozambique supported by the late Sir James Goldsmith or others - the claims are so absurd that they should be treated with the contempt they deserve. I believe the 30th anniversary would have passed off with little more than a whimper if my son had not chosen to make absurd claims that his late father did not murder Mrs Sandra Rivett but that a burglar did."

Lady Lucan has an extensive website - www.ladylucan.co.uk - which is subtitled "setting the record straight", and provides a wealth of background detail about how her husband "murdered Mrs Rivett by mistake instead of me".

Cast Of The Tragedy

Lord Lucan: Born Richard Bingham on 18 December 1934, Lord Lucan, far left, fled his home in west London on 7 November 1974 and went to a house in Sussex to see a gambling companion. Left at 1.15am and was never seen again.

Sandra Rivett: The Lucans' 29-year-old nanny, below, was beaten to death with a lead pipe on the night of 7 November.

Lady Lucan: Lucan's estranged wife, now 67, was severely beaten by the killer minutes after the murder. Lady Lucan, top, claims her husband meant to murder her but ended up killing the nanny by mistake.

Sir James Goldsmith: The late financier is believed by some to have moved Lucanbetween hideouts around the world.

Graham Hill: Racing driver and friend of Lucan who allegedly flew the earl out of Britain to Lisbon.

Jungly Barry: A hippie in Goa who died in 1996. A former detective claimed he was Lucan, but the theory was discredited.

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