One of Britain’s greatest ever society mysteries could finally be solved after a bombshell development in Australia.
The disappearance of Lord Lucan in 1974 has baffled historians and the police ever since.
He was last seen in the dead of night after being accused of murdering his family’s nanny. Officially, he was declared legally dead in 2016, but whispers of him being spotted hiding in places as far-flung as Africa and Australia have rumbled on for decades.
And now, a facial recognition expert has claimed that an 87-year-old Buddhist monk near Brisbane is a “definite match” for Lord Lucan, who himself would be 87.
Professor Hassan Ugail, who is at the top of his field, has run 4,000 cross checks of seven photos of Lucan and the Australian pensioner and is certain they are the same person.
“This isn’t an opinion, it’s science and mathematical fact,” he told the Daily Mirror.
The Australian’s carers deny he is Lord Lucan.
So what happened to Lucan?
Lord Lucan – real name Richard John Bingham – was a notorious aristocrat with a love for gambling and the finer things in life.
A power boat racer and Aston Martin driver, he was even considered as a possibility for the role of James Bond.
The suave Earl lived in upmarket Belgravia, in central London, with his wife Veronica and three children, however their marriage collapsed in 1972.
Lord Lucan was accused of bludgeoning the family’s nanny, Sandra Rivett, to death with a lead pipe in November 1974.
Lady Lucan was also attacked that night and named her estranged husband as her assailant.
The next day, Lord Lucan disappeared.
His car was found abandoned at a seaside town in the south east of England, with a bloodstained interior and part of a lead pipe inside.
His body was never found, leading some to claim the aristocrat “fell on his sword” by drowning himself at sea.
Lady Lucan, who herself died by suicide in 2017, said she believed her husband took his own life “like the nobleman he was”.
But possible sightings in Portugal, Africa and Australia all suggest the peer may have faked his own death.
One line of inquiry states that Lord Lucan attended a party in the Algarve, in Portugal, in the weeks after Ms Rivett was murdered.
A woman who worked for one of Lord Lucan’s close friends, the casino owner, John Aspinall, told the BBC in 2012 how she helped the aristocrat flee to west Africa.
Shirley Robey said the Lucan children would be flown out to Gabon so “their father would observe them… just to see how they were growing up”.
‘It has never been wrong’
In January 2020, Ms Rivett’s surviving son Neil Berriman claimed Lord Lucan was living as a Buddhist in Australia. His claims were laughed off, but could now be taken far more seriously.
“I’ve spent nine years trying to prove this man is Lucan,” Mr Berriman said. “Now, with this new scientific information, the police must act. This isn’t emotion. It’s fact.”
Prof Ugail said up to 20 years had been spent developing the facial recognition technology his team used to link the Australian pensioner to Lord Lucan.
“It has never been wrong,” he said.
“This algorithm has been trained on millions of photos. People of different ethnicities, different ages – the only time it will fail is if you put in identical twins. It only takes a few minutes to run it and it comes back with a percentage – a ‘similarity index’.
“Even if you put two exact images of the same person, you are never going to get 100% similarity because of the way images are taken – pixels and everything else.
“Anything with a similarity index of 75% or higher is conclusively the same individual.”
His previous work saw him correctly identify the Russian agents involved in the Salisbury Novichok poisonings that targeted a double agent and his daughter, but left another member of the public dead.