Next Tuesday, November 7, will mark the 43rd anniversary of the famous disappearance of Lord Lucan, who once made a very private visit to the Algarve.
The 7th Earl of Bingham, Lord Lucan, disappeared after bludgeoning his children’s nanny to death and brutally attacking his wife.
Where he ended up is not known, but it has been the subject of much speculation.
One thing is certain: the previous year, soon after the bitter breakup of his marriage, Lord Lucan had made a special visit to the Algarve.
Few people had any knowledge of Lucan’s Algarve visit back then. Even fewer can recall anything about it now.
On November 7, 1974, Lady Lucan was repeatedly attacked with an iron bar after her children’s nanny had been brutally murdered in the Lucans’ home in Belgravia, central London.
Lady Lucan was the only eyewitness. An inquest concluded that her husband, aged 39, had committed the crimes, but he was never interrogated, let alone convicted in a criminal court.
Lucan’s disappearance the day after the violence remains an unsolved mystery. Various theories have all been based on flimsy evidence.
The most popular theory is that he committed suicide by jumping off a ferry into the English Channel.
Some of those who knew him well believe he lived for many years as a fugitive somewhere on the continent of Africa, or perhaps much farther afield.
That Lucan had visited the Algarve has been confirmed by two impeccable sources.
Never one to mince her words, the indomitable Dowager Countess of Lucan told me in November 2016: “My late husband visited the Algarve with our three children, but I know nothing more about the visit.”
Liz Brewer is one of the very few people who does know more. Renowned as the former debutante who became a successful businesswoman and played an important role in putting the Algarve on the tourist map in the 1960s, she arranged Lucan’s visit here.
“For some reason it was to be a special holiday and a present for his brother-in-law, Bill Shand Kydd,” said Ms Brewer.
She arranged it with business partner Neville Roberts, then owner of a London-based company called the Algarve Agency.
Ms Brewer said that Lord Lucan, a professional gambler, frequently walked past the agency’s office on his way to the Claremont Club, a Mayfair gambling venue owned by another of his friends, John Aspinall.
Lord Lucan and his three young children stayed for two or three weeks with Bill Shand Kydd, Bill’s wife Christina and their two children in a villa just off the road running west from Albufeira towards Quinta da Saudade.
Liz Brewer said she took Lucan sightseeing, showing him spectacular beaches and other attractive spots.
Lucan went to the Quinta da Saudade riding centre with Shand Kydd, a jockey, horse breeder and trainer.
Shand Kydd, a businessman and by then already well known as a daredevil sportsman and bon viveur, was distantly related to Diana, Princess of Wales. But he was much more closely related to Lord Lucan through his wife, Christina, the sister of Lucan’s wife, Veronica.
The custody decision after the Lucan’s marriage collapse allowed Lord Lucan to see his children at weekends. He generally did so at Horton Hall near Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, the family home of the Shand Kydds.
After Lucan’s disappearance, Veronica’s contact with her children deteriorated acrimoniously. She remained estranged from her son and two daughters, as well as from her sister, Christina, for almost the last four decades of her life.
Bill Shand Kydd died in 2014 at the age of 77, while the date of Lord Lucan’s death – if indeed he is dead – is still a matter of much wonder.
It is clear that after the murder of his children’s 28-year-old nanny Sandra Rivett, Lucan drove to the port of Newquay on the English south coast and abandoned a blood-soaked car.
Veronica, the Dowager Countess of Lucan, died alone in her London home just a few weeks ago aged 80. She had always firmly believed he murdered Ms Rivett and then committed suicide by jumping off a cross-channel ferry. This opinion was shared by the Metropolitan Police Service.
Bill Shand Kydd did not accept that Lucan had committed the murder. And Neil Berriman, Ms Rivett’s son, has said it was more likely that Lucan hired a henchman to do the killing.
Lucan’s younger brother, Hugh Bingham, broke four decades of silence in 2016 and claimed his brother had fled with the help of wealthy friends because he feared he had no prospect of a fair trial.
Hugh Bingham and others think Lord Lucan’s most likely destination was somewhere in Africa and that he may have lived there under a false identity for many years.
Unconfirmed sightings were also reported from Ireland, India, Australia and New Zealand.
If indeed he did make his way abroad, it is conceivable – though entirely in the realms of speculation – that Lucan’s limited familiarly with the Algarve featured in a successful getaway through southern Europe and across the Mediterranean.
Who knows, maybe he lived out his days in a remote farmhouse somewhere in Portugal. Indeed, maybe he is still out there somewhere.
By Len Port
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Len Port is a journalist and author based
in the Algarve. Follow Len’s reflections on
current affairs in Portugal on his blog: