When Lord Lucan planned the murder of his wife Veronica, he could have had no idea of the immense amount of fall-out. At the time in 1974, Lucan presumably thought that the only loser in the whole affair was going to be his estranged wife Veronica, whose dead body was going to end up being dumped in the Channel.

But as it turned out, the events of that night were to have a quite catastrophic effect on a number of people. For a start, Lucan killed the wrong woman: it was his children’s nanny, 29-year-old Sandra Rivett, who was mistakenly bludgeoned to death.

This blunder has come to cast such an extraordinary shadow over the lives of Lucan’s family and his friends. For his poor wife Veronica, she is now estranged from all three of her children. His son George could, if he wanted, take the title and become the 8th Earl of Lucan. But the truth is that Lord Lucan has turned his title into a standing joke and George is unlikely ever to use it. Can you imagine how it would be go down if George were to book a restaurant table under the name Lord Lucan? It would be even worse if he were pulled over by the police.

But outside his family, Lucan’s murder was also the direct cause of the suicide of one of his friends, Dominic Elwes. It sparked one of the longest libel actions in British history. And, incredibly, it also prompted the arrest of Britain’s one-time Postmaster General. It is this last arrest which is so utterly bizarre as to be almost farcical.

In the autumn of 1974, a Labour MP, John Stonehouse, had drowned in the sea off Miami. It was to be Stonehouse’s misfortune that a few weeks later, Lucan was to murder Sandra Rivett. The whole world was on the look-out for this British aristocrat on the run. Soon afterward in Australia, a bank teller spots a rather diffident Englishman. The Englishman looks rich and is very nervous; he wants to take out a large sum of money.

The police are immediately called in. Minutes later the tall Englishman is under arrest – only for the detectives to discover that they’ve caught not Lord Lucan, but the hapless British MP John Stonehouse, who’d faked his own death to set up home in Australia with his secretary. How very irksome for Stonehouse: arrested and dragged back to jail in Britain merely because he bore a passing resemblance to Lord Lucan.

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