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“Place your bets, no more bets.” The expression comes from XVIIe century: during the game of roulette, when the croupier is about to throw the ball, he thus forbids the players to move their chips. It is impossible for them to reconsider their choice. Wherever Lord Lucan was when his trial in absentia opened in June 1975, seven months after Sandra Rivett’s murder, he must have felt familiar: the chips were down. He will just wait for the announcement of the sentence.
Britons are behind the scenes in the so-called press “Above, below killing»in reference to the foreshadowing series Downton Abbey. The faces of the second character of the legend appear in newspapers. Their series of testimonies come to qualify the Manichaean image constructed and amplified by the press (that of a Veronica manipulated by her monstrous husband).
Why does Lucan want to kill his wife, rather than seek a divorce? “In English murder, motive is always at the heart of the case”written by Laura Thompson. “It is money, or passion, or fear: it is the common that has become extreme.” And this is precisely, continues his biographer, what interests Agatha Christie.
The novelist, who has not lost an iota of trial, also knows that truth is more elusive than fiction. He may be obsessed with unsolved stories, such as the Rivett murder and Lucan’s disappearance. Thompson assures that the author is “fascinated to torture it” in the Lucan case; he will talk about it until his last days, even if he has been “almost old”.
Christie believes that people are not just a sum of emotions, but the interplay between their inner turmoil and the face they offer to others. “He knows very well that it’s not that easy in real life. [que dans ses romans] to find out what really happened. The smoke thickens around the truths, until it becomes impossible to see them shining in this darkness.
Tired of being the victim, is Veronica ready to fight it out? | Screenshot Arkaevscommonsense via YouTube
In the case of the Lucan couple, the thick smoke doesn’t seem to want to go away. Who are they? From the sum of the archived images and testimonies a deep ambivalence results.
Lucan is sometimes portrayed as a trustworthy, cultured, happy, balanced person. A devoted father, loyal friend and caring husband, thrown into a sticky situation by a manipulative wife who allegedly lured him into a toxic marriage.
According to others, his company is dull and boring; the man has average intelligence. An alcoholic, obsessive, out of control and unreliable. Ultimate proof: when he confessed to some relatives his desire to kill Veronica and throw her body into the sea, no one took him seriously. John Aspinall’s mother, nicknamed “Al Capone with a shopping cart”would have stilled him with anxiety: “Of course, do what you think is right.”
As for Veronica, what does she think of her husband? His testimony borrows from both versions; he proudly paints the picture of a man of honor, loyal to his family and the conventions of the social class to which he belongs. But as well as an amoral husband who persecutes her, abandons her throughout their union and who, to relax, will listen to recordings of Hitler’s speeches at the Nuremberg congresses.
(At this time, it was not known that he had also fomented, with other far-right members of the gambling club working with him, the famous coup aimed at overthrowing Prime Minister Harold Wilson.)
To everyone’s astonishment, Lady Lucan lifted the veil on some of her husband’s passions. The scene was replayed for documentary purposes My Husband, The Truth. | Screenshot Arkaevscommonsense via YouTube
He watches it like a detective – a proven fact – and will enjoy entering the house to move things there and try to upset him (the testimonies of the “nannies” who succeeded each other are different) . Her husband’s friends ignored her, she was isolated. His only two friends, he said, were Sandra, who had only worked for him for nine weeks, and the nanny of another young couple, Christabel Martin. He was supposed to work that night, if Sandra took her usual day off.
The elusive Veronica explains that she still hopes for a reconciliation, while describing a cruel and deviant husband. And even treating the press to her embarrassing secrets in 1975, twenty years before Diana’s televised interview with Martin Bashir.
The elite were not proud of their lives, let alone the salacious details: the public was delighted to learn that Lucan had enjoyed whipping him with a riding crop. Sadomasochistic tendencies that perfectly fit the image of this fascist and decadent aristocrat that the public loves to dislike.
But is this the truth? Lucan, on the other hand, is not here to defend himself.
The defense tries to focus attention on the victim: what if he was really the killer’s target? | Screenshot Arkaevscommonsense via YouTube
Lady Lucan as Lady Di
On the contrary, Veronica naturally finds her place on the podium with Sandra Rivett: the case claimed two victims. But Sandra is quickly dethroned by Veronica; it is now forgotten, becoming a note on Lord Lucan’s Wikipedia page, the ultimate badge of honor of our time.
The morality of the murdered girl was even questioned during the trial: didn’t she have many “boyfriends”, when she was still married? Why did you hide the motherhood of two children, born of adulterous relationships and who he adopted? What if the killer wasn’t Lucan, but a jilted lover?
Lady Lucan had many detractors from those close to her husband, but could count on the support of public opinion. The press and the police praise this woman with a sad face and empty gaze, from the worthy “middle class” (she worked before marriage), and with whom it is possible to get to know.
With her extremely slender figure, her psychological distress, the sad golden cage where she is told to suffer in silence, how can we not compare the future and annoying character of Lady Di as a martyr?
To her husband, Lady Lucan will say that she and John “alone, in pairs”. | Screenshot Arkaevscommonsense via YouTube
But in truth, he, Lucan, said his relatives, suffered martyrdom with this strange and uncontrollable woman, whose psychiatric problems (she always suffered from them, confirmed her own mother and also her sister Christina) who worsened after the birth of each of her three children. Didn’t he get kicked out of Clermont for throwing a glass of wine at a woman who was blocking his view of the television? Mothers attacked for no reason at the exit of the school? She doesn’t take care of her children and spends her days in bed, a former nanny declared sourly.
And what about his many passionate diatribes, inadvertently recorded by his wife during their child custody court battle, in which he insults her with unbridled violence? Certainly not the attitude of a victim.
She repeatedly mocks his masculinity, says she never loved him, calls him vain. He, a severe snob, pushed him to take his seat in the House of Lords (an embarrassment for his parents, committed socialists: Lord Lucan’s late father was even a Labor Party Whip). She is also the one waving her title of countess in front of everyone, supporting the fugitive friends. To the point of wishing to lose him instead of divorce?
A botched investigation
The work of the police did not offer more concrete evidence: the scene of the crime was trampled, traces of the blood of the two victims were found in the garden – the possibility that the two women or the attacker were there however, was abandoned , the clues must have become unusable due to the negligence of the many police officers present.
As for any clues found in Lucan’s apartment, they are unusable: some police officers, we will find out later, have taken it upon themselves to organize a party there. Fingerprinting was taken after this one, it was impossible to decide between possible accomplices and dozens of others. Grand Guignolesque.
In this stunning display, Agatha Christie herself fails to separate the false from the true. But the verdict is in: Lord Lucan is found guilty of murder.
New tracks will appear at irregular intervals. And a second murder is coming to add to the excitement of this unique puzzle.
Coming soon, episode 7.