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Short Story: A Strange Tale Of Two Earls

Author bio: 
Richard Cottrell

In the notorious parlance of the British upper crust, was he cad, bounder or rotter? Or the British Führer in waiting? Which appellation might best suit the 7th Earl of Lucan, one Richard Bingham, who disappeared on the night of 8th November 1974, leaving his battered wife and the mangled body of the family maidservant in the blood-spattered basement of the family home in London’s posh Belgravia. The legendary vanishing trick of Lord Lucan, never again seen in mortal form since that fatal night, is the veritable Bigfoot of British crime annals. He is regularly spotted everywhere from the Zambezi to the Orinoco, or the depths of the Australian wilderness. Occasionally, like the affair of Georgi Markov, he is exhumed by Scotland Yard to keep the myth alive. But, as with Markov, it is preferable first to understand the man.

The six-foot-two (188cm) guardsman-built Lucan was an establishment top-feeding drone with a penchant for gambling indifferently, yet making rich and powerful friends. He was a proclaimed fascist, who listened to scratchy recordings of Hitler’s Nuremburg speeches for relaxation. His like-minded close associates included East African entrepreneur ‘Tiny’ Rowland, the extremist-minded casino and eclectic zoo owner John Aspinall and the billionaire financier Sir James Goldsmith, another famous right-wing reactionary. Lucan was a co-founder of the exclusive Clermont gambling den, then owned by Aspinall, in London’s swish Mayfair. So was Col. David Sterling, SAS founder and British Gladio godfather. All warmed their hands at the hearth of MI5 and the same quintet were involved in the unfolding plot to stage a Gladio-managed British neofascist putsch in the pre-Weimar mood sweeping the UK in the mid 1970’s.

With his ram-rod bearing, the statesmanlike photogenic glare at the camera, the firm cultivated moustache, Lucan consciously reflected the jib of Sir Oswald Mosley, the British Blackshirt leader at the height of his fame in the 30’s. Like Mosley, Lucan spoke in a hypnotically mesmerizing manner, which undoubtedly appealed to the plotters. He could be reliably tutored to demonstrate the human face of the intended regime. What is more, unlocking the strange story of the vanishing earl will lead us to other extraordinary events, including the brutal assassination of the Queen’s uncle by law, Earl Louis Mountbatten, in an Irish loch in August 1979

Bizarre as it may seem, could it be that Britons would have awoken one morning – until that is the fall of Harold Wilson in March 1976 - to solemn music playing on the BBC, followed by the intonations of the strikingly handsome, confident-sounding Earl of Lucan, proclaiming a state of national emergency in view of the ‘grave peril facing the state’? Far stranger things have happened in neighboring countries. It is only that such dramas seem foreign to the English climate. Yet the Lucan story has much about it which suggests he was being groomed by his well-heeled minders as the compliant front man, the pull-by-wire PR face of the junta, with the full backing of factions in British intelligence. One man who certainly knew all about all the intriguing might-have-beens was the last Viceroy of Imperial India, Lord Mountbatten, who was himself approached, as we saw in an earlier chapter, to act as a regent in the Pétainist mould.

The extraordinary haste to hustle the suspected nanny-killing, wife-coshing earl from the long arm of the law was clearly in the hands of a very specialized travel agency, with all the gear to manufacture a complete replacement personality at extremely short notice. Such powers lay with in the arrangements the deep state employs to look after its own agents and their constant need of multiple personalities. The notion Lucan abandoned a blood-stained second-hand banger on the banks of the English Channel and thence rowed off on a stolen dinghy to build a new life without a bean to his name, is the really ridiculous story. Equally absurd, that he was seized with a sudden fit to butcher his estranged wife. The frenzied slaughter at the Belgravia apartment seems purposeless unless it is understood in the light of another individual altogether as the killer, upon whom the Earl chanced while passing by from his nightly rendezvous with the gaming tables at the Clermont. The most important and invariably ignored background to the night’s events is the subsequent leakage by Scotland Yard officers that they recorded urgent SOS calls bordering on panic to friends of Bingham made by employees of MI5.

We shift time gears for a moment, accelerating forward to the warm sunny morning of August 29th 1979. Lord Mountbatten was taking out a family fishing party in Irish territorial waters, near his much-loved summer retreat near the entrancing little harbor of Mullaghmore, County Sligo. The Ulster border lay scarcely a dozen miles off. In between the so-called bandit country, the badlands freely used by the Irish Republican Army to replenish guns and other supplies for the struggle in the North. Yet here, year after year, this ultimate patrician of the Royal Family repaired for an annual vacation, evidently without a care in the world..

That Mountbatten was allowed to relax in this way, at the height of an extremely violent anti-colonial rebellion, the war zone practically on his own doorstep, seems utterly unreal. Even more extraordinary, the IRA having the means to tuck a huge radio-controlled bomb on the fishing wherry without Irish State intelligence or the copious attendees of MI6, having the slightest clue, moreover in such a tiny community of 150 souls. Yet the story runs that IRA veteran Thomas McMahon was able to step unchallenged down to the shore and ship the device on board the unguarded boat in the dead of night. The Gardi (Irish state police) claimed they circulated advance warnings of a possible attack. Yet not one British newspaper commented on this extraordinary negligence by the security services.

Freshly elected to the Strasbourg Euro Parliament, I was staying with my family nearby at the renowned Cashell House Hotel. The tearful manager came to me at breakfast with the gloomy news ‘the Lord Mountbatten’ and his party had just been blown up, to which she added tearfully ‘they should find them [the killers] and string them up in their own villages.’ Privately, Her Majesty’s Government could hardly be disappointed. The blowback in the wake of the tragedy, particularly against the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Fein, reaped enormous rewards in the form of huge damage to the Republican cause. Yet the media blinded themselves to the absence of security detail for such a prominent potential target, the nonchalant fashion the terrorist planted his bomb or why indeed Mountbatten, who returned in such clockwork fashion for his annual retreat, was killed at precisely this moment. The affair smacks of the intercepted plot, the old Strategy of Tension look the other way game of ‘just let it happen’, common to so many black episodes of the Irish rebellion and the Gladio story. It is a highly plausible explanation, tantamount though it is to official complicity in the atrocity.

Among the bulk of secrets Mountbatten took to the grave was the projected British putsch. He was undoubtedly privy to all the mechanics, including the necessary false flag incidents – bombings and so forth then blamed on Leftish insurgents - required to convey the necessary mood of disorder sweeping the realm. He would have known the probable role of Lucan. Goldsmith, Rowland and Sterling were all members of his own intimate private circle. Mountbatten it appears baulked at the honors they proposed to heap on him, for fear of marginalizing his nephew Prince Philip’s consort, the Queen, yet being a typical reactionary himself, somewhat reluctantly. Certainly the secrets to which the earl had exclusive access had a long radiation life.

The vanishing earl and the murdered may have shared another connection, namely the services of exclusive brothels such as the reputed Golden Key Club in Kensington run by MI5/MI6 for the pleasure of highly-sheltered dignitaries, important foreign visitors and close allies of the service. The existence of an officially-condoned sex circuit exploded a decade earlier, with the Profumo Affair in 1963. The red top tabloids had a field day exposing a three-way link between the war minister John Profumo, a Russian spy and a highly paid tart sporting themselves in mass orgies at the dynastic Thames-side Cliveden mansion. These high jinks held far darker secrets: the leading pimp, a society osteopath called Stephen Ward, was either murdered or committed suicide (more likely the former) which effectively sealed the prospects of daylight exposing other shadowy figures. The Mountbatten and Lucan affairs share the identical pedigree.

Officialdom overstretched itself not to find Lord Lucan but to erase all traces of his existence. Spluttering efforts by Scotland Yard to follow the trail (the same pattern with Georgi Markov four years later, and MI6 agent Ann Chapman earlier in 1971) ran into the sands. In all three cases British intelligence played a leading role. Rarely may so-called penniless bounders such as Lucan count on a fully manned MI5 lifeboat in their hour of need.