Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan has been in the news recently as he was finally declared officially dead in February, 42 years after he was last seen. The 11 cheques have been consigned to Dix Noonan Webb’s sale on April 11 by at a UK-based collector who bought them several years ago. They will each be offered as separate lots with individual estimates of £150-200 – together they are expected to fetch more than £1500.
“I have always been fascinated by the Lucan story with its very British blend of class and crime,” said the vendor. “It has been a privilege to own these cheques which are so integral to this long-running saga.”
In the year before he famously vanished following the murder of Sandra Rivett, the family nanny, Lucan signed the 11 Coutts & Co cheques totalling almost £20,000 – just short of £250,000 in today’s money – as he desperately tried to reverse his spiralling losses at a leading London casino.
All the cheques bounced or were not even presented to the bank as it became obvious that Lucan was unable to pay his way.
Five of the cheques totalling £15,000 were signed and dated to November 13-15, 1973 with three of them appearing to have been signed by Lucan in a single gambling session at the Ladbroke Club in Hill Street, Mayfair.
However, the other two cheques bear the casino cashier’s date stamps for the evening of 16 October 1973, meaning it is likely that Lucan asked for all five cheques to be post-dated so they would not reach his account until he had sufficient funds. Either way, he reneged on the agreement and all the cheques were stopped and have ‘Orders Not to Pay’ written on them.
By the beginning of 1974 Lucan was in serious debt and agreed a deal with the Ladbroke Club to pay monthly instalments to clear his losses. Six consecutively numbered cheques, each for £800 (£8,600 in today’s money), were made payable to Alex Alexander, the then Managing Director of Ladbroke’s London casinos.
The practise of making cheques payable to a director or senior manager rather than to the casino itself was a ruse sometimes used by gamblers to try to fool their bank managers. This seldom worked and, in fact, the first of the series was stopped by Lucan himself telephoning his bank and has “payment countermanded by telephone, awaiting drawer’s confirmation” written on it. None of the others were ever presented as, by then Lucan, had very little money.
The last cheque is dated September 1, 1974 – two months before Lucan disappeared.