New Zealand has been gripped by alleged sightings of Lord Lucan, the British aristocrat whose fate remains unknown after he vanished in 1974....

New Zealand gripped by bizarre new 'sighting' of Lord Lucan

9th August 2007
Daily Mail

New Zealand has been gripped by a bizarre claim that a loner with an "upper-class English accent" and living rough in a Land Rover could be the notorious fugitive Lord Lucan.

The extraordinary claim is the latest in a long line of alleged sightings across the world - all of which have later proved to be false.

But the media in New Zealand appear to be taking the claim seriously and were today descending on Marton, on the country's North Island, to confront bemused loner Roger Woodgate.

Living rough: Could this be Lord Lucan?

The man, who at least has a moustache similar to the mysterious Lucan and is said to speak with an "upper-class" English accent, lives in the old vehicle with a possum and a cat.

Even the local mayor Bob Buchanan has jumped on the bandwagon and said: "I wouldn't be surprised to learn he is Lucan," and that "there is quite a resemblance".

But today Mr Woodgate denied he was Lucan and added: "What a load of old poppycock.

"For a start I'm 10 years younger than Lucan and if anyone can see a likeness in me and Richard Bingham then I'm more than happy to allow them to dream on.

"Oh, and I'm also five inches shorter than Richard Bingham."

The Right Honourable Richard John Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, has been wanted for 33 years over the murder of his children's nanny in Belgravia.

Striking resemblance: Lord Lucan (left) and the New Zealand loner

For more than three decades there have been numerous theories about what happened to Lucan after he vanished on 7 November 1974.

Some believe he drowned himself in the English Channel, but there have been at least 70 supposed sightings in Australia, Holland, Ireland and South Africa.

Mr Woodgate, who locals say has a "military bearing" just like Lucan, turned up in Marton shortly after the earl disappeared.

Now former Scotland Yard detective inspector Sidney Ball, who retired to live in New Zealand, has been enlisted to discover whether the mysterious figure living in Marton - population just 6,000 - is in fact Lucan.

Mr Ball said: "I can't say more until I've completed my investigation."

Vanished: Lord Lucan with Lady Lucan

The murder of Sandra Rivett, who was battered to death in Lucan's estranged wife's home, and his subsequent disappearance has been one of the most enduring murder mysteries.

Mr Ball is being taken to Marton by a television production company to be filmed for a programme about neighbours at war.

"This man's neighbours are convinced that the guy living rough in an old Land Rover with a cat and a pet possum is Lucan," Mr Ball said.

Mayor Bob Buchanan thinks they may be right. "I wouldn't be surprised to learn he is Lucan," he said.

"There's quite a resemblance. And although he lives only about 10 minutes out of Marton, his mail goes to a PO box in Palmerston North."

Nicknamed "Lucky Lucan", he was a professional gambler and member of the Clermont Set, along with John Aspinall and Sir James Goldsmith.

It was believed that he either killed himself or fled the country - until now.

Lucan was an ex-Coldstream Guards officer with moustache and slicked-back hair.

Mr Woodgate' has a brown woolly hat and is said to resemble Compo from The Last of the Summer Wine.

The man, who denies he is Lucan, is said to be receiving money from property he owns in Britain.

"The rumours have simmered for ages, and film company told me they wanted an expert to settle the matter once and for all," said Mr Ball.

Lucan, who would be 72, vanished in November 1974.

By coincidence, Mr Woodgate, a former photographer who worked for Britain's defence ministry, emigrated to New Zealand in the same year, 33 years ago, that Lord Lucan disappeared. And his Land Rover is a 1974 model.

Mystery: Could this be Lord Lucan in New Zealand with his possum?

He went on: "This rumour about me being Lord Lucan has been around for a few weeks now, but it's really accelerated in the past 24 hours – and it's all due to a trouble-making neighbour who objects to my outdoors lifestyle."

He insisted he was "just a friendly old bloke who wants to live out his days in peace and quiet."

And added: "If Mr Ball wants to check me out further, I'm more than happy for him to do so.

"He'll find from all the official documents that I arrived in New Zealand in June, 1974, and the murder was in November that year.

"Oh yes, I'm also five inches shorter than Lord Lucan.

"But I've heard the rumours, started by my neighbour, and I haven't done anything to deny them, probably more out of devilment than anything else. I've just gone with the flow, so to speak."

At the time of Lucan's disappearance he had heavy debts and was pursuing an acrimonious custody battle with his estranged wife over their children Frances, George and Camilla.

After Miss Rivett was battered to death, her body was bundled feet first into a sack. Minutes later her attacker turned on Lady Lucan. Severely beaten, she ran for her life to a nearby pub, the Plumber's Arms, where she raised the alarm.

After the murder, Lucan fled to Sussex, to Grants Hill House, the home of Susan and Ian Maxwell-Scott, a gambling companion from the Clermont Club.

There, he wrote a series of letters, one to his brother-in-law Bill Shand-Kydd, in which he said he planned to "lie doggo" for a while.

In the letter Lucan said he had been walking past Lower Belgrave Street when he spotted a stranger fighting his wife and had entered the house to assist her. Few people believed him.

At 1.15am, Lucan apparently disappeared from the Maxwell-Scotts' home, never to be seen again. The next morning at 8am, his car, a dark blue Ford Corsair, was found abandoned 16 miles away at Newhaven, East Sussex.

It has been widely claimed that Lucan's Establishment friends helped him flee the country.