AMONG the many places in which Lord Lucan has supposedly been seen since he did a runner on November, 7, 1974, no-one has ever mentioned the lovely island of Eigg.
Until now that is. According to the son of the nanny whom Lord Lucan bludgeoned to death, it was to Eigg he fled when he was the subject of one of the biggest manhunts in modern history.
This is news to a website devoted to Lord Lucan which remains convinced he is alive and well and living in South Africa. Or South America. Or Canada. Or the United States. Like Elvis, Lord Lucan has a habit of turning up on dead news days.
It is generally believed that immediately after he murdered the unfortunate nanny he was spirited out of the country by his pals at the Clermont Club in Belgravia. Its owner was John Aspinall, who combined gambling with zookeeping. Mr Aspinall, who died in 2000, always claimed Lord Lucan had committed suicide by jumping into the English Channel with a brick tied to his body. Others, however, reckon Mr Aspinall and James Goldsmith, the financier, were instrumental in effecting Lord Lucan's getaway.
In the absence of proof, rumour runs riot. In her late novel, Aiding and Abetting, Muriel Spark imagined Lord Lucan seeing a psychiatrist, insinuating he was not just lucky, as he was reputed to be, but loopy. Perhaps. What is incontrovertible is there has been no reliable sighting of Lucan since he became a fugitive.
It is this, I suspect, which has given such longevity to what is an intrinsically sleazy tale. Unsolved murders, especially when they involve toffs, hold a morbid fascination. Moreover, Lord Lucan with his Old Etonian background and Flashman swashbuckle, seems to belong to another, more glamorous era, when it was quite permissible to do as one pleased with those who lived below stairs.
Lord Lucan, who was once touted to play James Bond, at least looked in his evening garb to be a gentleman. In fact, he was anything but. Lucky may have been his nickname but Loser would have suited him better. He lost more times than he won and was heavily in debt. He also lost his children in a feral custody battle and thereafter took to harassing his wife who, apparently, was the person he meant to murder. It would appear even as a killer he left much to be desired.
Which makes his ability to evade justice all the more perplexing. But in the 1970s, when the soi-disant upper classes were more cohesive than they are now, this was just about credible. The old boys' network was like the Mafia, with loyalty to one's fellow members taken as a given. The police, meanwhile, were regarded as a nuisance at best and plebs at worst. In the days immediately following the nanny's murder every obstacle was put in the path of investigating officers, allowing Lord Lucan to make himself scarce.
It was bruited he had gone to France. But that too may merely have been a ruse. Who knows, he could have been on Eigg. In 1975, the island was taken over by Keith Schellenberg who, while most of the islanders lived in caravans or bothies, threw extravagant Gatsby-esque parties in the big house. As one guest reflected: "We spent our days as if we were Somerset Maugham characters." Mr Schellenberg liked to hurtle around the island in his vintage Rolls-Royce.
Google Mr Schellenberg and photographs of Lord Lucan pop up. That both men knew each seems certain. They were both risk takers and liked to participate in powerboat races. Back then Eigg was more remote than it is today and it would have been relatively easy to live there undetected. While Mr Schellenberg did much to improve facilities he was also a blowhard who promised the earth and delivered little. Residents, however, had no option but to remain silent because he could evict them whenever he pleased.
Infamously, one of his guests draped a Nazi flag from the balcony of the lodge by way of welcome to a German visitor. That's the kind of jape one imagines Lord Lucan enjoying. So Eigg it is. Or Rhum. Or Muckle Flugga. Or ...