Lucan is a two-part ITV programme about one of the most renowned murder cases of the Seventies and I've just caught up with the first part. Nobody has ever been put on trial for the murder of the Lucan family nanny, Sandra Rivett, but Lord Lucan's disappearance meant that he has always been prime suspect. And the makers of this programme made it clear that they considered him guilty. Unjust? Well, Lucan was, by all accounts, a vile man. The great mystery is what happened to him after the killing.
This version of the story is based on a book by John Pearson, and follows his attempts to find out about the closed circle of rich men who were members of Lucan's clique at the Clermont Club, where he gambled away the family fortune. Pearson is played by the always impressive Paul Freeman. Lucan, as played by Rory Kinnear, is not just posh and rich, but vicious and very, very stupid. The other main villain of the story is the weird John Aspinall, played with his customary excellence by Christopher Ecclestone, who exploits Lucan, and eggs him on to dark deeds. He also appears to be an advocate of eugenics.
The rich are different, we are often told. Not in a good way, though, if Lucan is any guide. The murder of Sandra Rivett, a poor woman who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, was a repellent crime committed by a repellent person. In fact, the main weakness of this well made and well cast programme was that it took ninety minutes to tell a depressingly straightforward story. I shall watch the second part, in the hope of a credible explanation for Lucan's fate. Is he still alive? I can't imagine it. You'd surely have to be much more intelligent than Lucan to evade attention for forty years.
One of the reasons why stories like the Lucan case appeal so widely, of course, is that most people have an instinctive desire to believe that wealth does not equate to happiness. Lucan certainly supports this view, but there is a legitimate question as to whether it is right to dramatise the case when some of the innocent people involved are still alive. It must be painful for Lady Lucan and her children, and the story makes it clear that she and they deserve sympathy. But after forty years, surely it's fair enough to make a programme about the case, provided every attempt is made to stick to the facts.