Lord George Bingham – now the 8th Earl of Lucan – applied for a declaration under the Presumption Of Death Act, which came into effect in 2014, so he could inherit the title.
His father vanished after nanny Sandra Rivett was found murdered at the family home in London on 7 November 1974. At London’s High Court yesterday, Mrs Justice Asplin said that none of Lord Lucan’s family members or closest friends had seen or heard from him, or had any reason to believe he was still alive.
Agreeing that the evidence all pointed in one direction, she said she was satisfied that the missing peer had not been known to be alive for a period of at least seven years.
Afterwards, Lord Bingham said: “My own personal view, and it was one I took as an eight-year-old boy, is that he has unfortunately been dead since that time.
“In the circumstances I would think it possible that he saw his life at an end, regardless of guilt or otherwise.
“Being dragged through the courts and the media would have destroyed his personal life, his career and the chances of getting the custody of his children back.
“And that may well have pushed a man to end his own life, but I have no idea.”
He added that the title was his legal right and he would be adopting it immediately.
Expressing his sympathy with Ms Rivett’s son, Neil Berriman, he said: “Our family has no idea how our own father, my father, met his own end and whether he did so at his own hand or the hand of others on that fateful evening. It is a mystery, and it may well remain that way forever. I would ask, with a very quiet voice, for everyone to consider a person did die here in terrible circumstances, and a family lost a father.
“We, none of us, know actually what happened, nor will we ever. And as a British person, I still prefer to consider a person innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
He added: “I would be very grateful if we all moved on and found another Loch Ness Monster out there.”