Fri, Aug 10, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Hunt for missing British lord hits another dead end

AFP , WELLINGTON

The recently renewed hunt for British aristocrat Lord Lucan -- who went missing after a 1974 nanny murder -- hit another dead end in New Zealand yesterday when a British man living in a vehicle near a small town denied connection to the case.

Lord Lucan, born Richard Bingham in 1934, disappeared after the nanny of his children was found murdered in London 33 years ago.

His estranged wife claimed at the time that the English peer had admitted committing the crime and had said it was a mistake.

New Zealand's Dominion Post newspaper reported earlier yesterday that former Scotland Yard detective Sidney Ball was leading a fresh attempt to solve Lucan's disappearance.

Since vanishing in 1974 Lucan has been reportedly sighted dozens of times in countries, including South Africa, Australia, Ireland and the Netherlands.

The link to the country town of Marton, with a population of just 6,800, on North Island, followed claims Lucan was living in an old Land Rover outside the town with a cat and a pet possum.

But the unemployed Englishman living rough in the vehicle said he was Roger Woodgate, 62 -- 10 years younger than Lucan would be if he was still alive.

Woodgate, a photographer who once worked for Britain's defense ministry, said he moved to New Zealand in June 1974. Lucan disappeared in November of that year.

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

Woodgate said he believed rumors that he was the fugitive Lucan were started by his neighbors. He said was "bemused" by the affair and has spoken to local police about his identity.

"I saw a cop in the gas station and I told him `You going to arrest me?' I was winding him up a bit. And he said `No, no, no,'" Woodgate said.

"He thought it was funny," Woodgate said, adding he had already been visited by a former Scotland Yard detective.

A New Zealand TV production company had brought in former British detective Ball -- now retired and living in New Zealand -- to pick up the case. He visited last Tuesday.

"He told me that I was not Lord Lucan. I said: `I know that,'" Woodgate said.

Woodgate lives in the back of a 1974 Land Rover, sleeping under old blankets.

For company he has a cat, a tame possum named Redfern and a goat, Camilla.

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