Lord Lucan, as is his wont, is back in the news. The British peer suspected of murdering the family nanny with a lead pipe and attempting to murder his wife as well before disappearing—all in a matter of several hours one night in 1974—and who has long been presumed dead, might in fact be living outside Brisbane, Australia. (Not the same thing—no jokes, please.) The Daily Mail reported on “bombshell claims that a facial recognition match for the peer has been made,” specifically that “an 87-year-old Buddhist who lived in Nepal before moving Down Under is a ‘definite match’ for Lord Lucan, according to Professor Hassan Ugail, a leading expert in the field who correctly identified the Russian agents behind the 2018 Salisbury Novichok poisonings. The computer scientist claims to have used an AI algorithm to run 4,000 cross-checks of seven photos: four of Lord Lucan … and three of the frail Australian pensioner,” from which Ugail drew that conclusion. “When confronted about his identity, the 87-year-old’s carers reportedly denied he was Lord Lucan.”
But credit the man for knowing, after 87 years, who he is and isn’t. Within days, “a Home Office-approved team of facial recognition experts … definitively rule[d] him out as Lucan,” the Mail said, based primarily on the fact that the two men barely look anything like each other—the noses and ears are thoroughly dissimilar.
Also in the past week, it was revealed that a 2004 review of the case by London’s Metropolitan Police had uncovered two previously unreported details: (1) At the time of the murder, detectives found “three cryptic Cluedo [the board game; Clue in the U.S.] cards in the aristocrat’s abandoned car that appeared to represent the killing of the family nanny,” according to The Times of London, “includ[ing] Colonel Mustard, the lead pipe, and the hall … three had been missing from the set Lucan owned,” leading to speculation that the murder had been planned and that Lucan had perhaps even modeled himself on Colonel Mustard. (Well, there’s that mustache.) (2) During their initial investigation, police had talked to a woman who claimed to have met Lucan at a party in Portugal months after the murder.
To be continued. That much, anyway, is beyond speculation.
Juan Carlos, the former king of Spain, continues to have his reputation burnished on Corinna and the King, the podcast just underway courtesy of his ex-lover Corinna Larsen, a.k.a. Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn (see last week’s Diary). “He would call someone up who had a great château of Bordeaux wines and say, ‘I really love these wines, and could you send me some?’ And the next thing you’d know, 20 cases of this priceless wine would arrive,” she revealed this week. “His wish was everyone’s command … I’d see him come back from trips and he’d be happy as a five-year-old. And there’d be bags full of cash, and you go, ‘Oh my God, what’s that, and it’s like, oh this is from my friend so and so, and this is from my friend so and so.’ It seemed to me like a very habitual situation.” Accusations of corruption and financial shenanigans drove Juan Carlos from Spain in 2014. Six episodes to go!
Meanwhile, Larsen is suing him for damages, saying he harassed and had her spied on. This week, London’s Court of Appeal “heard claims that Spanish agents undertook ‘an operation’ at her flat in Switzerland, leaving behind a book on ‘the involvement of the British and US intelligence agencies in the death of Princess Diana’,” reported The Times of London, adding that Larsen “also alleged that she received a ‘follow-up telephone call’ from an ‘unknown person’ who made an ‘allusion’ to the manner in which Diana died.”
A one-of-a-kind Polaroid by David Bailey can be yours, and at a relative discount, if you don’t mind leaving the image you’re purchasing entirely to chance. The Dellasposa Gallery in London is holding a “lucky dip” of 100 Bailey Polaroids, signed by the photographer and priced at around $1,400 each, where “buyers will not know which they have bought until they open the envelope containing the artwork,” said The Times of London. The gallery’s director, Julian Phillimore, told the newspaper, “Polaroids are unique and some of these would sell for several thousand more so it adds an element of fun to it.” So while you might end up with Princess Diana, Robert Mapplethorpe, Kate Moss, Jerry Hall, Noel Gallagher, or Bailey himself, be aware that the possibilities also include Mickey Rourke.
Perhaps the hottest hot sauce in the world comes from this province in southwest China, and it’s the creation of a 75-year-old, self-made entrepreneur whose fortune is now estimated at over $1 billion. “Tao Huabi is the woman behind Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chilli Crisp, a hot, crunchy sauce of chopped chillies that are fried to a red so dark it is almost black,” said The Guardian. “The name means ‘old godmother’ and everyone who picks a jar up must face the stern look of a short-haired woman. Open it, and you find the formidable combination of the odd peanut, a few crunchy, salty soya beans, MSG, and oil so infused with the chilli that it seems to glow.” Some 1.3 million bottles of Lao Gan Ma are produced daily, and the sauce has inspired MSG-free versions, which are much more expensive.
More food news from China. The combination of a growing demand for pork and limited suitable land for breeding pigs has led to a novel solution: exclusive vertical housing for porcine residents. “Beijing is planning a series of high-rises for pigs as part of efforts to reduce land use for farming. In the central city of Ezhou a company called Hubei Zhongxinkaiwei Modern Farming has created a skyscraper which it claims comes with air-conditioned and ventilated floors,” according to The Times of London. “Each floor has designated areas for pregnant sows, birthing, piglets and hogs on the weight-enhancing diet.” What, no fitness center?
Speaking of which: crash-test dummies are putting on weight because the humans they stand (or rather sit) in for during collision research are themselves coming in larger sizes. “At present, the heaviest crash test dummy used in safety tests to calibrate airbags and seatbelts weighs 15½ stone [217 pounds], but road safety experts are concerned that they are not powerful enough for heavier people,” reported The Times of London. “Cars are having to be redesigned to protect those who weigh up to 19½ stone [273 pounds] due to the soaring numbers of obese people in Britain.” Two out of three Brits are overweight or obese, one of the highest rates in the world.
But the problem is broader, as it were, than that. To achieve optimum safety for all, the newspaper reports that manufacturers increasingly think “the solution is having sensors inside the car to monitor the driver and passengers, and adjust the safety restraints according to their weight, height, shape, gender and age.” —George Kalogerakis
George Kalogerakis, one of the original editor-writers at Spy, later worked for Vanity Fair, New York, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of Disunion: A History of the Civil War, he is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL