Who killed Suzy Lamplugh? Mystery remains, 32 years on

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The  Week

Garden linked to the prime suspect could hold a clue to the 1986 disappearance

Police are digging up the garden of a property in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, believed to have belonged to the mother of John Cannan, the prime suspect in Lamplugh’s disappearance and presumed murder.

The unsolved mystery gripped the nation in 1986, and led to the creation of one of the first charities dedicated to personal safety.

Who was Suzy Lamplugh?

Suzy Lamplugh was a 25-year-old estate agent working in Fulham, southwest London, whose disappearance would turn her into a household name.

On 28 July 1986, Lamplugh’s boss contacted her parents after she failed to return to work after conducting a house viewing.

“Her white Ford Fiesta was found that night outside a house for sale in Stevenage Road, Fulham,” says true crime website Murder Map. “Her purse was in the car but the key was missing.”

The only clue to her final movements came in the form of a note in her diary – an appointment to meet a “Mr Kipper” at 12.45 that day outside a house on Shorrolds Road, around a mile from where her car was found.

Witnesses would later report seeing her arguing with a dark-haired man outside the property at around 1pm. It was the last time she was seen alive.

“In the weeks, months and years which have followed, the photograph of Suzy used by all the media – confident smile and sparkling eyes, beneath a slanted Princess Di-fringe – became as familiar as images of the late Princess of Wales herself,” said The Daily Telegraph.

Yet despite the nationwide publicity and an extensive police investigation, no trace of Lamplugh has ever been found. In 1993, she was declared legally dead, presumed murdered.

Prime suspects

Police investigated several suspects over the course of their three-decade investigation, but since 2002 only one name remains in contention: John Cannan, whose mother lived at the property whose garden is currently the focus of renewed police interest.

Serial rapist Cannan had just been released after an eight-year prison sentence and was living in a London hostel at the time of Lamplugh’s disappearance, says Murder Map.

A black cab driver later positively identified Cannan as the man he had seen walking along Shorrolds Road with a bottle of champagne on the day Lamplugh vanished.

His prison nickname was reportedly “Kipper” – the name of the mystery client in her diary.

Now 64 and serving a life sentence for the 1987 rape and murder of 29-year-old Shirley Banks, he continues to deny any involvement in the Lamplugh case.

In November 2002, Scotland Yard made what The Guardian calls the “rare move” of naming Cannan as the man they believed killed Lamplugh, but said there was not enough evidence to charge him with the crime.

Suzy’s legacy

Four months after their daughter went missing, her parents, Diana and Paul Lamplugh, established the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

More than 30 years later, the charity still works tirelessly to raise awareness of issues relating to personal safety. The Trust runs educational programmes to teach young people how to stay safe, and has campaigned for legal changes to protect victims of stalking.

Diana and Paul Lamplugh both received OBEs for their work with the Trust before their deaths, in 2011 and 2018 respectively.

 

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