On the afternoon of 28 July 1986, London estate agent Suzy Lamplugh had arranged an appointment with a prospective client to show a house in Shorrolds Road. She met with the man at the property and then promptly vanished. She was soon reported missing, however the investigation would be hampered by a lack of evidence, with no body found and her whereabouts unknown. The only clue police could find about the mysterious client was the name Suzy penciled into her diary, "Mr. Kipper". Her case would continue to remain unsolved despite a strong suspect, serial killer John Cannan, who was known to be in the area at the time of her disappearance.
Susanna "Suzy" Lamplugh grew up in Cheltenham as the second of four children. The daughter of a solicitor and swimming instructor, she would later be described by her parents Paul and Diana, as bubbly and carefree with a zest for life. In 1982 she had worked as a beautician aboard the Ocean Liner QE2 before she became an estate agent in London. On 28 July 1986, 25-year-old Suzy had a pre-arranged meeting with a client to show him around a house in Shorrolds Road, Fulham. That sunny afternoon she arrived at the property in southwest London and subsequently disappeared. When she failed return to the estate office, she was reported missing to police by her colleagues.
When detectives arrived at her office, they found her diary which contained the note for that days appointment which read, "12.45 Mr. Kipper - 37 Shorrolds Road O/S", with the O/S meaning "outside the property". Police then sought any witnesses who may have seen Suzy at the property in Shorrolds Road. Several reported seeing a woman who they believe to be Suzy arguing with a man who was holding champagne and then getting into a car. Later that day officers found her White Ford Fiesta, registration B396 GAN outside a property in Stevenage Road, Fulham. This was about a mile and a half away from where she was last seen. The car key was missing and the handbrake was left off, whilst inside one of the door side panels police found Suzy's purse. Police were able to put together a composite sketch of the man seen by witnesses.
Her devastated parents were told she was missing and investigators continued to search for clues concerning her whereabouts. Another witness reported seeing a black left-hand drive BMW at the same location where he car had been abandoned in Stevenage Road. The police believed this was a solid lead and made every attempt to locate the vehicle. Other avenues they looked to explore was the name of the man Suzy met the day she vanished. It was believed "Kipper" was perhaps a mispronunciation of the "Kuiper", a Dutch name. However this never led to anything significant or helped identify a person of interest. During the subsequent investigation, police tested Suzy's DNA against 800 unidentified bodies that matched her description, without success.
In the wake of their daughters disappearance, Paul and Diana Lamplugh established a charitable foundation in 1986 they named the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. The Trust was founded to raise the awareness surrounding personal safety and provides training to help stop people becoming victims of violence and aggression through campaigning, education and support. The Trust also offers counselling and support to the relatives of those listed as missing people. Lamplugh's parents also provided police with information about a man from Bristol, someone who may have been involved with the death of their daughter.
Three years after Suzy's disappearance in 1989, police questioned a possible suspect in the case. Former car salesman John Cannan was already in prison serving a life sentence for the abduction and murder of 29-year-old Shirley Banks, who had been reported missing on the evening of 08 October 1987. Cannan had been arrested on 29 October after he attempted an assault at knife-point of a dress shop assistant in Regent Street. He was found guilty of the murder of Banks, and attacks on two other women.
Detectives interviewed him in prison after learning that he had been released from a hostel after a previous sentence only days before Suzy went missing. Another claim they investigated was that Cannan's nickname in prison was "Kipper". Some his colleagues told police that he often frequently wine bars in Fulham where the incident occurred. However he refused to answer questions regarding the case and denied any knowledge.
In 1990, one of Cannan's ex-girlfriends came forward with information. Gilly Paige claimed that Cannan had told her that Suzy's body was buried at Norton Barracks. Police then visited him again at HMP Full Sutton, York where he once more denied everything. Paige would later retract the claim. Cannan then wrote a letter to a local Sutton newspaper in August 1991 denying any involvement in her disappearance.
Allegedly an astrologist visited Cannan in jail and was told by the convicted killer that a "Bristol Businessman" was responsible for the murder of Suzy, commenting that, "I know who killed Shirley, Suzy and another girl." The Independent wrote an article in July 1993, in which the newspaper argued that Cannan's life sentenced imposed by the Judge removed any incentive to confess to further crimes. In 1994, Suzy was declared legally dead, presumed murdered.
Norton Barracks would resurface again in December 1999, when Suzy's mother received a letter claiming her daughter was buried on the site. A new cold case squad was set-up in early 2000 under Senior Investigating Officer Jim Dickie, who focused the search for the elusive Mr. Kipper. He had his team computerise the card index which led to the discovery that other estate agents in Fulham had been contacted by a "Mr. Kipper".
Another of Cannan's ex-girlfriend's came forward with information. Daphne Sargent told detectives that when she first heard about the case, she believed John Cannan was responsible. She commented, "As soon as I heard about Suzy, I knew it was John. It had all the hallmarks... right down to the champagne." It was believed by many officers that Cannan resembled the composite sketch of Mr. Kipper and Sargent recalled how he had a strong interest in the case. There was speculation that Cannan may have been in a brief relationship with Suzy, and when she attempted to end their fling, she was abducted and murdered.
The anonymous letter to Diana Lamplugh led to a five-day search in December 2000 with over 30 officers combing the area in and around the site of the former Norton barracks. A search was also made around an area between Pershore and Drakes Broughton, in a field off the B4084 which was about three miles from the Norton Barracks in Worcestershire. The same month Cannan was arrested for Suzy's murder and questioned at length by officers, but was not charged due to a lack of evidence of his culpability.
The following year in April 2001, a cellmate of Cannan told detectives that the convicted murderer had told him Suzy was buried under the patio at his mother's house in Sutton Coldfield. It was also suspected that the fake number plate Cannan had placed on Shirley Banks Mini had a significance to the case. The plate, SLP 386S was believed to represent Suzy's initials and as well as 386 representing a grid reference to where Banks body was found, near Northing Line 386. Norton Barracks is also located near 3° 08' 06" West.
Detectives interviewed Cannan about this, and he admitted the initials might stand for Suzy, but reiterated his previous statement, that a "Bristol Businessman" was involved. He said this man bought the car for £100 and was responsible for the deaths of Banks, Lamplugh and another woman. When detectives pressed if this man was Cannan, he replied "yes", but then immediately recanted his statement. A further search was conducted at the field off the B4084 in Worcestershire, but there were no findings. The property on Shipton Road, in the West Midlands was then searched in 2002, although nothing of significance was found.
Later that year in November 2002, Police made the decision to publicly name John Cannan as a potential suspect in the disappearance and murder of Suzy Lamplugh. Officers confessed they should have followed up on information provided by Lamplugh's parents about a suspect from Bristol, and that John Cannan should have been the prime suspect much earlier in the investigation and checks should have been made on all recently released sex offenders in the London area.
Investigators confirmed publicly that it was their belief that Cannan murdered Suzy Lamplugh. From his prison cell, Cannan once again denied being involved in Suzy's disappearance and complained through his solicitors that lublicly naming him had caused him to be "devastated and distressed". There was however, insufficient evidence to charge Cannan over the death of Suzy, and in response her parents considered bringing a private prosecution and civil action again him.
Starting in 2006, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust organised a National Personal Safety Day, which would become an annual event. By 2008 police were looking into other potential suspects, and found a connection between Lamplugh and Serial Killer Steve Wright. Wright had been arrested on 19 December 2006 for his suspected involvement in the murders of five sex workers.
He was convicted in February 2008 and officers involved in the Lamplugh investigation discovered that Wright had worked as a steward on the QE2 in the 1980's, the same time as Suzy. However a senior Metropolitan Officer would later describe the link as "speculative" and that it was not a strong line of enquiry. In August 2010, police began another search of the field off the B4084 near Pershore and Drakes Broughton in Worcestershire without success.
By late October 2018 another search was made of the property previously own by Cannan's mother at Shipton Road in Sutton Coldfield. A team of investigators spent two-weeks at the house and dug up the garage and garden of the semi-detached home, now owned by another West Midlands family. An excavation was conducted of the grounds of the property by 15 officers of the Metropolitan police under the direction of an archaeologist. The Suzy Lamplugh investigation remains unsolved.
Written by Nucleus
Written by Nucleus