The Disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh

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13th May 2020  •  5 min read

In July of 1986, estate agent Suzy Lamplugh vanished after arranging an appointment for a house viewing. In her diary, she had written the name of the person who had booked the viewing: "Mr Kipper." Suzy has never been found and the identity of Mr Kipper remains a mystery.


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Diana Lamplugh OBE died on 18th August 2011 aged 75 after suffering a stroke. She died having not seen her daughter Suzy for over 25 years, nor ever having discovered where her body was located. Diana and her husband Paul founded the Suzy Lamplugh Trust in 1986 after their daughter disappeared and both of them campaigned tirelessly until their deaths to raise awareness of personal safety for young women in the UK.

Suzy Lamplugh worked as an estate agent, and on Monday 28th July 1986 she left the office of Sturgis and Sons in Fulham to attend an appointment to show a house in Shorrolds Road. She took her house and car keys as well as her purse containing £15 and her credit cards, but left her handbag behind in the office. Ten minutes later she was seen waiting outside the empty property at 37 Shorrolds Road, which had been on the market for just one week. A few minutes later she was seen walking away from the house with a man. That was the last time Suzy was seen alive.  When she failed to return from the appointment, her manager phoned Diana to see if Suzy had decided to drop in on her parents for lunch.

She had written her appointment in her diary at work and it read as follows: 12.45 Mr Kipper – 37 Shorrolds O/S. The O/S annotation means ‘outside the property’.  No one in the office knew who Mr Kipper was, and his identity has never been discovered to this day, almost 34 years later.

As time passed on that day in 1986 and fears grew for her whereabouts, Suzy’s manager phoned the police and officers were dispatched to start an investigation. Suzy’s white Ford Fiesta car was found that night outside a property for sale in Stevenage Road Fulham, which is about a mile and a half away from Shorrolds Raod. The car was unlocked but the key was missing. Her purse was in the side pocket of the car door and there was no sign of a struggle. Eyewitness accounts spoke of a black left hand drive BMW seen in the vicinity, and it was later speculated that ‘Mr Kipper’ was a mis-spelling of the Dutch name ‘Kuiper’ However police officers found no evidence to back this up at the time.

Diana Lamplugh recalled going out with her husband and their dogs that night to Stevenage Road. They called their daughter’s name and searched in vain until the police asked them to go home and await news. Two days later it was Diana’s 50th birthday and their house was surrounded by journalists. Both Diana and Paul always welcomed the media attention, they saw it as a way to help find Suzy.

On Thursday 31st July they appeared on both channels of Breakfast TV and appealed for help in finding their child. Diana said ‘I feel she is shut up somewhere, that she is being held against her will. I feel that because she hasn’t contacted us. She is a very strong, very fit lady … so she should be able to cope with most situations.’

Suzy and her mother, Diane. Credit: The Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

In the following weeks and months the case attracted extensive media coverage and a reconstruction took place to try and bring forth some new information. No positive sightings, nor any evidence was the very sad result of all the efforts made. Some years later Diana wrote: ‘There has not been a single trace of her. Nothing. Just as though she has been erased with a rubber’

As the years passed many lines of enquiry were opened and subsequently closed. Police have also tested the DNA of over 800 unidentified bodies and skeletal remains that have matched Suzy’s description, but to no avail. Previous to working as an estate agent, Suzy had been employed as a beautician on the QE2. In 1982 when she was on the ship, a man called Steve Wright was also working on board as a steward. Wright was later convicted in February 2008 of the murder of 5 prostitutes in Ipswich, Suffolk. This was a line of enquiry that went nowhere, and a senior Metropolitan Police Officer described the link as ‘speculative’

Acting on information received, police also excavated a field near the former Norton Army Barracks in Worcestershire in 2000 and 2001. Another search was carried out on land near the village of Drakes Broughton in 2010. This was also abandoned when nothing connected to the case was found. By far the strongest lead that officers acted upon was thought to be the connection to convicted killer John Cannan, who is currently serving 3 life sentences in prison.

He was jailed for crimes including the murder of Shirley Banks in Bristol in 1986, the same year that Suzy went missing. Cannan had been released from a nearby prison hostel not long before Suzy went to meet Mr Kipper on that sunny day in July of 1986. Police took the unprecedented step of naming him as the prime suspect in the case and he was questioned at length in both 1989 and 1990. Cannan was also arrested in December 2000 and questioned once more, but without enough evidence he was not charged. Later on in 2002 another attempt was made to link Cannan to the crime, but this time the Crown Prosecution Service itself stated that there was not sufficient evidence and the case against him was dropped once more. That month Scotland Yard held a press conference, at which they named John Cannan as the only suspect in the case and said that they strongly believed that he had murdered Suzy Lamplugh and disposed of her body.

It is said that Cannan’s nickname in prison is ‘Kipper’ and in April 2000 his ex-girlfriend Gilly Paige told detectives that he had confessed to her that he murdered Suzy and put her body in concrete.  None of this counted for a thing without a body. In the summer of 2019 police once again started to search a field near Pershore in Worcestershire after new information came to light. In November last year a team of 15 officers and staff, acting on a tip off from one of Cannan’s fellow prisoners excavated a garden in Shipton Road, Sutton Coldfield. This was a property where Cannan’s mother Sheila once lived. After 2 weeks the search was called off after no fresh evidence was found.

John Cannan, who was also convicted for the attempted kidnap of Jane Holman in Bristol in 1986, suffered a stroke in Full Sutton prison in 2019. He is now 66 years old , and police feel that time is running out for the chance to find out what happened to Suzy Lamplugh. Cannan’s minimum tariff is 35 years, and he will be eligible for parole in 2023. There has been speculation over the years that Suzy may even have been involved in a relationship with John Cannan. She had spoken to her friends of a meeting with a new man with Bristol connections, who she described to one girlfriend as ‘scary’.

John Cannan. Credit: BBC.

Suzy Lamplugh was officially declared dead in 1994. Her parents Paul and Diana were both awarded the OBE in 1992 and 2005 respectively for their charitable work with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. They never gave up hope of finding the remains of their beloved daughter. Paul continued raising money and awareness until his death aged 87 in June 2018, 32 years after Suzy disappeared.

Sources:

Daily Telegraph, 6 November, 2002 – “Police Name Man Who Killed Suzy Lamplugh”

BBC News archives

The Guardian, 22 February, 2008 – “Police Investigate Link Between Wright and Suzy Lamplugh”

The Independent, 27 July, 2001 – “Lamplugh Police to re-examine Unknown Bodies”

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