Estate agent Suzy Lamplugh was 25 when she disappeared without trace on July 28, 1986.
Her white Ford Fiesta was found that night outside a house for sale in Stevenage Road, Fulham. Her purse was in the car but the key was missing.
She had recorded her last appointment in her office diary – ”12.45 Mr Kipper – 37 Shorrolds Road O/S” – meaning she would meet the client outside the address.
Suzy’s body has never been found but she was declared dead in 1994 and the investigation remains open.
Several suspects have been put forward: Convicted killer John Cannan, who is said to have had the prison nickname ”Kipper” and was living in a hostel after serving an eight year sentence for rape; Ipswich serial killer Steve Wright, who worked on the QE2 at the same time as Lamplugh in 1982; and Michael Sams, who kidnapped an estate agent in Birmingham in 1992.
Cannan’s former girlfriend Gilly Paige claimed that he confessed to raping and killing the estate agent as they drove past Norton Barracks in Worcestershire. Searches of that area and others suggested to police were fruitless.
In November 2002 Scotland Yard said that Cannan was ”the only suspect” but there was not enough evidence to charge him with the murder. He is still serving a 35-year minimum term life sentence for the 1987 abduction, rape and murder of 29-year-old newlywed Shirley Banks in Bristol in 1987.
Speaking in 2006, Detective Superintendent Jim Dickie said there was evidence Cannan had been monitoring Suzy before her disappearance.
The Metropolitan Police apologised publicly to Miss Lamplugh’s parents for faults in the original investigation, including a failure to follow up information from significant witnesses.
A driver of a black cab, who later positively identified Cannan, told police he took a man carrying a bottle of champagne to Shorrolds Road on that day in 1986. Witnesses also claimed to have seen a blonde woman arguing with a man in a black BMW in the area.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Bill Griffiths said “It is a matter of great regret for all of us at the Metropolitan Police that significant opportunities were missed during the original inquiry.”
Police continued to investigate the case and in 2018 and 2019 searched a property in the West Midlands and open land in Worcestershire. No evidence was found.
A potential new lead was received in August 2019 when a witness reported seeing a man, disposing of a large bag in the Grand Union Canal in July 1986. However officers discovered that the part of the canal mentioned by the witness and the surrounding canal stretches had been extensively searched by the Met’s Marine Support Unit and London Fire Brigade Search Unit in September 2014 during an unrelated homicide investigation. That search did not reveal any items connected to the Suzy Lamplugh investigation.
In March 2021 the Metropolitan Police said it remained a “significant case” and that the investigation was ongoing.
We would urge anyone who believes they might know something about what happened to Suzy all those years ago to come forward. Whether you saw something that you thought was unconnected at the time, or you felt under pressure to protect someone you knew – it is not too late. The passage of time has not weakened our determination to seek justice and get the answers that the Lamplugh family continue to wait for. They have always been supportive of our efforts to make progress in the investigation, and they have shown remarkable strength despite the immense sadness they have endured over the years.Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Reeves, the senior investigating officer
Suzy’s mother Diana Lamplugh set up the Suzy Lamplugh Trust in December 1986 to ”highlight the risks people face and to offer advice, action and support to minimise those risks.”
Diana received an OBE in 1992 but sadly died in August 2011 without seeing anyone brought to justice for her daughter”s murder.
She once told how Suzy had rung her the day before her disappearance. “She was all bubbly, telling me how she was doing this and that. I said, ‘Be careful, darling’. She replied: ‘No, life’s for living, mummy’. And I think she was right.”
Sources and further information:
The website of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011.
Timeline of the Lamplugh case (Guardian). Wikipedia ”Disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh”. Did Suzy have an affair with her killer? (Mail Online). Interview with criminologist Christopher Berry-Dee about links between Cannan and the Lamplugh case (Sunday Mercury). Lamplugh suspect linked to killer”s car 20 years on (Telegraph). We”re sure of Suzy Lamplugh”s killer (Observer). Police name man who killed Suzy Lamplugh (Telegraph). Obituary for Diana Lamplugh (Guardian).