The disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh has been an unsolved crime for almost 31 years. Suzy was an estate agent in London who went to meet a client, Mr Kipper, for a house viewing and was never seen again.
On 28 July 1986, Suzy Lamplugh left her office to meet a client for a routine house viewing which sparked one of the largest unsolved crime cases in UK history. Suzy was a 25-year-old from Fulham in London who worked as an estate agent for local firm Sturgis and Sons. Her work diary noted the client appointment with the curious name “Mr Kipper”. Eyewitnesses’ saw Suzy outside the property with a smartly dressed man around the time of the viewing, but she has not been seen or heard of since.
Despite extensive investigations and searches by police, her case remains unsolved and her body has never been found. She was officially declared dead, presumed murdered in 1994.
On the day of her disappearance, her manager at the estate agents reported her missing to the police in the early evening after phoning her family to confirm she had not returned home. Later that same evening, the police found her car parked about a mile from the estate agents’ office near a second property she was due to show the client. The driver’s door was unlocked and the hand brake was not on but her car keys were missing, leading her family and police to fear she had been kidnapped.
“My initial reaction of frozen shock gave way to a flood of adrenalin which shot me into overdrive. We must find her; physically all that energy must be directed into action” – Diane Lamplugh
Suzy Lamplugh had vanished and there were few leads for police to work on in trying to find out what happened to her. It has long been assumed that Suzy was kidnapped against her will during the arranged house viewing, most likely by the man who was named in the appointment book as ‘Mr Kipper’. Whether her kidnapping was always this man’s intention and why he booked the viewing or it was a spontaneous act at the time of the viewing we are unlikely to ever find out.
According to statistics provided by the National Crime Agency’s UK Missing Persons Bureau, police forces across the country received over 370,000 calls in 2015/16 reporting a person missing. People can go missing for a variety of reasons and not all are under suspicious circumstances such as the Suzy Lamplugh case. 79 percent of missing person cases across this same year were resolved within 24 hours with cases which continue for more than a week accounting for just two percent of calls.
A large-scale police enquiry and cold case review was carried out into the Suzy Lamplugh case in 2000 but was unable to move the case forward. In 2002, police released the name of their prime suspect as John Cannan who has always denied involvement in the case. Although the police have never been able to charge Cannan with the disappearance and presumed murder of Suzy Lamplugh, they have built up a large circumstantial evidence base against him and took the unusual step of releasing this information along with his name to the public.
There are a number of facts involving John Cannan that do give credibility to the theory that he was behind Suzy Lamplugh’s kidnapping.
- At the time of Suzy’s disappearance, Cannan was living in a prison release hostel after serving five years of an eight-year sentence for rape and theft.
- Claims by former inmates have been made that he confessed to the murder and the police would ‘never find her body’.
- People who knew Cannan have stated his nickname was ‘Kipper’ as he always asked for them for his breakfast and his ability to fall asleep very quickly.
- His acquaintances at the time of Suzy’s disappearance say he bragged about a women he was dating in Fulham and gave a description similar to that of Suzy.
- A few days before Suzy’s disappearance, a man, later identified by the witness as Cannan, was seen outside the estate agents where Suzy worked staring in through the windows.
- On the day Suzy went missing, a local shopkeeper identified a man who came in that morning and purchased an expensive bottle of champagne as Cannan and a taxi driver also identified Cannan holding a bottle of champagne along with estate agent details of a property on Shorrolds Road (this was the second property Suzy was due to show Mr Kipper that day and was close to where her car was found).
There have been suggestions that Suzy may have been in a relationship with Cannan which she ended and his attack on her was out of revenge. Her family was aware she was seeing a man she had recently met however, they never found out his name. Her family reported the initial excitement from Suzy over her new man quickly faded and she had made comments about concerns he was married and described one date with him as ‘scary’.
She had also told them he was frequently calling her at work and she had planned to have lunch with him to end the relationship. This was confirmed by her flatmate at the time who said she was receiving a number of phone calls at home along with flowers being delivered which made her uncomfortable.
This information that Suzy was in a relationship that she wished to end does raise suspicion that whoever this man was may have been behind her disappearance. Former girlfriends of Cannan had reported he would be very charming and romantic at first, often with flowers and gifts, however, he had a temper if he was rejected.
A number of witnesses have come forward in the years after Suzy went missing with new information which some said they volunteered at the time but had not been followed up. The police have stated they are aware ‘opportunities were missed’ at the time due to the amount of information they were trying to work through and false leads taking up valuable time. This, however, has made it more difficult to find firm evidence of Cannan being linked to the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh, as over time documents, photos and phone records are no longer in existence.
A number of witnesses have said they had to swerve out of the way of a white Ford Fiesta matching the description of Suzy’s car and Suzy as the driver who appeared to be arguing with a man in a suit in the passenger seat. The police it seems strongly believe Cannan was the man who arranged the viewing under the name ‘Mr Kipper’, unknown to Suzy, and met her at the property with the intention of abduction and murder.
John Cannan is a known predator with a preference for professional blond-haired women. He is currently serving life sentences for the murder of Shirley Banks in Bristol in 1987, the attempted kidnapping of Julia Holman, and the rape of woman the year before and it has been recommended that this man is never released.
“He is a danger to the female population, particularly the blonde, twenty-something professionals like Suzy. Even if he wasn’t released until he was 60 he would go on to abduct, rape and murder women.” – Detective Superintendent Jim Dickie
Although John Cannan has emerged as the strongest suspect in this case and it is clear why, possible links to other suspects have also been explored. Steve Wright murdered five women in 2006 iin and around Ipswich, Suffolk earning him the nickname the ‘Suffolk Strangler’. Convicted and given life sentences in 2008, Wright is currently serving his time at Long Larton prison, Worcestershire.
After his conviction, it was discovered he worked with Suzy Lamplugh for a period on the QE2 ocean liner a few years before Suzy went missing and had kept in touch with her. Police have not been able to establish any evidence that Wright was involved in her disappearance but it is a further line of investigation in an open case.
Police have never given up on this case and in August 2010 they received information regarding a possible burial site in Worcestershire in the West Midlands which they thought may be connected to this case. However, after searching for two days, no evidence or remains were found.
For 31 years Suzy Lamplugh’s family have been left wondering what happened to her and why, realizing that after all this time they are unlikely to ever uncover the truth or find where her remains are buried. Suzy was a vibrant young woman with her whole life ahead of her; a life tragically cut short leaving everyone who knew her devastated and desperate for answers.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust was set up by Suzy’s parents six months after she went missing. Initially run from their home, they aimed to highlight the importance of self-awareness when lone working, especially for females. As the years have gone by the charity has grown considerably and has become a foundation for living life fully but safely and providing support for other families with a missing loved one. This work has included numerous campaigns, conferences and seminars across the UK and campaigns for changes in the law. They have been very successful in this regard with measures now in place for harassment and stalking and the registration of sex offenders.
Both Diana and Paul Lamplugh, Suzy’s parents, have been awarded OBE’s for their work. Diana died in 2011 after suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and a severe stroke but the Charity remains in action, raising awareness across the country and providing much needed support.