Police investigating the murder of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh more than 30 years ago are searching a property in the West Midlands. The 25-year-old disappeared in 1986, after leaving her west London offices to meet a mystery client known only as “Mr Kipper”.
No-one was convicted over her death, but in 1994 she was officially declared dead, presumed murdered. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police confirmed officers were carrying out a search at a premises in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham. But the force refused to comment on “speculation surrounding the search”, though the owner of the house confirmed that he purchased the property from the mother of prime suspect, John Cannan.
Speaking to the Press Association, Phillip Carey, 52, said he bought 1 Shipton Road from Sheila Cannan in 1992. Officers arrived at the site on Monday, he added. He said: “From our point of view, we bought the house 26 years ago, from the suspected person’s mother, Sheila.
“We knew who she was, we became aware who she was as we went through the relationship, and obviously it was high profile at the time.”
Carey said officers also searched a similar area at the property in 2003, but the Met stressed that the current occupants of the property were in no way connected to the investigation.
As specialist forensics scientists search the scene and officers from West Midlands Police are joined by experts Scotland Yard, there are strong hopes Lamplugh’s remains will be found and finally laid to rest.
At 12.40pm on July 28 1986, Lamplugh had left her office – Sturgis and Sons on Fulham Road in London – taking her house and car keys and a purse with £15 and credit cards, but leaving her handbag behind. Ten minutes later she was seen waiting outside an empty property, 37 Shorrald’s Road, which had been on the market for one week.
At 1pm she was joined by a man, presumed to be the “Mr Kipper” she had written in her diary, and minutes later they were seen walking away from the house. At 6.45pm, her manager reported Lamplugh’s disappearance to the police.
Lamplugh’s white Ford Fiesta was discovered by officers about a mile from her office in Stevenage Road, Fulham, just after 10pm. There were no signs of a struggle – no fingerprints unaccounted for. The driver’s door was unlocked, the handbrake off and her purse was in the glove compartment, but her keys were missing.
Lamplugh’s mother Diana vividly remembers the phone call that alerted her to the fact her daughter had gone missing.
Her manager had asked: “Do you have any idea where your daughter might be, Mrs Lamplugh? We wondered whether she could have called into home for lunch. I don’t want to worry you, Mrs Lamplugh… but Susannah left to show a house to a client just before lunch and she has not returned. We wanted to check anywhere we could.”
The Lamplughs welcomed media interest in their daughter’s disappearance in the hope it would reunite them. Diana told reporters at the time: “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.”
A week later she told BBC TV’s London Plus she was beginning to face up to the fact that her daughter might be dead. She said: “I can face up to the fact that she has died. But I cannot face up to what has happened between. That’s too much.”
Five years after her disappearance, Diana wrote of her daughter: “There has not been a single trace of her. Nothing. Just as though she has been erased by a rubber.”
A prime suspect
Three days before Lamplugh’s disappearance, convicted sex attacker John Cannan was released from Wormwood Scrubs Prison, where he had been serving a six-year sentence for rape.
On the day of her disappearance, witnesses reported seeing Lamplugh argue with a man outside a property in Shorrold Road, Fulham.
Cannan was jailed for life in 1989 for the rape and murder of Bristol newlywed Shirley Banks. Two years later a former girlfriend of Cannan’s alleged that he had confessed to raping and killing Lamplugh. She later retracted the allegation.
Cannan was named as the prime suspect in the Lamplugh probe in 2002 and has been questioned several times. He has denied the allegation.
In 2006 Met Police Detective Superintendent Jim Dickie told the Observer he is convinced Canaan stalked Lamplugh before meeting her, adding Cannan was known as “Kipper” in prison – the same name of the mystery client she was due to show a house to on the day she vanished.
He added: “Evidence suggests he was monitoring her before she was abducted. He certainly knew the area. He would have sought out a woman like Suzy and may have contacted her and her estate agents beforehand.”
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a charity dedicated to helping victims of stalking, was co-founded by her parents. Paul Lamplugh, who received an OBE in 2004 and Diana Lamplugh became campaigners for causes including taxi safety.
The Trust said the developments on Tuesday are a reminder of the “continuing tragedy”.
“The thoughts of everyone at Suzy Lamplugh Trust are with Suzy’s family today,” a statement said.
“Today we continue the work of (her parents) Paul and Diana to reduce violence and aggression in society, supporting workplaces to help their lone and frontline workers be safer and feel safer.
“Today’s news reminds us once again of the continuing tragedy of Suzy’s story and the importance of employers taking responsibility for the personal safety of their staff.”
Paul Lamplugh died in June 2018 and his wife Diana passed away in 2011.