What happened to Suzy Lamplugh? Missing real estate agent's case from 1986 continues to haunt Britain

Sky recently released a documentary on Lamplugh, titled ‘The Mystery of Suzy Lamplugh’


                            What happened to Suzy Lamplugh? Missing real estate agent's case from 1986 continues to haunt Britain
Suzy Lamplugh (Suzy Lamplugh Trust)
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It was the mid-80s when Suzy Lamplugh, a British woman in her 20s, got a job as an estate agent. She instantly took to her diary and wrote, “I’m hired on the spot.” But her happiness was short-lived as a later entry by her in the diary read, “The company puts me in the window desk, as the most attractive female. That’s how it is, the most attractive female on display for any man to see.”

Like her happiness, her life was also cut short. On July 28, 1986, the 25-year-old Lamplugh left her work desk for a 12.45 pm appointment with a Mr Kipper in Fulham, London, England. She would never be found again. Her disappearance led to the launch of one of the biggest-ever missing person’s inquiry in Britain. But it was all for naught. The only 'clue' found was Lamplugh’s white Ford Fiesta which was found parked outside a property for sale in Stevenage Road and her purse. Investigators had no further breakthroughs in the case.

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Lamplugh's brother, Richard, told The Sun in January 2021, that he got to know about his younger sister’s disappearance from their mother Diana, but he refused to believe it, initially.

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He said, “The big hope was that she’d hit her head or got amnesia. It was very strange because when you see a car which is unlocked with a purse, keys in it, hat in the back, you wouldn’t leave a car like that, I wouldn’t. You wouldn’t leave it parked somewhere you had no reason to be. We were thinking ‘why has she done this? That’s not like her’.”

Richard continued, “The difficulty I had with mourning Suze is that after a month or two you start to think ‘something really bad might have happened to her’ but you don’t want to think of too negative thoughts. You want to keep your hopes up that she’ll come in and say ‘hi, we were on a two-month holiday.' That didn’t sound like Suzy, I’m sure she wouldn’t have done that, but all those things go through your mind."

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On a more somber note, he added, "After six months of trying to keep positive, you think ‘yeah she’s not coming back.’ Though, of course, you don’t want to grieve for her because you’re hoping she has survived. It’s very difficult, then after a year you realize you're not thinking about her every day, then ‘I haven’t thought about her for a week’ and ‘I haven’t thought about her for a month’ as time goes on."

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He continued, "They say time is a healer and I suppose that’s what time is. You sort of get on with your life and keep them in your memories and thoughts. But we’ve got pictures of Suzy around the house and when I look at them I do think of her.”

Reports stated in October 1987 in an attempt to find Lamplugh’s remains, DNA tests on more than 800 unidentified bodies were carried out by the Metropolitan Police. Between 1989-90, they interrogated the convicted murderer John Cannan, who reportedly looked very similar to an e-fit of the abductor and he was also nicknamed "Kipper" while serving his sentence for the abduction and murder of newlywed Shirley Banks.

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But since the questioning and DNA tests did not prove fruitful, in 1994, Lamplugh was declared dead. Speaking about it, his brother said, “When we had the memorial service, which was quite well-publicized, I looked down the aisle, thinking ‘she might just walk in.’ But when she didn’t, I knew she was never going to come back. You are powerless when you’ve lost someone like this. The person who has taken them away has you in their power. I’m sure they revel in the fact they haven’t been found out. The hardest part of it all was coming to terms with her death. Also that my mum and dad never saw closure.”

Around six years later, in 2000, the mysterious case of Lamplugh was re-opened after a car that may have been linked to her disappearance was traced by detectives. Cannan was again detained and interrogated, but could not be charged that time either. Two years later, police publicly announced that Cannan was their prime suspect.

Richard also believed that Cannan is the one who killed his sister. He told The Sun, “It’s never going to bring Suze back, but if the police had arrested Cannan (when Suzy disappeared), then others wouldn’t have been in the same situation as my sister. They could have got him first, but you can never turn the clock back, it’s just ‘what if?’ That’s the thing I’m very upset about, that he wasn’t caught after he abducted my sister and murdered her, if he did. If he’d been caught then, others wouldn’t have gone through the ordeals he put their families through, the crimes he’s inside for now.”

Years later when a fellow prisoner alleged that Cannan had buried Suzy’s remains under the patio of his mother’s former house in Sutton Coldfield. A search was launched at the property in 2018, but nothing was found.

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Despite all the failures, police are still positive that they would solve the case of Lamplugh. According to detectives, the case has not been buried yet with Rebecca Reeves, the Met Police senior investigating officer, saying, “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.”

Reeves added, “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.” 

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Why has Britain still not gotten over the case?

Nick Ross, the journalist and Crimewatch presenter who covered Lamplugh’s missing case at the time, told The Guardian, “It’s the cliches of crime which fascinate. Suzy Lamplugh was attractive, female, young, and middle class. It would have been very different if she hadn’t been good-looking or had come from a tenement somewhere, from a disrupted, dysfunctional background. It’s Midsomer Murders. People tend to be more interested in the murders of people from privileged backgrounds than underprivileged ones.”

“People say they don’t like crime, but our appetites say something quite different. Look at the crime shelves in bookshops, see what Hitchcock’s films are about. Crime is endlessly fascinating,” Ross continued, “The greatest cliche of all in crime is ‘broad daylight’, but most crimes happen in broad daylight because most of us are asleep at night.”

“If you’re a broadcaster, you inevitably get drawn into projecting back what your viewers are prepared to tune in for. What interests us in real life is just what interests us in fiction, and the cliches are hugely self-perpetuating. Women are half as likely to be murdered as men, yet will get twice as much publicity. Nobody’s interested in the people most vulnerable to homicide – those under the age of 12 months,” he added while referring to the crime documentaries and series.

Recently, Sky released a documentary on Lamplugh, titled ‘The Mystery of Suzy Lamplugh’. Explaining how the program could help solve the nearly four-decades-old case, Jim Dickie, the officer charged with reopening the case in 1999, said: “Something might jog someone’s memory. There may still be someone out there who hasn’t come to the police before, or whose evidence has been ignored. The family deserves closure.” Dickie also added how old policing systems sometimes led to the failed probes. “We were in an analog age. Everything was on paper. There were old-fashioned card index systems for evidence-gathering. Now we have all sorts of technology, computer systems, number plate recognition, CCTV. I think we could probably have solved the case a lot quicker now,” he added.

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What is Suzy Lamplugh Trust?

After Lamplugh’s disappearance, her parents launched a trust in their daughter’s name. The mission of it as per the site said, “Our mission is to reduce the risk of violence and aggression through campaigning, education, and support.” The vision of it “is a society in which people are safer - and feel safer - from violence and aggression; we want people to be able to live life to the full.”

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