Will we ever know what re­ally hap­pened to Suzy Lam­plugh?

Miss­ing since 1986, de­clared dead but no body ever found... as po­lice dig up a gar­den in Sut­ton Cold­field, crime writer Susi Hol­l­i­day asks:

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Iwas only 11 years old on 28 July 1986, when es­tate agent Suzy Lam­plugh dis­ap­peared. It’s a case that lodged it­self in my mind from the very start – and still puz­zles me now.

On the day she went miss­ing, the 25-year-old had made an ap­point­ment to show a man – named ‘Mr Kip­per’ – around a house in Shor­rolds Road, Lon­don. It’s not known if she met this man or not, but what we do know is that she never re­turned after­wards.

The po­lice started an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and found her white Ford Fi­esta parked a mile away from the ad­dress of her meet­ing. Although the car key was miss­ing, her purse was left be­hind – sug­gest­ing

that she’d not ex­pected to be gone for long. Wit­nesses re­ported see­ing her ar­gu­ing with a Cham­pagne and bal­loon-car­ry­ing man on Shor­rolds Road, be­fore get­ting into a black BMW.

There were no other sight­ings, no other wit­nesses.

One year later, po­lice per­formed DNA test­ing on 800 uniden­ti­fied bod­ies in an at­tempt to iden­tify Suzy, but to no avail.

What hap­pened to her?

There has only ever been one real sus­pect – con­victed rapist and mur­derer John Can­nan, who is cur­rently im­pris­oned at HMP Full Sut­ton, where he still protests his in­no­cence.

In 1989, he was found guilty of the kid­nap­ping, rape and mur­der of Shirley Banks, as well as for three at­tempted ab­duc­tions. He’d pre­vi­ously been placed on pro­ba­tion at age 14, for as­sault­ing a woman. He’d then gone on to carry out sev­eral rob­beries, cul­mi­nat­ing with the rape of a shop as­sis­tant in 1981.

He was jailed at HMP Bris­tol and was known by other pris­on­ers as ‘Kip­per’ due to his love of wide ties. Chillingly, three days be­fore Suzy’s dis­ap­pear­ance, he’d been al­lowed to leave the pre-re­lease hos­tel at Worm­wood Scrubs where he’d been stay­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, Can­nan also liked to visit wine bars in Ful­ham, Lon­don, close to where Suzy worked.

‘In­quiries showed that he went win­dow­shop­ping for girls,’ for­mer de­tec­tive chief in­spec­tor Bryan Saun­ders said. ‘He would spot an at­trac­tive girl in an es­tate agent’s or build­ing so­ci­ety and pur­sue her.’

Suzy had told friends she’d met some­one ‘new and ex­cit­ing’. She later sus­pected he was mar­ried, as he of­ten seemed to be call­ing some­one in Bris­tol. In the end, she de­scribed him as ‘scary’ and told her mum that she planned to dump him – on the day that she was last seen.

Can­nan had Bris­tol con­nec­tions. This is where he’d killed Shirley Banks in 1987.

‘As soon as I heard about Suzy, I knew it was John,’ said Can­nan’s ex, Daphne Sar­gent. ‘It had all the hall­marks – right down to the Cham­pagne.’

Can­nan also matched a photofit of the man seen with Suzy, and a man in­ter­viewed at the hos­tel said he had let Can­nan bor­row his car.

Po­lice be­lieved that Can­nan tar­geted Suzy. They thought, in the weeks be­fore she went miss­ing, he’d dress up in a suit and spend his days on prison re­lease try­ing to charm her. They were con­vinced it was him, but the case was dropped due to lack of ev­i­dence.

Can­nan’s own sis­ter im­plored him to con­fess and give up the lo­ca­tion of Suzy’s body. And an­other one of his exes, Gilly Paige, said he’d told her that Suzy’s body was buried at Nor­ton Bar­racks. In 2000, this led to a five-day search by 30 of­fi­cers, but noth­ing was found.

Dur­ing a po­lice in­ter­view at this time, Can­nan was filmed say­ing, ‘I have done many things wrong in my life. One or two things I haven’t even been caught for.’

Later, it was pro­posed that the bar­racks may be Nor­ton Manor Royal Marine bar­racks – eight miles from where he left the body of San­dra Banks. In 2010, they searched an­other site three miles away, af­ter some­one re­called see­ing a mound of earth, but again noth­ing was re­cov­ered.

In 2008, there was a brief men­tion of an­other sus­pect – Steve Wright, who had mur­dered five pros­ti­tutes in Ip­swich. Wright and Suzy had worked on the QE2 at the same time in the early 80s, but this was dis­missed as noth­ing more than a co­in­ci­dence.

The po­lice an­nounced in 2002 that John Can­nan killed Suzy. They used this ar­gu­ment again in 2006 to en­sure he was not re­leased on pa­role.

Suzy’s par­ents, Paul and Diana, con­sid­ered tak­ing out a civil ac­tion against Can­nan, but in the end they de­cided against it. In­stead, they de­voted them­selves to help­ing oth­ers, by setting up The Suzy Lam­plugh Trust, which led to a clamp­ing down on crimes re­lated to stalk­ing and ha­rass­ment.

One of the big­gest tragedies of this case is that both Paul and Diana died with­out find­ing out what hap­pened to Suzy.

Serv­ing three life sen­tences, with a rec­om­men­da­tion that he is never re­leased, there’s now noth­ing for Can­nan to gain from con­fess­ing.

Last year, po­lice dug up the back yard of a house in Sut­ton Cold­field, once owned by Can­nan’s mother, but no ev­i­dence was re­cov­ered.

It makes us won­der, will we ever re­ally know what hap­pened to Suzy?

Although we may never learn the truth, one thing is cer­tain – a mon­ster is be­hind bars, and will remain there. l

‘As soon as I heard about Suzy, I knew it was John… It had all the hall­marks’

Es­tate agent Suzi Lam­plugh went to an ap­point­ment and dis­ap­peared

John Can­nan is the prime sus­pect in her mur­der Susi Hol­l­i­day has al­ways been fas­ci­nated by this un­solved case Paul and Diana never found out what hap­pened to their daugh­ter The in­ves­ti­ga­tion tried to piece to­gether Suzy’s fi­nal move­ments

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