In 1986, British estate agent1 Suzy Lamplugh vanished without trace. Her disappearance sparked a massive search and the police investigation revealed no concrete evidence to explain the mystery. The case remains unsolved over two decades later. Through the years, Suzy's parents channelled their sorrow and pain of her loss into campaigning for safety awareness for other people. Thanks to them and the Trust they set up in their daughter's name, the issue of personal safety has risen to the forefront of people's minds.
The Estate Agent
Suzy Lamplugh was an ordinary young woman living her life. She was a devoted daughter who got on well with her siblings. Her full-time employment enabled her to rent her own flat and run a modest car. On 28 July, 1986, 25-year-old Suzy left the Sturgis estate agent's office in Fulham, West London, for an appointment. Her diary noted that she had gone to show a man named 'Mr Kipper' around a house. When nothing more was heard from Suzy, which was totally out of character, and she missed a later appointment, her concerned workmates called the police.
Change of Haircolour
A jogger came forward to say he had seen a dark, left-hand drive BMW car in Fulham around the time Suzy vanished, and there was a blonde woman inside the car who appeared to be screaming for help. Police had discounted the information at the time because pictures released of Suzy showed her to be a brunette. However, a week prior to her disappearance, Suzy had had her hair highlighted with blonde streaks, and there were no photographs of her with this changed appearance.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust
In December, 1986 Suzy's mother Diana set up the Suzy Lamplugh Trust with the intention of promoting personal safety and in order to 'create a safer society'. It would also have the added benefit of keeping her daughter's disappearance in public consciousness.
Due to the success of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which has included campaigning for legislation on the registration of minicabs, safer rail travel, and improved treatment and sentencing of sex offenders, Diana Lamplugh was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1992, and has since been awarded honorary doctorates from four universities.
In October, 1987 the police inquiry into the case was scaled down, but not closed. When she had been missing for eight years, Suzy Lamplugh was officially declared dead in 1994. Public interest in the case waned somewhat but in 1995 a book by crime writer Christopher Berry-Dee claimed Michael Sams (murderer of prostitute Julie Dart, and kidnapper of estate agent Stephanie Slater in 1992) also killed Suzy Lamplugh, but this speculation was dismissed by police. In July, 1996, the tenth anniversary of Suzy's disappearance, her parents dedicated a stained glass window in their church in Richmond, Surrey, to her memory.
A Possible Suspect
Some anonymous information received in November 1999 informed police that Suzy's remains could be found at Norton Barracks in Worcestershire. This place had been pinpointed a decade previously, by Gilly Paige. Ms Paige was a girlfriend of John Cannan, who was convicted of the rape and murder of 29-year-old Shirley Anne Banks and jailed for life in 1989. Cannan had been released from jail just three days prior to Suzy's disappearance. Ms Paige informed police that Cannan had told her that he hid Suzy's body at the former Army barracks.
The inquiry into Suzy's disappearance took a fresh turn when Detective Superintendent Sean Sawyer was appointed to investigate new leads and in May 2000 the case was officially reopened. An appeal for fresh information was broadcast on the BBC's Crimewatch programme, which encouraged new witnesses to come forward. John Cannan, 46, was arrested on 4 December, 2000, on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering Suzy Lamplugh, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to take the case to court. On 11 December, 2000, a search of Norton Barracks was conducted. The search area was then shifted to the Quantock Hills in Somerset, but nothing was discovered.
Diana and Paul Lamplugh
Diana suffered a stroke in 2003, followed by a brain haemorrhage, resulting in complete memory loss. Unfortunately Alzheimer's Disease forced her (and husband Paul, her carer) to retire from their previous fully active roles in the Trust. Suzy's father Paul, co-founder of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, was awarded an OBE in 2005. Paul and Diana Lamplugh won the Beacon Fellowship Charitable Trust Leadership award in 2005/6 for 'raising awareness of personal safety and addressing the causes and solutions to violence and aggression in society'. The Trust has 16 full-time staff and a network of more than 700 personal safety trainers and tutors throughout the UK. Other knock-on effects of their campaigns was the 'Keep Your Drink Safe' campaign, as well as the setting up of the Missing Persons' Bureau in Sheen, London.
None of us has forgotten Suzy and what a lovely person she was. But I just know Suzy would have said: 'Come on Mum and Dad, come on everybody, you have done what you can, get on with your lives'; and that's what we've done. What I have always wanted to do was to do my little bit to change the world...I'm grateful to Suzy, I suppose, and certainly to Diana, that I have had my opportunity to do just that. I think one of our greatest achievements is that we have created the discipline of personal safety...and every self-respecting organisation in this country now has a personal safety policy.
- Paul Lamplugh, speaking in 2006.
Diana Lamplugh died in August 2011. There is still no trace of Suzy.