Missing Susannah Lamplugh
So Many Questions, So Many Errors
Welcome back to another blog in the study of the Suzy Lamplugh case. I am delighted to bring you another article by my guest writer/fellow researcher which asks further questions and looks at various points of the enquiry.
Before we move on with this article I will just give a brief background for any reader who may not already be familiar with the case. You can also read previous articles that I have published on the case
Susannah Lamplugh was a 25-year-old estate agent who lived in Putney, London, England. She worked nearby at Sturgis estate agency in Fulham and it is widely said that she went missing whilst she was showing a potential buyer around a house for sale.
Suzy set out from her office at approximately 12.40pm on Monday 28th July 1986 apparently headed to an appointment with a client, named in Suzy’s diary as ‘Mr Kipper’, where she was scheduled to demonstrate a house in Shorrolds Road, Fulham but it seems more and more unlikely that that appointment never took place and that is because the arrangement was “a mere invention”.
Here’s the guest article:
What happened to Suzy Lamplugh? (continued)
The Mystery of The ‘Piece of Paper’
New information: July 1987
One YEAR after Susannah’s disappearance. Witness account changes — WHY?
One new line of inquiry came about because a key witness seemed to come up with very important new information. This, perhaps, is one of the most interesting facets of the whole case yet it isn’t widely known but, was it fully investigated at the time?
It is worth noting that this was a YEAR after Suzy went missing — NOT at the time. This new information concerned her local pub, The Prince of Wales in Putney, and the acting landlord’s recount around her missing items: pocket diary, chequebook and a postcard that he’d found on his pub’s step at closing time.
This new information showed there had been calls made to the pub that afternoon, including one for Suzy herself: crucial and vital information.
LAST CALL SUZY EVER MADE OR RECEIVED — MONDAY AFTERNOON
Monday 28th July 12:40pm
The last telephone call Suzy ever made was to The Prince of Wales pub, immediately and hurriedly, just before she left the office.
In his definitive book on the Lamplugh mystery, The Suzy Lamplugh Story (1988), author Andrew Stephen states this was a telephone call with the landlord’s wife. Presumably, this was to arrange to pick up her possessions at 6pm. What is slightly puzzling is that Stephen’s account seems to suggest perhaps this appointment had already been arranged earlier in the morning? What is perplexing is that Suzy already had a commitment elsewhere at 6pm: another appointment to show a house, possibly to a keen buyer.
Was the arrangement to collect her things changed or brought forward at the last minute?
JOHN CANNAN EMERGES AS A SUSPECT: 1987
Do other previous lines of inquiry simply then become irrelevant?
When Shirley Banks went missing on Thursday 8th October 1987, John Cannan began to emerge as a key suspect in the Lamplugh case. Understandably, the police began to increasingly focus their finite time and resources there.
Hadn’t John Cannan just been released from a prison hostel so near to where Suzy worked? Didn’t he frequent local wine bars and pubs? Hadn’t Suzy received flowers and it was KNOWN John Cannan sent flowers as part of his modus operandi? Didn’t John Cannan look JUST like the Riglin photofit?
WERE THESE SUPPOSITIONS JUSTIFIED — OR SIMPLY CIRCUMSTANTIAL?
CLAIM: Cannan went to the bars of Fulham and Chelsea regularly to drink
Did he? Work colleagues from ’Super Hire’ were based in Acton, as they allegedly drank together, did they all troop to the same bars and wine bars in Chelsea and Fulham favoured by the ‘Putney Set’?
CLAIM: Cannan sent flowers
Suzy had a new admirer after a Ball she attended in July 1986; Stephen pondered whether he was responsible for sending some later flowers? As Suzy had a boyfriend, some caution/anonymity around sending them might have been employed.
CLAIM: Cannan looked like the Riglin photofit
Harry Riglin was an unreliable witness who never really got a good look at the man he saw and changed his statement afterwards
CLAIM: Cannan could freely socialise at night
Cannan had some restrictions and a 7pm curfew at the hostel. Even with some leeway/flexibility/deception around this, it would have made dating problematic.
CLAIM: Cannan had Bristol connections so he ‘must’ be the perpetrator
Suzy had seemingly dated a man with Bristol connections in 1984 — did this link later evolve to fit a narrative?
DETECTIVES RE-EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE
Returning to Andrew Stephen’s excellent and well-researched book, a YEAR after Susannah Lamplugh vanished, DI Johnstone and DS Barley were apparently still determined to solve the mystery of her disappearance. They were frustrated that the civilian review of the case had turned up nothing new so they now decided to return to ALL previous witnesses involved in the case and re-interview them. The officers wanted to go through everything once more: had anything been missed? This would seem to be an intelligent and sensible decision. Their extreme tenacity was really commendable.
‘There was also another motive. Few people can commit a murder and then not give at last some psychological hints to those around them about what they have done. The detectives wanted to look for obvious changes in the personalities of Susannah’s friends, colleagues. clients and lovers over the previous year. Any unusual behaviour in the people previously interviewed would interest them, though the inquiries had to be discreet and not upsetting for those involved’.
NEW EVIDENCE EMERGES…
- ‘Sarah’ called the pub supposedly for Suzy
- Next, a policeman called the pub — BEFORE her disappearance had been reported to the police.
- Not logged by the police at the time or at first interview of the pub landlord — July 1986 — Why?
Author Stephen continues:
‘here then followed one curious development which was never satisfactorily explained, the acting landlord of the Prince of Wales public house in Upper Richmond Road, who had discovered Susannah’s missing cheque book, pocket diary and a postcard on the front steps of his pub late on the Friday evening before she went missing — talked to the police again and this time seemed to come up with some new information. He had now returned to live in the north of England. Susannah Lamplugh had arranged to pick up her lost belongings at six o’clock the day she went missing, he recalled.
‘That afternoon, he NOW told police, someone — she said her name was Sarah — had telephoned him and left a message for Susannah (apparently for when she turned up at the pub) to ring her at a number which he wrote down. Sometime later, a man also spoke to him on the phone, saying he was a policeman. He was adamant too that he had given the scrap of paper on which he had written the name and phone number to the police when he was originally interviewed a day or so later. [July 1986 — a year before]’
WHO MADE THOSE CALLS?
The squad said they were NEVER given any piece of paper and realised that this could have been of vital importance. They wondered whether the call was really from Suzy, being forced to call by ‘Mr Kipper’? it was all ‘very baffling’, says Stephen. ‘The two men were valued and trusted members of the investigative team’ and they ‘strongly insisted’ they were never given any piece of paper at all.
The publican was seen as being an honest man and it was decided his memory must be ‘playing tricks’ but Stephen adds it left an ‘uneasy feeling’.
Brookner, if not muddled, states Suzy had actually left her chequebook in the pub on Sunday evening and given the new information (above) that came to light it would seem that this account should be looked at very closely. Perhaps it was? Did anyone question the 6pm appointment clash? How could the precise Suzy be in two places at once at 6pm?
It seems that many assume this information on the calls to the pub and the mysterious ’Sarah’ who called for Suzy were all reported to the police and the police were aware of this account AT THE TIME. They simply weren’t if Stephen, drawing on the original investigative reports, is correct.
MANY QUESTIONS REMAIN…
As in a game of Chinese whispers, later accounts seem to imagine that John Cannan NOW was actually in The Prince of Wales on Friday night before Suzy went missing. That he was, in fact, lying in wait and must have taken things from her bag, later discarding them on the step for the landlord to later find at closing time? Possibly Cannan was, but what does Occam’s Razor tell us?
Why would John Cannan or ‘Mr Kipper’ force Suzy to call the pub and pretend to be ’Sarah’? Why would he later impersonate a police officer that afternoon and call the pub?
When DI Johnstone and DS Barley re-examined those that knew Suzy in more detail after a year, looking for any psychological clues or changes in their behaviour, they were smart. Did the police then look at the behaviour of the original witnesses in the decades that followed, did the 2000 case review give any focus to this? Just to completely feel comfortable that there really was only one obvious suspect and line of inquiry? Just as a matter of course? Perhaps…
Can everyone be completely satisfied that all stones were fully turned over and any previous ‘uneasy feelings’ now fully laid to rest?
Personal Diaries: Lifeline of the 80s: the iPhone of that time. Contained much-needed numbers & addresses. While lost chequebooks could be cancelled, personal diaries were precious, personal & invaluable (images do not depict Lamplugh diary or belongings)
Suzy’s things are found at closing time by the pub landlord at the Prince of Wales on his front step on Friday 25th July: chequebook, diary, postcard and possibly other personal items.
Suzy’s last call was to the pub at 12:40pm to arrange a new pick-up time re: possessions? Or to confirm the 6pm collection time? [NB: diary clash at 6pm].
July 1987: NEW INFORMATION comes to light regarding calls made to the pub on Monday 28th July 1986.
The acting landlord of Prince of Wales reconfirms Suzy was due to pick up her possessions from him at 6pm. He’s now moved away, back up north.
Landlord explains: ’Sarah’ called the pub asking for Suzy to call her later when she came in.
Later a policeman also called the pub [BEFORE Suzy’s disappearance had been reported to the police].
Landlord wrote down the number for Sarah and handed this piece of paper to two trusted policemen who originally interviewed him a day or so after Suzy went missing.
POLICE OFFICERS DENY EVER RECEIVING THE NOT OR EVEN BEING AWARE OF THIS VITAL CLUE
It was later, though, that John Cannan aka ‘Mr Kipper’ must have made the call and been hiding out in the Prince of Wales when Suzy’s things went missing, later leaving her possessions on the pub step (?)
Anita Brookner article suggests Suzy had been to the pub earlier and left chequebook there on Sunday with the publican — is this an error? Did Brookner mean Friday?
WAS this line of inquiry followed up, OR did Cannan’s emergence as a suspect mean it was NOT seen as relevant, worth following up, or important? The landlord had already been interviewed, after all, a year before.
There was someone else that Suzy had met before she disappeared, who again may be entirely unconnected to her disappearance but it is worth exploring and reviewing this too again, if only for the context. It does seem extraordinary that so much interesting factual information doesn’t seem to be known…
It might be that all of this new information was fully followed up to the police’s satisfaction in 1987. If so, it would be good to know this.
Some have stated that the couple seen arguing might have connected to the narrative and reports at the time. As far as the Stephen account is concerned, all the below CAME later — TEN years later or more in most cases.
All of the below COULD be linked to confirmation bias around John Cannan as he emerged as the only suspect:
- A Car swerving to avoid Suzy’s Fiesta
- A Couple were seen arguing on the street or in ANY car
- Cannan being seen in the vicinity in any context, looking in estate agent windows or Suzy’s office window before she went missing
- KIPPER as a John Cannan nickname
- KIPPER being used as an alias to enable the suspect to view properties on the books with other estate agents
- BMW — the only BMW possible sighting AT THE TIME was of a 1970s model similar to a BMW 518 — the witness was a car buff; ‘his special knowledge of cars gave him added authority’ [Andrew Stephen]. The older BMWs were distinctive and relatively unusual cars
- John Cannan’s BMW was a series 3 1.6-litre first entry model acquired in 1987; he had limited access to a RED SIERRA that belonged to the prison hostel cook in 1986.
- Riglin photofit was unreliable so only anything that linked back to this with regard to sightings of Cannan
WERE THE FOLLOWING LINES OF ENQUIRY PROPERLY FOLLOWED UP?
Especially in the context of any change of circumstances for original witnesses of July 1986? Could any of these expand on anything that would help?
- The changed lunch appointment — could the close friend of Suzy’s help? Re: friends, did KIPPER feel like a name Suzy might use as a ruse to slip out of the office?
- The JOINT DEAL on the possible business with two close associates and friends (the male partner — husband — was a property developer). Suzy had one JOINT DEAL possibly going ahead when she sold her flat. Was THIS, in fact, THE deal?
- The wealthy man Suzy met BEFORE she went missing, who divided his time between Barbados/Bahamas and the UK and had a flat in Mayfair.
- The landlord’s new information. ‘Exhibits’ like the alleged note passed to the ’two trusted detectives’ had to be logged. How could TWO policemen have made such a grave error as to forget/lose this vital piece of evidence? Or had the landlord got muddled as was suggested and no calls came to the pub in the first place?
The latter would seem to be of particular importance
A word from Lolly:
Once again another very interesting and thought-provoking article as we progress through this deeply involved case review.
I really feel that I have to say, there are simply too many parts to this case that simply do not add up in the way that they should. I have received a few e-mails with conflicting views but I do not accept that the “evidence” truly changed that much from 1986 when things actually happened to some years later and nobody truly questions it.
An email that I received says that “Some murder cases never see anyone convicted for the crime, but nonetheless that doesn’t mean the case is not solved”. Well, I can’t simply accept that. If a case is solved then it can be closed as it is complete and the person is either named but has passed away or is convicted, in this case, neither of those things has happened.
I won’t pick the story up here but I will just say that there are many parts of the so-called “evidence” that really do not make sense at all, in particular, the material that “came to light” later. Suddenly every other clue, every other witness statement was discredited or forgotten because detectives ‘had their man’ but actually they don’t as the Crown Prosecution Service have always maintained they DO NOT have evidence to convict John Cannan.
That’s because the narrative of ‘Mr Kipper’ and Shorrolds Road do not make any sense, the likelihood is Susannah made up the name Mr Kipper and the viewing thus the sighting of the Kipper man outside Shorrolds is negated and as the photofit apparently depicts Cannan then that negates that too.
Last point for this time, “John Cannan was released from prison and was in a probation service hostel close to where Suzy Lamplugh lived and worked”, really? 4.6 miles not exactly ‘around the corner’, plenty of shops/estate agent windows to gaze in on the way to Sturgis office in Fulham.
I will be back with more on this case and others that are just as interesting and important real soon.
If anyone wants to discuss this matter with me or indeed anything true crime then get in touch, I love to hear from you. Lots of exciting things coming up as we go through 2021 including docu-podcasts and research involvement of a new true-crime series.