Police investigating Suzy Lamplugh murder search garden where prime suspect's mother lived

  • Video report by ITV News correspondent Damon Green

Police investigating estate agent Suzy Lamplugh's murder more than 30 years ago are preparing to excavate the garden of a home previously owned by the prime suspect's mother.

Miss Lamplugh disappeared in 1986 aged 25, having left her west London offices to meet a mystery client known only as Mr Kipper.

Witnesses reported seeing her argue with a man outside a property in Shorrold Road, Fulham, where the lunchtime viewing was due to take place on July 28, 1986.

Her white Ford Fiesta was found the night she disappeared more than a mile away, near Fulham's football ground.

Despite widespread searches she was never found and no one was convicted over her death.

In 1994 she was officially declared dead, presumed murdered.

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police were leading a search at a Birmingham property previously belonging to John Cannan's mother.

Police outside a home on Shipton Road in Sutton Coldfield have begun a search of the back garden. Credit: PA
A blue tent was erected over what is believed to be a former garage. Credit: PA

The convicted killer, who is currently in jail for rape and murder, was named as the prime suspect by police in 2002 and her death has remained one of the UK's most notorious cold cases.

Insurance marketer Phillip Carey said he purchased the home in Shipton Road, Sutton Coldfield, from Sheila Cannan in 1992.

It is not the first time police have been at the family home, the 52-year-old father-of-two said, with officers visiting the garden over several months about 15 years ago before returning on Monday.

They did not dismantle, dig or remove anything during searches, as far as Mr Carey was aware.

Mr Carey told ITV News he hopes the searches will bring some form of closure to the investigation.

Mr Carey said: "If anything does turn out and it brings the story to a close...sadly not in time for the parents, but the story comes to an end at last."

He added: "It gives closure to so many people, that if something is found, it's the right thing to happen."

Jim Dickie, the detective superintendent leading the investigation between 2000 and 2006, confirmed his officers did not dig or perform an "extensive" search of the home.

"We had no evidence or intelligence to lead us to believe that John Cannan may have secreted Suzy's body there," he said.

Convicted killer John Cannan was named as the prime suspect. Credit: PA

At the scene, specialist forensics scientists from the private company Alecto arrived carried equipment throughout the morning.

A blue tent was erected over what is believed to be a former garage in the rear garden of the property, the roof of which is just visible beyond the police cordon.

The Met, being supported by West Midlands Police officers, stressed that the current occupants of the property are in no way connected to the investigation.

Cannan, who was jailed for life in 1989 for the rape and murder of Bristol newlywed Shirley Banks, was named as the prime suspect by police in 2002.

Three days earlier, Cannan had been released from a hostel at Wormwood Scrubs Prison, where he had been serving a six-year sentence for rape.

He bore a strong resemblance to an e-fit of the abductor and, according to reports, he was nicknamed Kipper while serving his earlier sentence.

An artist's impression of 'Mr Kipper'. Credit: PA
The page from Suzy's work diary noting her meeting with Mr Kipper. Credit: PA

In 2002, claims were reported that Cannan had buried Miss Lamplugh's body under his mother's patio in the West Midlands.

A Scotland Yard spokesman at the time said the theory was "something we are currently considering", but did not confirm reports they planned to excavate the garden in the coming days.

On Tuesday a spokeswoman for the force declined to comment on why the dig was to take place now, citing the sensitivity of the operation.

It is not the first site to be dug in the search for her remains. Police twice excavated sites in Worcestershire, first near Norton Barracks in 2000 and then a meadow several miles away in 2010.

Cannan, now 64, has been questioned several times over the murder and has denied the allegation.

Numerous searches over the years have failed to find Suzy. Credit: PA

Miss Lamplugh's parents, Paul and Diana, set up the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to support victims of stalking. Both died before seeing their daughter's killer brought to justice.

The trust said the latest development is a reminder of the "continuing tragedy", adding: "The thoughts of everyone at Suzy Lamplugh Trust are with Suzy's family today."

Cannan was ordered to serve a minimum of 35 years in prison, meaning he would be eligible to be considered for parole from 2024.

But the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, said he would "probably never be safe to release".

Mr Carey said the latest search is a "surreal" experience, and added: "Either (the property) is eliminated from it entirely or, if there is something found, it's closure for the family, and this tragic story can come to an end."

Suzy was officially declared dead in 1994.