Suzy Lamplugh murder: Police search garden once belonging to suspect’s mother

Police investigating the 32-year mystery of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh's murder are preparing to excavate the garden of a home previously owned by the prime suspect's mother.

Miss Lamplugh was declared dead, presumed murdered, after going missing aged 25 in 1986, having left her west London offices to meet a mystery client known only as Mr Kipper.

The Metropolitan Police on Tuesday were leading the search at a Birmingham semi previously belonging to John Cannan's mother.

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.

Suzy Lamplugh
Suzy Lamplugh vanished in July 1986 (PA)

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

"From our point of view, we bought the house 26 years ago, from the suspected person's mother, Sheila," the 52-year-old told the Press Association.

"We knew who she was, we became aware who she was as we went through the relationship, and obviously it was high profile at the time."

It is not the first time police have searched at the family home, Mr Carey said, with officers looking in a similar area about 15 years ago before returning on Monday.

"This time it is very much about ultimately eliminating the property from the process entirely – it is just a matter of an ending, for us," he added.

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

Convicted killer John Cannan was named as the prime suspect
Convicted killer John Cannan was named as the prime suspect (PA)

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.

On the day of her disappearance, witnesses reported seeing Miss Lamplugh argue with a man outside a property in Shorrold Road, Fulham.

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.

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

Mr Kipper artist's impression
An artist's impression of Mr Kipper (PA)

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.

No-one has been convicted over Miss Lamplugh's death and she was presumed dead in 1994.

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.

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.

Police search field
A previous search took place near Norton Barracks (David Jones/PA)

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".

On Tuesday, a Met spokesman said: "Officers from the Met are currently carrying out a search at a premises in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham.

"The search follows information received in relation to a historical unsolved investigation being led by the Met's Homicide and Major Crime Command."

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