Suzy Lamplugh murder police continue searches

Searches of a back garden in connection with the murder of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh are entering a third day.

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.

Specialist forensics teams have been focusing their activity on the rear garden of a semi-detached house in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, which once belonged to the mother of prime suspect John Cannan.

The Metropolitan Police are leading the search at the property, which started on Monday, and is centred on the site of a dismantled garage built on a concrete base.

Suzy Lamplugh
Suzy Lamplugh vanished in July 1986 (PA)

Convicted killer Cannan, who is currently in jail for rape and murder, was named by police in 2002 as prime suspect in Miss Lamplugh’s death and it has remained one of the UK’s most notorious cold cases.

It is not the first time the garden has been the focus of murder detectives, with searches carried out in 2003, into early 2004.

Miss Lamplugh’s brother, Richard, said he hoped her body would be found at the property in Sutton Coldfield so the family could say a “proper goodbye”.

“It has been a long time and we have had our expectations raised before but it would nice if we could finally have some closure,” he told the Mail Online.

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

Hunt for Suzy Lamplugh’s body
Police forensics tents in the back garden of the house in Shipton Road in Sutton Coldfield once owned by the mother of prime suspect John Cannan (Pete Byrne/PA)

“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.”

Asked if he was frustrated at the police returning to the property years later to continue the investigation, Mr Carey said: “There is an element of frustration.”

The married father-of-two said officers had searched the garden during a period from November 2003, and into the following year.

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 told the BBC.

The specialist firm Alecto Forensics, which assisted the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, was at the scene from early on Tuesday morning.

An angle grinder could be heard and clouds of dust seen coming from the former location of the garage, screened by wood panel fencing.

A blue tent was erected over where the site behind gates leading to the rear of the home.

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

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 Shorrolds 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, reports claimed 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 that they planned to excavate the garden in the coming days.

The force has declined to comment on why the dig was taking place now, citing the sensitivity of the operation, but a statement said it followed “information received” by the investigation.

Miss Lamplugh was presumed dead in 1994 and no-one has been convicted in the case.

The garden in Sutton Coldfield is not the first site to be excavated in the search for her remains.

Police twice carried out digs at 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 continued to deny the allegation.

Police search field
A previous search took place near Norton Barracks (David Jones/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.”

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