Great Britain

Was tragic Suzy Lamplugh’s body inside suitcase thrown into canal after disappearance 34 years ago?

FOR more than three decades, the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh has disturbed and baffled the nation.

The 25-year-old estate agent vanished in the middle of the working day on July 28, 1986, and her body has never been discovered.

But now new evidence that her suspected killer was seen hurling a large suitcase into a canal 34 years ago offers fresh hope of finding her.

That is the opinion of retired detective superintendent Jim Dickie, who led a two-year re-investigation into Suzy’s disappearance in Fulham, South West London.

The sensational new discovery about prime suspect John Cannan — a convicted rapist and murderer — tipping a large trunk into the Grand Union Canal emerged last year when information was passed to Mr Dickie.

Revealed by The Sun for the first time today, the sighting was made by a lorry driver walking to work at 5am along a towpath next to the canal in Brentford, West London.

There, he came “face to face” with Cannan, now 66, who was pushing a large holdall on a trolley. Seconds later, he heard a splash and looked round to see Cannan running away.

The sighting came three days after Suzy vanished following an appointment to show a client called “Mr Kipper” round houses in Fulham.

Unnerved by what he had seen, the lorry driver — who The Sun is not naming and who has since passed away — reported it to Brentford police, the first of THREE occasions he is said to have tried to alert officers.


The second time came the following year after he spotted Cannan’s photo in a newspaper after his arrest for the murder of Bristol factory manager Shirley Banks, 29.

The witness was so convinced it was Cannan he saw that he attended his subsequent 1989 trial at Exeter Crown Court to see him in the flesh.

Afterwards, the driver went back to Brentford police station for a third time to report his canal sighting, insisting it was Cannan he had seen.

However, the information wasn’t passed on to murder investigation teams, and he died from a heart attack six years ago.

Mr Dickie was contacted about the reports following publicity over a fifth search carried out for Suzy in July last year at a field in Worcs.

He says: “I believe the canal sighting is the best piece of information to have emerged about Suzy’s potential whereabouts since she went missing more than 34 years ago.”

Cannan is serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of newlywed Shirley. Her body was found in a stream in Somerset six months after she was abducted from a Bristol city centre car park in October 1987.

Cannan is also a key suspect in the murder of 25-year-old Bournemouth insurance clerk Sandra Court.

Her body was found in a water-filled ditch on the Avon Causeway in May 1986. Mr Dickie says: “A common feature in Shirley and Sandra’s murders is that their bodies were deposited in water.

“If this new line of inquiry about the canal sighting is correct, it follows the same pattern as the other two murders and makes absolute sense.”

Three days before Suzy vanished, Cannan left a bail hostel next to Wormwood Scrubs prison, in White City, West London, having served five years of an eight-year rape sentence.

He later told police that when he left the hostel he had a large suitcase, measuring approximately 4ft by 2ft.

Mr Dickie says: “Suzy was petite and her body could have been put into a large case after her murder.

“The location of the canal offers easy access to the A4 and proximity to the bail hostel Cannan was released from days earlier.

“Both Shirley Banks and Sandra Court were found in rural locations near main roads. The canal site is very close to the A4 and M4. It again fits with Cannan’s known modus operandi. We think that after leaving the bail hostel, Cannan had a room somewhere where he took Suzy and murdered her before hiding the body.

“There were warehouses around that area at the time where he could easily have got a trolley.

“He could then have wheeled the case containing Suzy’s body down to the canal. It was very early in the morning and he would not have been expecting to see anyone.”

Police previously carried out two searches of rural areas in Somerset in the early 2000s.

Then in 2010 they searched a site at the former Norton Barracks in Worcs, where Cannan’s former girlfriend, ice skater Gilly Paige, said he once suggested he had buried Suzy’s body. Two years ago the home of Cannan’s mother Sheila, in Sutton Coldfield, West Mids, was searched.

The lorry driver says he passed Cannan on the towpath just south of the Grade II listed Gallows Bridge, which takes its name from a man found hanged in nearby woods in the 17th Century.


Mr Dickie says: “It is entirely possible that Cannan chose that site because of the macabre name of the bridge, much as he disposed of Shirley Banks in Dead Woman’s Ditch. It would fit with Cannan’s warped sense of humour.”

The retired detective continued: “The lorry driver tried to report what he had seen to police on three occasions. Tragically, he was never taken seriously.” But the Met Police Specialist Casework Investigation Team, which probes cold cases, has ruled out a search of the canal. The team says that stretch of water was searched thoroughly during the investigation into the murder of 14-year-old schoolgirl Alice Gross in 2014.

Her body was later found in the River Brent, just over a mile from Gallows Bridge.

The River Brent stretch of the canal where Cannan is said to have been spotted is also dredged every few years.

But it is understood police cannot find any record of the lorry driver’s reports to Brentford police station.


JULY 28, 1986: Estate agent Suzy is abducted and killed after going to meet client “Mr Kipper”, E-fit above.

OCTOBER 7: Cannan rapes a woman after abducting her at knifepoint in Reading. He also tries to abduct a woman at gunpoint in Bristol.

OCTOBER 8: Kidnaps and murders Shirley Banks in Bristol.

OCTOBER 29: Arrested trying to rob a shop in Leamington Spa, Warks.

OCTOBER 30: Media speculation that Suzy’s murder could be linked to Shirley’s.

FEBRUARY 1988: Quizzed for first time over Suzy’s murder.

APRIL 1989: Given whole-life sentence after being convicted of rape, attempted abduction, murder and attempted robbery. Later reduced to 35-year minimum tariff.

1999: Police begin Suzy cold case review.

2000: New probe by homicide team.

JUNE 2002: File sent to CPS recommending Cannan be prosecuted for Suzy’s murder.

NOVEMBER 2002: CPS says insufficient evidence. Police name Cannan as prime suspect.

JUNE 2008: Cannan loses appeal over 35-year tariff.

OCTOBER 2018: His mother’s old home is searched for body.

JULY 2019: Search of a field at Pershore, Worcs. New witness then approaches retired Met chief Jim Dickie.

A scathing review of the first bungled inquiry criticised detectives for failing to treat Cannan seriously as a suspect. The Operation Phoebus report, revealed by The Sun two years ago, said one investigator was prejudiced by his belief that Suzy’s late mother, Diana Lamplugh, was behind media stories linking the murderer with her daughter’s disappearance.

It claims he then failed to properly interview Cannan, put him in ID line-ups or check his alibi for the day Suzy vanished.

The Phoebus review led to a full investigation being mounted under Mr Dickie. He believed Cannan was guilty but the Crown Prosecution Service said there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

Mr Dickie says: “I have absolutely no doubt he was responsible.

“He is a serial violent sex offender who will remain a danger to women for the rest of his life.”

But Cannan is eligible for parole in two years’ time, when he will have served the 35-year minimum tariff imposed on him.

Mr Dickie says: “He has never expressed any remorse. If Suzy’s body was found it might provide that last bit of evidence needed to keep him behind bars forever.”

The Met Police declined to comment specifically on the canal sighting but said in a statement: “This case has been the subject of a number of high-profile media appeals, resulting in hundreds of pieces of information which have been carefully followed up.

“We will continue to ensure that no stone is unturned.”


A WEALTH of clues link killer Cannan to the murder of Suzy.

Detectives who re-investigated her abduction in the early 2000s concluded that Cannan may have had a brief relationship with Suzy and murdered her after being rejected.

Evidence uncovered included a witness who said they saw Cannan staring into the estate agents where Suzy was working the day before her disappearance.

An eyewitness also saw a couple matching Cannan and Suzy’s descriptions lying in a park with a bottle of bubbly beside them on the day she vanished.

Cannan had a reputation for showering women with flowers and champagne.

A cabbie also identified Cannan as a man who asked for a lift that lunchtime, while clutching champagne and estate agent property papers.

Suzy was meeting a client called Mr Kipper on the day she disappeared. Cannan was nicknamed Kipper by residents at his bail hostel because of his liking for the fish and habit of sleeping frequently.

And intriguingly, when Cannan’s victim Shirley Banks’ orange Mini was found in a garage at his Bristol home, Cannan had fitted it with the false number plate SLP 386.

Police believe it was a reference to Suzy’s name and the year when she was murdered.

Chilling video shows Suzy Lamplugh suspect John Cannan revealingl his 'type' in creepy dating video before murdering newlywed

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