Anyone who knows me, wouldn’t immediately associate me with an interest in true crime publications and for the most part they’d be right. I normally steer, largely because many seem to take a voyeuristic approach to a crime, or almost glorify the perpetrator – just think about the cult that has grown around Ted Bundy. I pretty much take the same approach with my crime fiction and it’s normally a police procedural format that floats my boat. I’m interested in the search for the truth and in working out how the how the jig-saw pieces come together to hopefully reveal a culprit. Perhaps that’s why the Suzy Lamplugh case has been one that I’ve always been interested in over the years, because it’s essentially an unsolved mystery. The bald facts of the case were that Suzy, a 25 year old estate agent, left her office for a 12.45 appointment with a Mr Kipper and was never seen again.
I was only a few years older than Suzy in 1986 when she disappeared so I remember the case well. Though to be fair, it was a case that nobody could have failed to be aware of at the time. It was all over the TV news and in all the papers, because people didn’t just simply disappear. With hindsight, and a more cynical eye, I can also see that the case was a news editors dream, as coupled with the mystery, Suzy was also young and pretty. With her parents also keeping the case ‘high profile’ it was a case that was impossible to ignore. To this day, it remains one of the biggest missing persons cases ever conducted in the country.
For women in particular, it was a reminder, as if it was needed, to be careful as this could feasibly happen to anyone. Four months after her disappearance her parents set up The Suzy Lamplugh Trust with the aim of ensuring personal safety was made a public policy priority and offering advice on mitigating personal safety risks. It was an attempt to turn their tragedy into a force for good, and also kept Suzy’s memory alive.
For the general public, Suzy’s disappearance had been made more shocking because of the ordinariness of the details. She was a young woman, just going about her normal business, yet she disappeared in broad daylight without any hint of culpability. Sadly, just as today, victim shaming was not unknown i.e. the suggestion that a victim might have brought it on themselves. In 1977 when Peter Sutcliffe murdered a 16 year old schoolgirl (his previous victims had been sex workers) the police reportedly claimed he has “killed an innocent victim now”. It was to be over 20 years before a formal apology was made over the ‘language, tone and terminology’ used in the case. It was acknowledged, that while it was wrong, it had reflected wider societal attitudes of the day. Nick Ross, the TV presenter who had covered Suzy’s disappearance echoed something similar when he observed,
“It’s the cliches of crime which fascinate. Suzy Lamplugh was attractive, female, young and middle class. It would have been very different if she hadn’t been good-looking or had come from a tenement somewhere, from a disrupted, dysfunctional background. It’s Midsomer Murders. People tend to be more interested in the murders of people from privileged backgrounds than underprivileged ones.”The Guardian, 9 March, 2021
He was probably right, except for one thing, as Suzy’s body has never been recovered, nobody can know for sure she was actually murdered, although that’s always been the general assumption. Whatever the cause of death, Suzy was officially declared dead, at her parents request, seven years after her disappearance, on 27 July 1993.
With this as background, I’ve followed the progress (or lack of) over the years into the investigations into Suzy’s disappearance and more recently the press coverage of fruitless searches for her remains. I was intrigued when I learnt that David Videcette was re-investigating the case. Many of us will know David as the author of the popular DI Jake Flannagan series, but might not be aware of his having previously worked as a Scotland Yard detective.
When David took part in my Five on Friday series back in December 2017 he revealed he wanted “to solve some of the infamous unsolved murders from the past and write a factual book about them”. I wasn’t aware at the time what he was actually working on Suzy’s case. When he recently contacted me to see whether I’d be interested in reading his latest book I was more than interested. There was no obligation attached to the offer and in fact it wasn’t until I’d finished reading the book that the nature of this feature/review began to take shape. This is a book that I want people to read because it left me shocked and angry. After 35 years, it’s time for inadequacies to be acknowledged and for the truth to be heard.
Finding Suzy by David Videcette
About the book
How can someone just disappear?
Step inside a real-life, missing person investigation in this compelling, true crime must-read.
Uncover what happened to missing estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, as David Videcette takes you on a quest to unpick her mysterious disappearance and scrutinise the shadowy ‘Mr Kipper’.
One overcast Monday in July 1986, 25-year-old estate agent Suzy Lamplugh vanished whilst showing a smart London property to a mysterious ‘Mr Kipper’.
Despite the baffling case dominating the news and one of the largest missing persons cases ever mounted, police failed to find a shred of evidence establishing what had happened to her.
Sixteen years later, following a second investigation and under pressure from Suzy’s desperate parents, police named convicted rapist and murderer John Cannan as their prime suspect. However, the Crown Prosecution Service refused to charge him, citing a lack of evidence.
Despite several high-profile searches, Suzy’s body was never found. The trail that might lead investigators to her, long since lost.
Haunted by another missing person case, investigator and former Scotland Yard detective, David Videcette, has spent five years painstakingly reinvestigating Suzy’s cold case disappearance.
Through a series of incredible new witness interviews and fresh groundbreaking analysis, he uncovers piece by piece what happened to Suzy and why the case was never solved.
People don’t just disappear…
While I’ve shied away from reviewing I must admit it was much easier to formulate my thoughts about something factual, and this book made a real impact on me by confounding the received wisdom relating to the case. Clearly, as with any fiction book, I’m not about to reveal spoilers, but I was astounded and almost unable to believe what was revealed about the original and subsequent investigations. I should at this point make clear, that my comments relate to my interpretation/understanding of what I read and I am not imputing those claims to David Videcette.
Despite being the largest missing persons case undertaken at the time, the investigation seemed hampered from the start by a lack of, what even to my amateur understanding, appeared to be basic procedure and questioning. There seemed to be an acceptance of face value facts and no querying as to the ‘why?’ of things. What then followed, appeared to be a policy of making any subsequent information fit that accepted narrative, to the exclusion of anything else.
At the same time, Suzy’s obviously distraught mother and father, Diana and Paul, were actively undertaking their own investigations and seemed to have an unhealthy influence on the direction of the original and future investigations.
Renewed investigations in 1998 and 2000 merely reviewed the information that was already available. Nobody re-interviewed witnesses or checked the validity of existing statements. Consequently they were all destined to reach the same dead end regarding Suzy’s whereabouts, and worse still falsely attribute her disappearance to a handy scapegoat.
In his re-investigation David Videcette has gone back to basics, albeit hampered by the distance of 30 years and the deaths of many witnesses. He spent five years tracking down and interviewing more than a hundred people; from original witnesses to Suzy’s friends, colleagues and police officers who worked on the case. What he uncovered was shocking, especially given the man hours already spent by the various teams that have looked at the case in an official capacity. What he reveals is a flawed investigation with nobody prepared to acknowledge that. From the beginning it seemed that people had told the police what they wanted them to believe, or what they believed the police wanted to hear. The investigating team never seemed to challenge what they were being told or why – it makes for grim reading.
What I hadn’t expected to discover was a whole new thread that sheds light onto what David believes happens that fateful day in 1986. It makes for compelling reading with explosive disclosures.
What I find as shocking as the revelations regarding the various investigations, is that the police have been given all this information prior to publication and seem disinclined to act on it. It seems reputations are worth more than the truth. If David Videcette is correct in his assertions, then the answer to what happened to Suzy could be revealed once and for all. If he’s wrong then the only reputation tarnished is his own.
For the sake of laying Suzy to rest, and for her remaining family who deserve to know the truth after all this time, hopefully this publication will finally force somebody’s hand, because as David states “people don’t just disappear…”
Finding Suzy is published on 5th August and is available to pre-order.
About the Author
As an investigator, David has worked on a wealth of famous cases. He’s chased numerous dangerous criminals and interviewed thousands of witnesses.
With decades of policing experience, including expertise in the fields of counter-terror and organised crime, David was a lead detective on the 7/7 London bombings investigation with Scotland Yard.
Today he uses his expertise in his writing, as the author of both true crime investigations and the DI Jake Flannagan thrillers.
Discover more about David Videcette via his website