In June 1986 I went to London for a weekend with friends. A feature of the weekend was a disco on a boat on the Thames. And, as ever, I was not impressed with London. The banks of the Thames as we chugged along often looked like a derelict nightmare to me. I recall seeing a high rise office block, with just one light on high in the building. Who forgot to switch their light off? I wondered. I had always found the capital to be a seedy hole, and though it was interesting to see protesters campaigning for the release of Nelson Mandela with their WE'RE HERE TO STOP! banners, speakers at Hyde Park Corner, and Petty Coat Lane Market, I found myself glad to get away again on this occasion.
'I always enjoy a visit to London,' one of my friends commented as we roared out of the grimy city into what seemed to me like the real world again. 'It always reminds me of the depths mankind can sink to!'
A former employer described her as caring, good with her colleagues, and as someone who always thought the best of others.
She enjoyed swimming, wind surfing, skiing, parties, restaurants, night clubs and wine bars. Suzy was dyslexic, but with the help of her father and private tutors worked hard to keep up with her peer group at school.
A matchbook cover from the Crocodile Tears Wine Bar - one of many wine bars which catered to the booming yuppie/aspiring yuppie trade in London in the 1980s - and anybody else with a bit of brass.
Crocodile Tears wine bar clipping from a 1983 review of Fulham Road eateries and boozeries from Felix, the newspaper of the Imperial College Students' Union. Chicken Kiev! I don't think I even knew what a Chicken Kiev was in 1983!
On the bright summer morning of 28 July, 1986, Suzy joined her colleagues at the Sturgis Estate Agents branch in Fulham Road in seemingly very good spirits. She was concerned that her cheque book, pocket diary and a postcard had been lost, and cancelled the cheques by phoning her bank. The police then contacted her to tell her that the items had been found at a local pub she had visited recently, and she phoned the establishment, arranging to pick them up at 6pm. After an absolutely normal morning, including a 'ciggie' with some of her colleagues in the back of the premises (oh, those days of smoking indoors!), Suzy left to go to nearby Shorrolds Road to show a prospective buyer, apparently called Mr Kipper, the Sturgis property for sale at No 37 at around 12.40.
And then she vanished.
Suzy's work diary - showing the fateful appointment: 12.45 Mr Kipper 37, Shorrolds O/S - 'O/S' stood for 'outside' - meaning that Suzy was to meet her client outside the property - and the word 'Shorrolds' was enough without 'Road' to identify the property.
The car was parked slightly askew from the pavement and overlapping a garage door by about eighteen inches. It seemed to have been parked in a hurry.
Suzy's Sturgis company car in situ at Stevenage Road.
But what of Shorrolds Road?
Witnesses said that a woman answering Suzy's description and a very smart man with 'swept back dark hair' had been seen outside the property in Shorrolds Road around the time of the 'Mr Kipper' appointment. The witnesses were puzzled however as the woman's hair appeared lighter in colour than Suzy's. This was explained by the fact that Suzy had had blonde streaks applied (a popular fashion at the time) shortly before the 28th July. The fact that the witnesses mentioned the lighter hair shade added weight to the notion that they had actually seen Suzy.
There were also witnesses to other odd things in Shorrolds Road - including a double parked white Ford Fiesta, and another white Ford Fiesta parked nearby with, perhaps, somebody inside it, an old dark blue BMW, and one witness reported a dark saloon car not long after 1pm, with two men inside, sitting motionless, unspeaking, staring directly ahead...
It seemed that Suzy might have been seen in Bishops Park with a man - lying on the grass with a bottle of champagne - and one witness stated that the man seen at Shorrolds Road was carrying a bottle of champagne too. It was thought to have had a red, white and blue ribbon around the neck - which had been part of a promotion by the Peter Dominic chain to commemorate the recent wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Other wine sellers may have had similar promotions.
A former client from Suzy's days as a beautician said that Suzy had spoken to her a couple of years previously about a man from the West Country, possibly Bristol, who had a luxury flat and cooked her wonderful meals. It seems that Suzy began to suspect he was married, and her talk of the man ceased.
Other mediums also offered help, to no avail, and the police worked themselves into the ground over the case. The discovery of an abandoned BMW, which turned out to be owned by a Mr Kiper in Belgium, seemed like a major breakthrough. But it came to nothing.
Headlines, headlines and more headlines were the order of the day in the nation's newspapers as the mystery of Suzy's disappearance deepened, and Diana, Suzy's mother, made many television appearances. Years later, Suzy Lamplugh's sister Lizzie described the impact of the news of Suzy's disappearance on the general public:
'I think Suzy’s disappearance had an impact for a host of reasons. It was a golden time, it was the mid-80s, everyone was living the life. Then one of those people disappears. Suzy was 25, beautiful and with everything to live for and then suddenly she’s gone.'
Lizzie also said of her sister: 'She was a full-on '80s girl, always wearing the latest fashions, with beautifully done hair and full make-up. She had such a big heart, too. She was my idol.'
Mr and Mrs Lamplugh decided that a book about their daughter's disappearance should be written, and that it should be written by an outsider, although they accepted that they might find the result difficult in some respects.
When Andrew Stephen, a respected journalist - and winner of the Feature Writer of the Year Award in 1984 - sent Paul and Diana Lamplugh the first six draft chapters of the manuscript for the book, the initial reaction from Mr Lamplugh was of approval. Then, a few days later, problems began. It's perhaps not surprising. Mrs Lamplugh had poured her heart and soul into setting up the Suzy Lamplugh Trust - an organisation to help young women (and very soon men) stay safe at work. Some of Suzy's apparent doings, discovered during the police investigation and recorded in the book, had been unknown to her parents, and Mr and Mrs Lamplugh had been shocked and distressed by them - and, in fact, discounted them.
The Suzy Lamplugh Story was published in 1988.
The book reports that Suzy had confided in somebody close to her about a rich man who was married or about to get married less than a month before she disappeared.
Significantly, fellow prisoners at the hostel recalled Cannan being nicknamed 'Kipper' on account of the fact he always asked for kippers for breakfast - and his ability to fall asleep easily.
Still from a Bristol dating agency video - John Cannan in 1987.
John Cannan was arrested in Bristol in 1987. In 1988, he was charged with the murder of Shirley Banks, a number of sexual offences against two other women, and an attempt to abduct a woman the night before the murder of Shirley Banks.
It took me back to the summer of 1986. And it seemed like a different planet. It also struck me just how different people can be individually. I'm always glad to leave London when I visit. To me, there is no magic or 'vibe' there. However, when a boyfriend of Suzy's suggested she move elsewhere with him, she resolutely refused. To some people London is where it's all happening, but to others...
The book also deeply saddened me - the story of Suzy's final morning at work and immediate disappearance reminding me of how often happy, everyday routine can collide with terrible, unexpected tragedy in life.
Rather as it had with me when my dear old mate committed suicide that very summer.
According to reports, John Cannan has occasionally admitted to killing Suzy - although not to the police. Some believe that Cannan is playing games, enjoying his 'power' in refusing to reveal what happened to Suzy, totally without remorse, typically psychopathic.
But as somebody who had been very close to Suzy recently said, they'd rather not know what happened to her. Indeed. What would be the point?
It wouldn't bring Suzy back. It would surely be a painful experience for all those who were close to her.
And the man responsible will never be free to harm again.
For years, her family have hoped for some closure, the discovery of Suzy's body and a chance to lay it to rest. But if the mystery is really perpetrated by a game-playing psychopath, then there is no point in letting him inflict continuing hurt. Suzy's memory is treasured by her family and nothing can change that.
'Life is for living!' Suzy once told her mother, who was concerned that she was doing too much.
And with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust we can rest assured that, since 1986, many lone workers have been living life safer.
But the cost, a vibrant young life, was extremely high.