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The prime suspect in the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh should never have been named by police because there is “not a shred of evidence” linking him to the crime, the author of a new book into the mystery has concluded.
John Cannan, 67, a serial rapist and convicted murderer, was identified by detectives in 2002 as the likely killer of the 25-year-old estate agent who went missing in Fulham in 1986.
Three days before her disappearance, Cannan had been released from a hostel at Wormwood Scrubs Prison, where he had been serving a six-year sentence for rape.
He was also said to bear a striking resemblance to an e-fit of a suspect spotted close to a property Miss Lamplugh had apparently been showing to a mysterious client called Mr Kipper.
But a new book ‘Finding Suzy’, written by a former Scotland Yard detective - who spent five years researching the case - claims there is no actual firm evidence linking Cannan to the disappearance.
David Videcette, who interviewed dozens of original witnesses, believes Scotland Yard’s focus on Cannan for the last two decades has resulted in many missed opportunities to find the real killer and even recover Miss Lamplugh’s body.
In the book, which will be published next month, Mr Videcette scotches the idea that Miss Lamplugh ever met ‘Mr Kipper' and he instead reaches an entirely different conclusion about her final hours.
Cannan was first linked to the Lamplugh disappearance in 1987 after he was convicted of the abduction and murder of Shirley Banks in Bristol.
But police discounted his involvement after he presented a series of alibis for his whereabouts at the time of Miss Lamplugh’s disappearance.
A cold case review in 2002 however led to police naming Cannan.
After he was named, a former prisoner came forward claiming Cannan had been known as Kipper by other inmates because of his fondness for fish.
But the book discounts the veracity of this suggestion as the witness only came forward after Cannan was named by police in 2002.
Another witness in the case was Harry Riglin, who told police he had seen a well dressed man and a woman near the house in Shorrolds Road where Miss Lamplugh - according to her diary - had arranged to meet the mystery Mr Kipper on July 28 1986.
The artist's impression of the man was said to bear a likeness to Cannan.
But relatives of the late Mr Riglin, told Mr Videcette that while he had got a good view of the man, he had never been sure that the woman was Miss Lamplugh as he did not see her face properly.
Detectives have twice carried out digs at locations linked to Cannan - including his mother’s former home - but have found no evidence linking him with the case.
Mr Videcette also claims that Cannan’s alibis that were originally accepted by police, were only cast into doubt after the witnesses had passed away, making it impossible for them to be verified.
The book concludes that rather than being murdered by Mr Kipper, Miss Lamplugh invented the client in order to run a personal errand and collect her diary and cheque book that she had left in a Fulham pub the night before.
Mr Videcette believes it was while on that trip to the pub that lunchtime that she met her fate and he is urging Scotland Yard to focus their attention on that line of inquiry.
He said: “Like most people, I originally believed that Cannan must have been responsible for Suzy Lamplugh's disappearance and murder, because that is the narrative that has been perpetuated by the police and in the media over the past few decades.
“Yet, despite interviewing more than a hundred people, including colleagues, friends and police from both the first and second investigations - I failed to find a single shred of evidence that John Cannan even knew Suzy, let alone murdered her.
“Cannan provided alibi witnesses to the police, which were accepted during the 1980s and through to the mid-nineties. But then in 2000, after these witnesses had passed away, the police decided that these witnesses were no longer suitable and began questioning the evidence that those alibi witnesses would have provided.
“I went right back to the beginning and investigated the case from the bottom up. Because my five-year investigation reaches a completely different conclusion as to what happened to Suzy and where she went on the afternoon she disappeared, along with uncovering a wealth of supporting evidence to this effect, I can say that I do not believe John Cannan was involved in her disappearance.
“My investigation as detailed in my book, 'Finding Suzy', shows what did happen to Suzy on the day of her disappearance and not what didn't happen. This might seem like an obvious point, but so much of this case has previously been built on assumption and myth, that the truth has been ignored.”
Cannan’s lawyer, Dean Kingham said: “Whenever Suzy’s name is mentioned John Cannan’s name quickly follows and in the eyes of many police suspicion is enough to say he was responsible.
“The actual evidence linking Mr Cannan to the disappearance is overwhelmingly limited and it’s great to have someone properly and thoroughly investigate the disappearance.
“Sadly it’s not unusual for police to identify one suspect and solely focus on them, however it’s entirely depressing when they fail to follow the evidence, which in this case points away from Mr Cannan.”