On the last Monday of July 1986, in broad daylight and in the middle of a working day, the unthinkable happened. Suzy Lamplugh, a 25-year-old, disappeared during the course of her work as an estate agent while showing a client round a house in Fulham.

Speaking at the time, the late Diana Lamplugh vividly recalled the phone call she received from Suzy’s manager. He said:

'‘Do you have any idea where your daughter might be, Mrs Lamplugh? We wondered whether she could have called into home for lunch. I don’t want to worry you, Mrs Lamplugh …. but Susannah left to show a house to a client just before lunch and she has not returned. We just wanted to check anywhere we could.’"

Diana recalled that it was so unlike Suzy, who usually stuck to the rules and regulations – something must have gone wrong.

At 12.40pm on 28th July, Suzy had left her office – Sturgis and Sons, 654 Fulham Road – taking her house and car keys and a purse with £15 and credit cards, but leaving her handbag behind. 10 minutes later she was seen waiting outside an empty property, 37 Shorrald’s Road, which had only been on the market for one week. At 1.00pm, she was joined by a man (presumably the “Mr Kipper” she had written in her diary) and minutes later they were seen walking away from the house. At 6.45pm, her manager reported Suzy’s disappearance to the police.

Diana’s reaction was similar to many people facing a crisis. “My initial reaction of frozen shock gave way to a flood of adrenalin which shot me into overdrive. We must find her; physically all that energy must be directed into action. My husband and I went down to the river where her car had been abandoned. We called, we shouted, we encouraged our dogs to search for her. We must have been disturbing the neighbourhood but, more than that, as the police who were there made clear, we were getting in the way.”

Suzy’s company car was discovered by the police about a mile from her office in Stevenage Road, Fulham just after 10.00pm. There were no signs of a struggle – no fingerprints unaccounted for. The driver’s door was unlocked, the handbrake off and her purse was in the glove compartment, but her keys were missing.

The following day, 29th July, there was an article in the London Evening Standard headed “Kidnap fears for estate agent’s girl”. Scotland Yard reported there was grave concern for her safety.

Wednesday 30th July was Diana’s 50th birthday and the Lamplughs’ home in south-west London was besieged by journalists. Diana welcomed the media as a way of finding Suzy.

On the Thursday, Diana and her husband, Paul, appeared twice on television – on BBC’s Breakfast Time and TV-AM’s Good Morning Britain. Diana articulated her fears: “I feel she is shut up somewhere, that she is being held against her will. I feel that because she hasn’t contacted us. She is a very strong, very fit lady …. So she should be able to cope with most situations.”

As the media interest was building up, sacks of letters were being delivered to the Lamplugh home. Some were from friends who were praying for them. “It seems so particularly unjust a thing to happen to a family which has always shown care and love for others, especially in their distress.” Others were from strangers who had met Suzy. “Suzy bought my green Renault off me and she struck my husband and I as a smashing girl.”

A few days after Suzy went missing, Diana showed a journalist the piles of letters. “I think we’ve heard from the entire Townswomen’s Guild …. It’s something everyone can relate to, and a lot of them said they felt almost as if it had happened to them.”

On 4th August, a week after Suzy disappeared, Diana confided on BBC TV’s London Plus that she was beginning to realise that her daughter might be dead. “I can face up to the fact that she has died. But I cannot face up to what has happened between. That’s too much.” Paul has explained since that Suzy suffered from fear of being in a closed space – she had once panicked in a cable car – they knew she would have been terrified to be shut in somewhere. They found it easier to believe she was dead than that she was still suffering.

Despite a police reconstruction and extensive media coverage during the press’ 'silly season', no information was forthcoming on Suzy’s fate. As Diana wrote five years later, “there has not been a single trace of her. Nothing. Just as though she has been erased by a rubber”.

Suzy’s body has never been found, but she has been presumed murdered and was legally declared dead in 1993.


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