Police to look for Suzy Lamplugh on SAS site

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND YARD confirmed yesterday that it was investigating new evidence that suggests the body of Suzy Lamplugh, the estate agent who disappeared 13 years ago, may be buried on the site of a former army barracks.

Detectives from Scotland Yard are evaluating information that claims Ms Lamplugh is buried on former Ministry of Defence land at Norton, Hereford and Worcestershire - a site The Independent has learnt was secretly used for training by the SAS.

The information was passed to the police a month ago by Ms Lamplugh's mother, Diana. While police sources were being cautious yesterday, suggesting that the information was neither "new or significant", Mrs Lamplugh said it was the best lead since her daughter disappeared in 1986.

"It is the most interesting piece of information in regard to finding her body that we have had in 13 years," she said. "The information is precise. It corroborates certain things that we had previously been told. I don't want to say who the person is or the exact whereabouts of the location but I think this is the closest we have been to finding my daughter."

Ms Lamplugh disappeared in July 1986, after she left her office in Fulham, west London. An entry later discovered in her diary showed that the estate agent had been due to show a property to a "Mr Kipper".

The 25-year-old was later seen getting into a black BMW car driven by a man she had met at the pounds 130,000 Victorian property. Neighbours were able to draw up a photofit likeness of a man seen at the house with her. She has not been seen since.

Mrs Lamplugh remains convinced her daughter was killed by John Cannan, who was convicted in 1989 of the murder of Shirley Banks, 29, a sales manager from Bristol. Her battered body was found in the Quantock Hills in Somerset. She had been held captive, repeatedly raped and bludgeoned to death.

During the investigation into Ms Banks' murder, a number of links emerged between Cannan and Ms Lamplugh.

Cannan was known to former fellow prisoners as Kipper; he bore a strong resemblance to the photofit suspect; and he had been released from prison, after serving six years for rape, just three days before Ms Lamplugh vanished. A former girlfriend, Gilly Paige, also claimed Cannan had once driven her to the barracks.

Ms Paige denied yesterday that Cannan had ever confessed to Ms Lamplugh's murder. "I am not prepared to discuss the circumstances surrounding it," she said. "I told the police all I knew at the time. I do not want to drag up stuff from years ago." Although it is understood Cannan has been questioned about Ms Lamplugh several times, he has insisted he was not responsible. His solicitor, James Moriarty, who has repeatedly denied his client's involvement, was unavailable for comment yesterday .

A new officer, Detective Superindent Sean Sawyer, hasbeen appointed to oversee the Lamplugh case. A spokesman for Scotland Yard said Detective Chief Superintendent Brian Edwards had retired and MrSawyer was now in charge of the case. The spokesman said Det Supt Sawyer, who has not yet met Mrs Lamplugh to discuss the case, had not been appointed as a result of the new information.

"We are always receptive to new information and any fresh information will be evaluated," he said. "From time to time information is passed to the inquiry team and it is considered and followed up appropriately."

A spokesman for West Mercia Police said the force had not been contacted by Scotland Yard about plans to search the former army barracks.

Mrs Lamplugh said that while she was hopeful the new information would lead to the discovery of her daughter's body, she was trying not to raise her expectations. "We would all like to find her but we are aware that we have had lots of other leads in the past," she said.

ISOLATED ARMY BARRACKS WHERE THE SPECIAL FORCES TRAINED

THE FORMER army barracks where it is believed Suzy Lamplugh may be buried was "extensively" used by the SAS for special operations training, a former member of the regiment said last night.

The former soldier said the base was taken over for secret training exercises after it was vacated by the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment in 1979. He said: "On one occasion in the early 1980s it was used for a joint exercise involving the SAS and the US Delta force."

He said the use of the site by the special forces was a closely guarded secret and police cordoned off access to it when the exercises were taking place. The West Mercia police firearms team also used the site, he added.

The former SAS member said the barracks had a number of cellars and passageways. He said the whole site was "very isolated", adding that it was used for special exercises at least until 1985, the year before Ms Lamplugh disappeared.

Yesterday families living on the housing estates which have been built on the Norton site over the past five or six years were shocked at the revelations. Steve Wood, 28, a builder, said: "I moved here with my family about four years ago after these houses were completed. We heard the news about Suzy Lamplugh on the radio this morning and it is a complete shock. She could be under my garden or the next-door neighbour's garden."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said most of the site had been sold off in 1979. He said the MoD still owned a now-derelict firing range and assault course and the former regimental headquarters.

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