The hunt for the killer of Suzy Lamplugh has been re-opened after a new witness came forward claiming to have seen the estate agent alive shortly after her abduction 14 years ago, police said yesterday.
Detectives also disclosed for the first time that Ms Lamplugh may have been seized by more than one person.
Scotland Yard announced yesterday that they planned to question a small "core" of new suspects, as well as re-interview existing ones following the fresh information.
The new witness is believed to have reported seeing Ms Lamplugh, 25, being driven in her Ford Fiesta car in Fulham, West London, at lunchtime on 28 July 1986 shortly after she had been taken from a house that she had been due to show a prospective buyer, who called himself "Mr Kipper".
The unlocked white car was discovered abandoned about a mile away in Stevenage Road, Fulham with the handbrake off. It contained Ms Lamplugh's purse. The car and items recovered from it are undergoing analysis using newly developed forensic techniques that can recover DNA from tiny samples, such as single cells.
Details about the new evidence and witness, who approached the police following fresh publicity about the case in December, have been kept secret. Detectives hope more witnesses will come forward.
Detective Superintendent Shaun Sawyer said that the route Ms Lamplugh took after leaving the house in Shorrolds Road may provide vital clues to her eventual fate and the identity of the killer. Other witnesses may also have seen her being driven through the West London suburb.
It had previously been assumed that her Ford Fiesta had been driven directly to Stevenage Road and abandoned 80 minutes later. But the new witness evidence suggests the vehicle, registration B396 GAN, may gone by a different route, possibly dropping off the estate agent at an address in West London on the way.
Det Supt Sawyer said: "The witness said that at the time they saw Suzy she was alive. I'm looking for sightings after that - I'm interested in any sightings with a male."
He added: "The witness at the time was very focused geographically in terms of the route that Suzy may have taken. I believe this information is highly relevant and I also believe there are others out there who have information which will help us."
Asked whether there may have been more than one person involved in the abduction, the detective replied: "Certainly we have to consider that there may be more than one person involved."
He told a news conference that a review of the original investigation pointed to a "very tight core" of suspects, including people who had not been previously considered.
Among the people to be re-interviewed are the prime suspect, John Cannan.
Cannan was sentenced to life in April 1989 for the murder, rape and abduction on 8 October 1987 of Shirley Banks, a newly married sales manager. She had been held captive, repeatedly raped and finally bludgeoned to death.
Cannan has been linked to the abduction of Ms Lamplugh because he was released from Wormwood Scrubs Prison, close to Fulham, after serving six years for a sadistic rape, just three days before the estate agent vanished.
His nickname while in prison was "Kipper" and he bore a striking resemblance to a photofit of the man seen accompanying Ms Lamplugh in Shorrolds Road. A girlfriend of Cannan's later said he had taken a strong interest in the Lamplugh disappearance.
Ms Lamplugh's parents, Diana and Paul, yesterday appealed for help in catching the killer. Mrs Lamplugh said: "I'm a mother and I've lost part of my body. Part of my body has died, been murdered and that makes you immensely angry as well as deeply sad." Her husband said: "Someone out there obviously knows what happened. Please come forward."
Mrs Lamplugh added: "For the love of our daughter Suzy and for the sake of our much-loved children and Suzy's friends, we still long for a conclusion to this awful happening in our lives."
The police said that contrary to recent reports they had no plans to search a 90-acre site in Worcestershire for the body. The former regimental barracks at Norton was first suggested as a site for Ms Lamplugh's grave more than nine years ago after information from Cannan's ex-girlfriend.
Police at that time decided there was not enough evidence for a lengthy investigation. But in December Mrs Lamplugh received fresh information about the possible burial site at the former barracks. She said yesterday the police had concluded that it was not "useful".
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