Former girlfriends of the prime suspect in the murder of Suzy Lamplugh are still under police protection, more than three decades after he was jailed for other crimes, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Convicted rapist and killer John Cannan, who investigators named as the only suspect for the unsolved murder of the estate agent, will be eligible for parole next year.
He is currently serving three life terms for the 1987 murder of factory manager Shirley Banks in Bristol, the attempted kidnapping a night earlier of Julia Holman and the rape of a woman the previous year.
But terrified ex-partners who helped put Cannan away want him kept behind bars indefinitely amid fears he will hunt them down in revenge if he is released.
REVENGE FEARS: Previously unseen photograph of Suzy, right, with siblings Lizzie, left, Richard and Tamsin
Ms Lamplugh, 25, vanished in July 1986, just days after Cannan was released from a bail hostel next to Wormwood Scrubs prison – four miles from where she was last seen in Fulham, West London.
He had spent five years behind bars after raping a shop worker at knifepoint and threatening to stab her two-year-old son.
One of his former girlfriends – herself a victim of a sex attack by Cannan – revealed he had called her up out of the blue around the time that Suzy vanished.
‘I was shocked to the core,’ she said. ‘In the five years while he had been in prison I had changed my name, got married, found a new job and moved to a different part of the country.
‘He asked to see me. He said, “I’ve changed while I was in prison. I’m a new man. I’ve been out three months and I’m going straight”. I refused to see him.
‘I immediately called the police and they told me, “He’s not been out three months, he’s been out three days”. I’ve no idea how he found me, and so quickly.’
Pictured: Convicted rapist and killer John Cannan, who investigators named as the only suspect for the unsolved murder of the estate agent, will be eligible for parole next year. He may be free soon
The woman said police had installed a panic alarm in her home, adding: ‘I’m really scared to think he is so close to being released again. He is still capable of inflicting terrible damage. The thought of what he might do keeps me awake at night.’
Fears over Cannan’s release come as a TV documentary tonight revisits the case of Ms Lamplugh. Her body has never been found, but she was declared dead in 1993.
Detectives believe Cannan, now 67, killed Ms Lamplugh but prosecutors say there is insufficient evidence to charge him, Officers who reinvestigated the case in the early 2000s concluded Cannan may have tried to woo her, then murdered her when she rejected his advances.
Ms Lamplugh, 25, (pictured) vanished in July 1986, just days after Cannan was released from a bail hostel next to Wormwood Scrubs prison – four miles from where she was last seen in Fulham, West London
Ms Lamplugh was meeting a client called Mr Kipper on the day she disappeared. Police discovered that Cannan was nicknamed ‘Kipper’ by residents at his bail hostel because of his fondness for wearing 1960s-style kipper ties and habit of sleeping frequently during the day.
Retired Met detective Jim Dickie, who led the second police probe into Suzy’s case, said: ‘Any woman who rejects him, he responds in a really violent and threatening way so there is a real issue about seeking revenge on his ex-girlfriends, partners and even his victims.’
- The Suzy Lamplugh Mystery premieres tonight at 9pm on Sky Crime and Now TV.
Did killer dump Suzy in canal?
Police are being urged to search a canal where Suzy Lamplugh’s body may have been dumped.
Following her disappearance in 1986, a witness told police that he had seen a man matching John Cannan’s description throw a suitcase into the Grand Union Canal in West London. But his information was never acted on, and Ms Lamplugh’s body has never been found.
The man even travelled to Cannan’s trial for the murder of Shirley Banks at Exeter Crown Court in 1989 to satisfy himself that he was the man he saw on the towpath as he walked to work early one morning. The witness has since died, but his wife made contact with investigators two years ago.
Former detective superintendent Jim Dickie told The Mail on Sunday: ‘This is a big question mark hanging over this case and it has not been ruled out. I think the Lamplugh family deserves closure if there is a body there. Equally, it might help keep Cannan in prison if they recover a body because there may be vital forensic evidence that could lead to criminal charges.’
The Metropolitan Police says the canal is regularly dredged and the area was searched by divers during a separate investigation in 2014. However, Mr Dickie said the exact spot pinpointed by the witness has not been scoured.
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