John Cannan is Dying
The headline is the only fact you can take from recent media reports about John Cannan. Their relentless connection of Cannan to the missing estate agent Suzy Lamplugh is a red herring.
Many months or years ago, I created a Google Alert for the term “John Cannan”. I get perhaps two hits a month and it is never really news. Today was different. I received 6 separate alerts for basically the same story: John Cannan is dying faster than I am, and might die at any moment. Why is that news?
John Cannan is in prison for the murder of Shirley Banks, although you will have to read a long way into the recent press coverage to discover that. The Sun quotes former detective Jim Dickie at length, and rehashes old fragments which some people use to connect Cannan to the missing estate agent Suzy Lamplugh. I really like Jim Dickie. He is a kind and honest person who has been haunted and no doubt traumatized by one of the most famous and stubborn missing person cases of the last half century. But Dickie is mistaken.
The naive willingness of the press to connect Cannan and Suzy Lamplugh makes me also question those who connect him to Sandra Court. I have not studied the Sandra Court murder in close detail, but many people are too willing to invent serial killers by joining unrelated cases. Serial killers are few and far between. Even though Sandra Court’s body was recovered, the police still cannot pin her murder on Cannan. That makes me wonder even more about Suzy, who is still missing.
If you study sources from a long time ago, you might find out that it was Suzy’s mother Diana who insisted the police investigate John Cannan. There are some shady connections between Cannan and the Lamplughs that probably none of them knew about at the time, but were uncovered by the excellent work by David Videcette. You can read his excellent summary of his own extensive research, including primary interviews, in Finding Suzy. Videcette carefully and comprehensively destroys the weak and circumstantial case against John Cannan.
Nobody knows what happened to Suzy except her killer. This is always the case in these long-running cold cases where there is no body. But we can rule suspects out, and after studying many of these cases, patterns emerge. One pattern is that nobody should ever listen to the police unquestioningly. They have access to more evidence than the public, perhaps, but not in cases from the 1980s. There is no relevant CCTV. There is no body, so no forensics, no DNA samples. The police’s theories and hunches remain just that. The card filing system was all written out by hand, and apparently nobody bothered to computerise it all. So the records that were transferred into a database later on were cherrypicked.
Pretty much the only thing I can confidently state about this case is that John Cannan had nothing to do with it. I’m not even sure I trust the witness who claims to have seen a man throwing a heavy suitcase into the canal. Was it John Cannan? Did Cannan really throw the case into the canal? What could have been inside?
The CPS does not buy the Cannan theory either which is why he has never been charged in connection to Suzy Lamplugh. People make mistakes from time to time but the CPS will always tend to charge a suspect if there is a remote prospect of a conviction.