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"We want to know what happened to Suzy Lamplugh and Madeleine McCann because, as humans, we're hard-wired to expect answers."

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"We want to know what happened to Suzy Lamplugh and Madeleine McCann because, as humans, we're hard-wired to expect answers."

Post by Jill Havern on 29.12.18 12:46

Putting the 'who' in whodunnit: Fiction filling gaps of true crime

We want to know what happened to Suzy Lamplugh and Madeleine McCann because, as humans, we're hard-wired to expect answers. Increasingly, fiction is filling in the blanks left by true crime, writes Andy Martin

December 29 2018

Everyone who is old enough will remember her face, beaming out from a radiant photo. More than 32 years ago, on July 28, 1986, Suzy Lamplugh, an estate agent, walked out of her office to meet a client, a certain "Mr Kipper" (or possibly "Kuiper") and show him over a house in Fulham. She never returned. She was officially declared dead, presumed murdered, in 1994.

In the past few weeks, we have witnessed the police digging up a garden in Sutton Coldfield - which once belonged to the mother of the chief suspect in the case - in the search for a body. They dug in vain, but vow to continue the investigation. In other words, we still don't have much of a clue of what became of her. And we hate not knowing.

This applies not just to her close family, like her brother (her parents are now both dead), her colleagues and neighbours, her immediate community, but to every one of us who ever heard about what happened, but never found out how it ended. A mystery left unresolved. A whodunnit without a who.

Even now, so many years on, the imperative to achieve some kind of "closure" is left unsatisfied. So, too, of course, the desire for justice. We have to go on digging until, in the end, we unearth hard evidence.

In what is probably the most high-profile missing person case of this century, three-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared on the evening of May 3, 2007 from her bedroom in the holiday resort of Praia da Luz, Portugal. Her distraught parents, Gerry and Kate, begged for information regarding her whereabouts.

The local police, having first of all contaminated the crime scene, then covered themselves by blaming the parents. Recently, over 11 years later, the Home Office pledged a further £150,000 to the ongoing investigation, Operation Grange, which has already cost over £12m. There is still a reward of £2.5m on the table.

In the hunt for answers, we are forced to conjure up freewheeling hypotheses. At the exact time little Madeleine went missing, Marnie Riches was on holiday in the Maldives with her blonde daughter, the same age as Madeleine, when she read about the abduction in Praia de Luz.

Nearly a decade later, with no sign of a solution, she sent in her own fictional black female detective, George McKenzie, to solve a comparable crime in The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows and thus, in an allegorical way, obtain revenge for Madeleine.

But the strange fact is that even professional detectives are driven to turn into novelists to conjure up answers. In December 2000, a nine-year-old boy, Russ Doyle, was killed in a hit-and-run in Oxford. A reward was offered. There was the promise of immunity for the passengers in the car. There were several arrests, but after years of investigation and an inquest verdict of "unlawful killing", no one was ever charged or brought to justice. The car was identified, but it was a "pool car" (that is, a vehicle used by various people).

"It was like there were two communities," says Clare Mackintosh. "One desperate to find justice - and the other, the criminal fraternity, closing ranks."

Mackintosh was a fast-track graduate officer who had been posted to Oxford in the same year. It was not her case, but "the entire city was involved. Every police officer wanted to find out who was driving. You would be constantly talking to people about it, even if you were arresting them for something completely different. It was a case that refused to die." But the senior detective had to retire without ever wrapping it up.

That incident became a defining moment in Clare Mackintosh's career, imprinting a whole set of recurring questions in her mind: "How could the driver of that Vauxhall Astra live with what they'd done? How could the passenger keep quiet about it? How could the child's mother ever come to terms with such a terrible loss?"

When she lost one of her own children to meningitis, she took a career break and wrote a psychological thriller, I Let You Go, inspired by the case, featuring a young boy killed in a hit-and-run, but with a clear, if twisty, solution. Her first book deal came through a month before she was due to go back to work, her book became an international bestseller and she is now a full-time novelist. It was a natural career move.

The numbers of cold cases in the world is steadily growing. Detective Constable Lisa Cutts is a serving officer in the Kent Police, investigating homicide and rape. When she and her colleagues have tried everything that "Holmes" (the "Home Office Large Major Enquiry System") asks of them, they turn over unsolved crimes to the cold cases team, which has a separate office. "In most murders," says Cutts, "you can generally identify a suspect or suspects. If you have no CCTV or mobile phone data, then you're relying on forensics."

She still thinks that "door-to-door inquiries are the best thing". But she agrees that DNA has been a gamechanger. "It may be someone who's never been in trouble before and therefore isn't on the records, but then their familial DNA pops up in another inquiry and there's a close match." She says she gets a lot of job-satisfaction: "You walk away happier when the family gets an answer."

But being a detective can also be "extremely frustrating. There are limits to the time you can spend on a case. So, you end up letting people go who you know are guilty - and you never see them again." Which probably explains why she turned from fact to fiction.

Cutts has a string of police thrillers to her name whose very titles speak to her desire to achieve justice and knowledge: Lost Lives, Buried Secrets, Never Forget. She has an agreement with the Kent police that she won't use real cases. "It's hard," she says. "I have to go out of my way to make up new ways of murdering people that haven't been used already."

One of her books, Remember, Remember, is based on a train crash that happened 50 years ago. "There was a problem though," she says. "I thought, could we really still be investigating cases going back that far?" So she goes and has a word with the Cold Cases team and asks them if her idea is even plausible.

It turns out they have a "live" murder case going back even further, to 1949, "and they are ready to open it up again just as soon as any new information comes up".

Not everyone is impressed by the police record in solving, or even tracking, crimes. The vast majority of crimes are simply never solved. Paul Hughes, of PH Interim, based in Lincoln, is an ex-military forensics expert. "From my perspective," he says, "they're all cold cases. I get brought in when the police are stuck.

"The police tend to break it down into bits and have different people doing different things. I don't have time constraints. They have to do it in a hurry. They miss things." He says the problem is that "people don't look at the detail. You can zoom in. Be unequivocal".

He also led me to a colleague who didn't want to be identified for reasons that will become obvious. "Ray", as he asked me to call him, is a forensic data analyst and former surgeon. "The police are in the stone age, I'm afraid," he says. "They don't know what they're doing.

"In the past five years, the police have gone from little hope to absolutely no hope in the majority of cold cases. They don't have the budget to get the people to do the job."

Surprisingly enough, he believes most crimes - up to and including murder - are related to car theft. Around eight to 10 years ago, the police were told to ignore vehicle theft and focus on other crimes.

"If your car is stolen," says Ray, "you won't even get a crime number. It's become a huge growth area - the 'perfect crime', because the police don't give a damn and won't investigate. All cars are easy to steal - if you have the right kit."

The thieves makes millions of pounds out of the trade. That revenue stream is then ploughed back into drugs, guns and human trafficking.

Hitmen are at work in this country right now, says Ray. A hire car is left at the airport, with the appropriate weapons on board. The assassin lands at the airport on a fake passport, picks up the car, uses the weapons to do the business, then drives back to the airport, dumps the car and flies out again, using another fake passport.

In the past, the satnav would at least enable you to work out where the car had been and which crimes it was linked to. Now even that may no longer be possible. "Satnav used to be the key to cracking a case," says Ray. "Now it's useless. The company didn't like the association with crime, so they engineered their boxes to wipe the history. Purely to protect the brand."

By way of response, Ray invented a "covert tracking device" that can be placed on suspect vehicles. "We have to keep it covert, even from the police," he says, "otherwise the crims find out. Organised crime has very deep pockets."

Ignorance is expanding alongside science. Maybe overtaking it. We hate not knowing what happened to Suzy Lamplugh and Madeleine McCann: it corresponds to a basic psychological - even biological - need. We ask questions of the world and we want answers - especially who did what to whom.

As the cover of The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows puts it succinctly: "Some secrets can't be buried. Some tracks can't be covered."

In other words, some can be buried, some can be covered, but the crime novel is there to reassure us otherwise. We all want to read the final page. We need the "Book of Revelation", not just at the end of the Bible, precisely because it is so rarely achieved in real life.

Andy Martin is the author of Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me (Bantam Press)

Belfast Telegraph
Jill Havern
Jill Havern

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Re: "We want to know what happened to Suzy Lamplugh and Madeleine McCann because, as humans, we're hard-wired to expect answers."

Post by sandancer on 29.12.18 17:03

Someone should send Andy Martin a link to the PJ Files , after 11 years still accusing them of contaminating the scene and blaming the parents to cover themselves ! 

Still a £2.5 million reward on the table ?

I thought that disappeared when the News of the World closed , " whooshed " wasn't it ?

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Re: "We want to know what happened to Suzy Lamplugh and Madeleine McCann because, as humans, we're hard-wired to expect answers."

Post by Phoebe on 30.12.18 0:04

Yes indeed Andy - I reckon Dr. Amaral and the P.J. would heartily agree with some of what you have written!

 "It was like there were two communities,... "One desperate to find justice - and the other, the criminal fraternity, closing ranks."...being a detective can also be "extremely frustrating. There are limits to the time you can spend on a case. So, you end up letting people go who you know are guilty - and you never see them again."

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Suzy Lamplugh

Post by willowthewisp on 30.12.18 16:13

Anyone in any doubt about the "complexities of the State"Governmental control should listen to a speech Mr Andy Norfolk a Times Reporter gave to an audience of the "Grooming Gangs"in the UK.

Mr Norfolk dispels the "Myth o South Yorkshire Police being unaware"some kind person had given him access to Boxes of detailed information held by the Police,whereby they had their names addresses of the "Groomers",but chose to do Nothing to help the vulnerable young girls?

The South Yorkshire Police then used all of their investigative powers to try to prevent the Times News Paper from printing its stories,hiring top Lawyers and Judicial processes to prevent the Public form hearing about what was uncovered!

Social Services from London Boroughs were exploiting the "system" by placing vulnerable young girls into the Northern Local Authorities control buying properties to House a single tenancy occupant(Young Girl to be Groomed)?

They would "Buy the Property" House the Single occupant charging above £250,000 to the local Authority(Pimp) to exploit the situation as and when required,it was thought they had at least 35-50 Properties with Single occupancy!

So now in effect the Local Authority became the pimp to the Grooming Gangs scheme,except this was done all above Board with acknowledgement from the control of "Regulated Authorities",the Government?

Go onto "Youtube" put in Mr Andy Norflok,times reporter Grooming Gangs speech,UK Police were well aware?

You then "Trust UK Government, Police" to uphold the Law,this was happening with their full knowledge,so how long had this master plan of "Grooming Gangs" been in existence,were these young girls exploited to satisfy Ethnic sexual predilections!

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