London is the most watched city in the world. With its Orwellian CCTV cameras and constant media circus, the notion that someone could vanish off its streets is borderline incomprehensible.
However, London still manages to house its fair share of secrets. If you’ve read my post covering the disappearances of Andrew Gosden and Alexander Sloley, you’ll know that is certainly possible to slip through the nooks and crannies of England’s capital without anybody noticing.
Here are three more unsolved London disappearances, each more confusing and enduring as the last. As with all the missing people featured on this blog, this article is written to help raise awareness of the cases and help keep the memory of them alive.
On November 5, 1979, 15-year-old Martin Allen vanished from the London Underground. After finishing school, Allen intended to visit his brother, Bob, at nearby Holloway Road.
However, Martin had to make a brief detour first, as he needed to go home in order some extra money for the journey back (this was long before Railcards and contactless payments). At 3:50pm, he said goodbye to his friends and jumped on the Piccadilly Line from King’s Cross Station.
Martin never showed. He did not reach his brother’s home, and his parents were not made aware of Martin’s disappearance until 7pm the next evening. It wasn’t uncommon for Martin to stay overnight at his brother’s, so his parents assumed that he was merely staying there. When it became apparent that Martin had not even gone to school the next day, he was officially reported missing.
A task force was formed to help uncover the mystery of Martin’s disappearance. Photos were released, officers began questioning people, and the Allen family began campaigning for answers. Despite the high-location where Martin went missing, no concrete clues were found. Days and weeks began to race by, and the complexity of Martin’s disappearance only became more and more pronounced.
The ‘Gloucester Road’ Man
There was, however, a breakthrough in the case when a witness came forward to report a suspicious interaction on the London Underground. Speaking several weeks after Martin’s disappearance, the witness described seeing a man in his 30s with his arm around a boy who looked like Martin. The man, who was 6ft tall and very well-built, allegedly told the boy not to run when the pair exited the train at Earl’s Court Station. Both parties appeared nervous, but special emphasis was placed on the boy as his body language seemed to connote a feeling of severe uncertainty and panic.
The alleged sighting prompted a massive door-to-door search. Every property in Earl’s Court was visited, and hundreds of suspects were questioned. Unfortunately, the promising lead went nowhere and Martin’s disappearance remains as much of a mystery in 2021 than it did in 1979.
Both of Martin’s parents have since died without learning anything about their son’s fate. To make matters worse, the original files on the case were obliterated in a flood.
Martin Allen’s brother Jeffery claimed that the original detective who worked on the case said that there was ”high up people involved” in the disappearance and that the family should cease searching for their son before ”someone got hurt.”
More than 40 years have since passed since Martin went missing. No trace of the boy has ever been found.
Lee Boxell (15) disappeared from the London borough of Sutton on September 10, 1988. After spending the early part of the day meandering about town with some friends, Boxell stated that he wished to attend an afternoon football game at Selhurst Park between Charlton and F.C. and Millwall. After parting company with his friends, Boxell headed in the direction of the stadium.
He hasn’t been seen since. Nobody who attended the game (which ended in a 3-0 Millwall win) recalled seeing Boxell at Selhurst Park – leading the police to believe he never made it to the stadium altogether.
A witness came forward to state that they had seen a boy resembling Boxell outside a Tesco store on Sutton High Street at around 2pm on the day he went missing. This made it extremely unlikely that he would’ve been at Selhurst Park in time for the usual 3pm kick-off.
After it became apparent that there was little chance Boxell attended the match, investigators began to consider the possibility that Boxell attended an unofficial youth club named The Shed on the day he went missing.
A 2012 tip from an unknown source came forward to say that they had seen Boxell at The Shed (located in a church annexe in the nearby village of Cheam) on September 10, 1988. Police later discovered that The Shed was, in fact, ran by a network of peadophiles and that there had been several alleged stories of sexual abuse there.
Investigators then began to develop a theory that Lee Boxell may have tried to intervene on an episode of sexual assault and was subsequently silenced in the process. If this is the case, then the young man must be commended and recognised for his bravery and it’s a true shame that his disappearance has not received the headlines that it deserves.
Lee Boxell may have been buried in the graveyard that surrounds St Dunstan’s Church in Cheam. However, an excavation of the land yielded no results, and his ultimate fate still remains unknown.
Suzy Lamplugh’s disappearance has remained unsolved for almost 35 years.
The 25-year-old worked as an estate agent in Fulham, London, and attended an appointment on July 28, 1986, with a man known simply as Mr. Kipper. The name was not recognised by any of Suzy’s co-workers and may very well have been an alias.
Lamplugh’s diary confirmed that she had made the appointment, and she left her office in time for the 12:45 meeting outside a property in Fulham, only a few minutes away from the estate agency.
Witnesses recalled seeing a woman matching Suzy’s appearance outside the property conversing with a man resembling the sketch above. The two conversed for a while before getting into a car and speeding off. Suzy has not been seen since.
Her car was discovered a few hours later. Parked less than a mile from the property, Suzy’s purse was found inside and the position of the drivers’ seat indicated that someone other than Lamplugh had driven it there. However, the vehicle’s interior failed to produce any clues.
Convicted murderer John Cannan is the only noteworthy suspect in Lamplugh’s disappearance. Not only does he resemble the aforementioned witness sketch, but it has been suggested that he was involved in a relationship with Suzy during the summer of 1986.
Sadly, no concrete evidence has surfaced linking him to the crime – but he remains the prime suspect in her disappearance, and has given multiple recanted confessions over the years.
Cannan will eligible for parole in 2023, and still protests his innocence. The lack of a ‘smoking gun’ piece of evidence means that the fate of Suzy Lamplugh remains unsolved.