Diana Lamplugh, who died on August 18 aged 75, was the mother of Suzy Lamplugh, the young estate agent who went missing in 1986 and is presumed to have been murdered, though her body has never been found.
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Photo: CHRISTOPHER COX
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Photo: JULIAN ANDREWS
Her daughter’s agonising disappearance spurred Diana Lamplugh to become a tireless worker for the improvement of personal safety training and education. She set up the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and campaigned successfully for the licensing of minicabs; safer car parks, train and tube stations; and for stalking to be recognised as a criminal offence.
Suzy Lamplugh was 25 years old on July 28 1986 when she arranged to meet a man named “Mr Kipper” to show him around a house in Fulham. Later that night her car and purse were found nearby, but she was never seen again. A huge police investigation at the time, and two subsequent investigations, in 1998 and 2000, failed to discover what happened to her. Officers using radar equipment launched a fresh search for her remains as recently as last year, but no trace was found.
Despite this ordeal, Diana channelled her grief into positive action. She began with a nationwide campaign to improve personal safety for women at work and swiftly realised the need to address men’s safety too. Realising that children needed to learn at a young age how to manage aggression in themselves and in others, she established an ongoing education campaign in schools.
Above all she wanted to enable people to live their lives to the full, safely, and not have to hide behind locked doors.
Diana Elizabeth Howell was born on July 30 1936, the eldest of four children. Her father was a solicitor in Cheltenham, her mother a physical education teacher.
A spirited child who liked to challenge authority and ran away from home at four, she was sent to board at Westonbirt School, where she did not shine academically, partly due to undiagnosed dyslexia. She loved riding and was happiest galloping her pony across the sands at Newport in Pembrokeshire, where the Howells had lived since 1804 and where her family continue to holiday.
Her school reports described Diana’s academic prospects as “dim” and she was sent to typing school at 16. After working briefly as a secretary in Cheltenham she took off on an eight-month motorbike tour of England with the Carl Rosa Opera touring company. Opera was to remain one of her lifelong passions.
On returning she met her future husband, Paul Lamplugh, at a dance at Cheltenham College, where his father was a housemaster. After dancing he promised to buy her a car (a promise he fulfilled about 20 years later when he bought her an MG). It was the beginning of a very happy union . In Who’s Who she listed as one of her recreations “being alone with my husband” and their time together every evening, invariably over a vodka and lime, was sacrosanct. They married on October 18 1958 and settled in London, where Paul practised as a solicitor.
Diana Lamplugh worked as personal assistant to Kenneth Adam, BBC TV’s controller of programmes, and by 1962 had three children, all under three.
The Lamplughs lived near Richmond Park in south-west London, where Diana continued to ride. But she was itching to “do something more” and began training first as a volunteer for the Samaritans and then as a swimming teacher for the disabled and the elderly.
She then came up with an influential movement in health and fitness called “Slimnastics”, which advocated weight loss through a healthy lifestyle. At its peak in the early 1980s, it had 300 instructors in Britain. Diana Lamplugh and Pamela Nottidge, a fitness instructor, wrote pioneering guidebooks combining advice on healthy eating with exercise and stress management tips. These included A Guide to Good Living (1980) and The Whole Person Approach to Fitness (1984).
She was two days away from her 50th birthday when Suzy went missing. Determined to prevent similar tragedies, Diana Lamplugh organised a conference in London, chaired by Libby Purves, to explore what could be done. This meeting evolved into the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, where her daughter Tamsin continues to work as a volunteer.
Diana Lamplugh, who was appointed OBE in 1992, loved to swim, particularly in the sea in Wales. Her other loves were mackerel fishing and hosting barbecues for the 20 or 30 guests she put up at her family holiday home, Ondara, every summer.
She also loved ice cream. In recent years, after her health began to fail, her husband took her every day to the Coach House Café in Marble Hill Park, Twickenham, for vanilla ice cream. When the café was threatened with closure in 2004 he persuaded English Heritage to keep it open, running it himself with a local woman as a non-profit service for the community.
Diana Lamplugh is survived by her husband and their son and two daughters.