Murder detectives join hunt for missing Gospel Oak mother Lana Purcell as case takes extraordinary twist
PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 March 2014 | UPDATED: 18:58 27 March 2014
Police investigating the sudden disappearance of a young mother from Gospel Oak have brought in murder detectives – more than a year and a half after being given a notebook with the names of gang members allegedly involved.
Lana Purcell, who was last seen in January 2011 when she was 26, was a former pupil of Parliament Hill School in Highgate Road and was well known in the Queen’s Crescent area.
The mystery surrounding her whereabouts has baffled detectives and left her family desperate for answers.
In an extraordinary twist this week, a private investigator working separately on the case revealed to the Ham&High the names of those suspected of being involved – and that a notebook with details of those responsible was given to the police as far back as October 2012.
It claims to reveal Lana’s last moments before she went missing, the names of those who know what happened to her, and the drug kingpin who may have been “ultimately responsible”.
The mother-of-one was long-rumoured to have been caught up in a criminal world of drugs, prostitution and theft after suffering a drug addiction.
Theories on her disappearance include claims that she was taken after stealing from drug lords in Camden and that she may have even been sold to a brothel in Soho’s China Town. But it was not until more than two years after Lana’s disappearance that the police started treating the case as a serious crime and last month files were officially handed over to the Met’s Serious Crime unit.
Davina Purcell, the sister of Lana, said she felt like the police “were dragging their feet”.
“For a whole year they didn’t even believe me that she was missing,” she said. “They kept saying they thought her ‘chaotic life’ had got too much and she had left to start afresh. But it didn’t make sense, it was all too sudden.
“She would visit me every day to see her daughter and then that just stopped. So for the first year I felt I was the one left trying to find out what happened to Lana rather than the police.
“There are people out there who know what happened to Lana but who aren’t talking.”
Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Packer, who became involved in the case April last year, told the Ham&High that the involvement of serious crime and murder detectives was “to get a fresh pair of eyes” on the case.
“When I first saw the details I became concerned as there was no reasonable explanation about why Lana went missing,” he said.
“So we ordered more work to be done and more intel to be gathered. I’ve always got hope Lana is alive and it’s important to point out that this is not a murder investigation.
“I think we have the best chance ever of finding out what happened.”
John Purcell, Lana’s father and a postman of almost 30 years, said he was desperate to “uncover the truth”. “I just want Lana back or to put her to rest,” he said. “I’m clutching at straws. If anyone knows anything, please contact the police.”
Anyone with information on the disappearance can contact police on 101 or anonymously at Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.