NEW leads in the investigation into the disappearance of Claudia Lawrence are to be revealed in a Crimewatch appeal next week. On the fifth anniversary of the disappearance of the York chef, North Yorkshire Police will announce fresh information about her last-known movements and appeal for help in finding two vehicles seen in the area at the time.
It follows a review of the case following the expansion of North Yorkshire Police’s major crime unit. Part of the review involved crime scene investigators revisiting her home in the Heworth area of York towards the end of last year, to conduct another examination of the building.
Her disappearance remains one of Britain’s highest profile unsolved crimes. Her father, Peter Lawrence, who lives in York, has worked hard to keep his daughter’s image in the public eye in the hope that someone with a key piece of information may come forward.
To coincide with the fifth anniversary of Ms Lawrence’s disappearance, her image will appear on national digital billboards from Monday (March 17) as part of a national missing persons campaign. The billboards are used by the charity Missing People in an initiative launched by Madeleine McCann’s mother Kate McCann in summer 2012.
Detectives searching for missing York chef Claudia Lawrence say they have new lines of inquiry but no prime suspect. North Yorkshire Police say her mobile phone was deliberately turned off on the day after she disappeared in 2009.
Unidentified fingerprints have been found in her house and a man's DNA found on a cigarette end in her car. Detectives have said they think she was murdered and an appeal is to be shown on Crimewatch on Wednesday evening. North Yorkshire Police's new major crime unit has been assessing the case and carried out new forensic work and searches at her home on Heworth Road. Police said they found the additional fingerprints using "advanced techniques" not available in 2009.
Det Supt Dai Malyn, head of the unit, said: "We are keen to eliminate people who have been inside Claudia's home before and after her disappearance." The investigation team still believe Claudia's silver Samsung D900 mobile phone was deliberately turned off by someone at about 12:10 GMT on Thursday, 19 March 2009. Mr Malyn added: "Further analysis of Claudia's mobile phone, particularly cell site activity, also shows she was in the Acomb area of York in the weeks leading up to her disappearance.
Detailed searches have previously taken place at Miss Lawrence's home
Speaking exclusively to the Daily Star Sunday, Peter Lawrence said it was a “pity” the clues had been kept under wraps for so long. A Crimewatch appeal featured information about CCTV footage and male DNA found on a cigarette in Claudia’s car.
But Mr Lawrence, 67, said: “There are parts of the evidence that could have been released earlier that they have had since the start. “The DNA on the cigarette butt they have had since she went missing, as well as the CCTV of the mystery man. It is a pity this hasn’t been made public sooner. I don’t know why it wasn’t. I think it would be far easier to remember something that happened five weeks ago had they released it then.” He said: “I hold on to the hope that she is alive. You have to, you cannot allow yourself to think otherwise. You cannot lose hope. Look at the case in America where the girls were found locked in the house ten years after they went missing. Those cases give us hope Claudia is still alive. I believe she is. I won’t stop believing that until the police can prove otherwise.”
A website set up by the police to help solve the mystery has been visited more than 25,000 times since a new appeal was launched 10 days ago. A total of 28 calls have been made to the investigation team, after they revealed they had found a new set of fingerprints in her house and the discovery of a man’s DNA on a cigarette end in her car. It is understood police have spoken to an individual who came forward after detectives said they wanted to trace the driver of a white van seen near Claudia’s home at about the time that she went missing.
Police investigating the disappearance of York chef Claudia Lawrence say 121 people have contacted them in the last month to help the enquiry. Detectives made fresh appeals for information last month to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the last known sighting of Claudia. A dedicated website set up by North Yorkshire Police has had almost thirteen thousand visitors since March 19. A police spokesman said today they have not yet identified the men, or the DNA found on a cigarette in Claudia's car, but had eliminated a number of people from their enquiries into fingerprints found inside Claudia's house.
Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn, head of North Yorkshire Police’s Major Crime Unit, said: “The public support and response to the Claudia Lawrence microsite has been very encouraging and impressive despite the five year gap. “We are continuing to analyse the new information and investigation updates have been placed on the Claudia Lawrence microsite - www.northyorkshire.police.uk/claudialawrence - for the highlighted lines of enquiry."
Detectives also announced yesterday that a blue and grey Karrimor rucksack, similar to Claudia's, was seen in a field near the University of York at about 1pm on Thursday, March 19, 2009, and they want to speak to anyone who saw it at the time, or knows how it got there. Det Supt Malyn said: "The location was a grassy area off a footpath which runs between Heslington Road and Walmgate Stray, which is just past The Retreat if you were heading towards the university. “If someone temporarily left the rucksack there and can confirm it is not connected to the investigation, please come forward as soon as possible."
A 59-year-old man arrested in connection with the disappearance of university chef Claudia Lawrence has been named locally as Michael Snelling.
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ‘Detectives investigating the disappearance of Claudia Lawrence have this morning arrested a 59-year-old man from York on suspicion of murder. ‘Forensic examinations and searches are being conducted which are expected to be ongoing over a number of days. A car has also been seized as part of the inquiries.’ ‘Claudia’s family have been notified and are being supported by trained officers.’ He added: ‘The investigation team would like to stress that Claudia has not been found. Police cannot rule out the possibility of further arrests in the future as the review continues.’
She worked as a chef at the University of York but has not been seen since March 18, 2009. In March of this year, the search took a dramatic turn last night as police revealed they were hunting two mystery men and two vehicles seen hear her home. The revelations - described by police as ‘hugely significant’ - came on the fifth anniversary of the 35-year-old chef’s disappearance. She was due to start a 06:00 shift there, but failed to turn up.
North Yorkshire Police launched a review of the case last year and have carried out new forensic work and searches of Miss Lawrence's home. A fresh appeal for information was made on the fifth anniversary of her disappearance in March, which was broadcast on the BBC's Crimewatch programme. Police revealed several new lines of inquiry generated by the review of the case and a fresh examination of her home. Fingerprints had been uncovered using techniques not available in 2009, they said.