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Second house searched as police arrest man for murder of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence

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  • by Rob Parsons
 

Two houses 100 miles apart are being searched by police after a man was arrested on suspicion of murdering missing York University chef Claudia Lawrence.

North Yorkshire Police officers were today searching the house of the suspect, named locally as Michael Snelling, who lives in in Burnholme Grove, half a mile from Miss Lawrence’s house.

It later emerged another house, in Hollywell Road, North Shields, Tyneside, is also being searched as part of the same investigation.

Detectives said the arrest did not mean that the missing chef, who disappeared from her home in York in March 2009, has been found.

A force spokesman said: “Police cannot rule out the possibility of further arrests in the future as the review continues.”

The spokesman said: “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.”

He said: “Claudia’s family have been notified and are being supported by trained officers.”

The arrest was made today but police have refused to confirm the man’s identity.

North Yorkshire Police launched a review of the investigation last year after a new major crime unit was established by the force. It has always said detectives believed the chef had been murdered.

Miss Lawrence, who worked at York University, was 35 when she was reported missing by her father Peter on March 20 2009.

She was last seen at around 3.05pm on March 18, walking back towards her home, and that night she spoke to both her parents on the phone.

It is thought something happened to her after she left for work early on March 19.

Last year, the new investigation team conducted a detailed re-examination of Miss Lawrence’s home in the Heworth area of York.

And, in March, senior officers announced a series of new lines of inquiry on the fifth anniversary of the day she failed to turn up for work. The announcement coincided with a fresh appeal on BBC’s Crimewatch.

They said the new forensic examination of her house uncovered the fingerprints of people who have not yet come forward.

They also found the DNA profile of an unknown man on a cigarette butt in the university chef’s Vauxhall Corsa.

A team led by Detective Superintendant Dai Malyn spent two months re-examining Miss Lawrence’s small terrace home.

Police have said before that Miss Lawrence’s mobile and rucksack have never been found.

Her father has mounted a five-year campaign to find his daughter.

At the anniversary in March, he discussed the “torture” his family had suffered through five years of not knowing what has happened to her.

One of the missing chef’s friends, Jen King, said the arrest showed detectives were making progress.She told the York newspaper, The Press: “If it goes somewhere that’s great but if not it shows the investigation is ongoing.

“It’s a step towards this one day being resolved.”

Ms Lawrence’s father told The Press: “I’m very pleased they appear to be making progress by making this arrest.”

Police are searching a house on Burnholme Grove, in York. The run-down semi is about half a mile from Miss Lawrence’s house.

A police van was parked outside the property and a number of forensic science officer could be seen inside in white overalls.

The house, which has a drive and pebbled front garden, is about half-way down a quiet cul-de-sac

Terry Ellis, who has lived in the cul-de-sac since 1961, said: “The first thing I saw this morning was when the police investigation car came up.

“I thought that maybe someone had broken in, because he’s had someone break in before.”

Mr Ellis said he had been spoken to by detectives investigating Miss Lawrence’s disappearance. He was one of a number of people in the street who were questioned because they were customers at the Nag’s Head pub, close to her house.

Contractors arrived at the house later to begin boarding up windows.

Miss Lawrence’s close friend Suzy Cooper said she always believed there would be progress in the case.

“I have always put my faith in the police,” she said. “I never really doubted that.”

The 49-year-old, who lives in York and works in accounting, said it had been impossible for her to move on in her life after her friend’s disappearance.

“Over the last five years there have not been major things happening in Claudia’s case,” she said.

“For five years that has been really frustrating. It feels more tangible now there is an arrest.

“I have been trying to focus on my own life but Claudia has always been in my thoughts.

“I have been told by zillions of people ‘you have to get on with your life’, but I haven’t done it very well.

“I haven’t been able to let go.

“I cannot put it to bed, I cannot say ‘that’s happened, move on’ because it’s still happening.”

TIMELINE

Here is a timeline of missing university chef Claudia Lawrence’s last known movements and the subsequent investigation since her disappearance:

2009

March 18

• 5.57am - Miss Lawrence is captured on CCTV arriving for work at the University of York’s Goodricke College.

• 2.31pm - The chef leaves work to walk the three miles to her home on Heworth Road. A female colleague sees her as she drives past in her car and gives her a lift, dropping her off outside her house.

A short time later, Miss Lawrence leaves her house and walks past the Nags Head pub. She has a brief conversation with a woman with a pram.

• 3.05pm - The last sighting of Miss Lawrence as she walks back to her house.

• 8.10pm - Miss Lawrence has a telephone conversation with her father, Peter, and then another with her mother, Joan.

• 8.23pm - She sends a text message to a friend.

• 9.12pm - Miss Lawrence receives a text on her mobile phone but it is not known if she read the message.

March 19

• 6am - Miss Lawrence fails to arrive for her shift at work.

• Later in the evening, Miss Lawrence fails to keep an arrangement to meet her friend, Suzy Cooper, at the Nags Head pub. Ms Cooper discovers her friend did not attend work and rings Mr Lawrence, who contacts North Yorkshire Police.

March 23

• Mr Lawrence, a solicitor from Slingsby, North Yorks, makes an emotional appeal for information about his daughter at a news conference in York. He describes Miss Lawrence’s disappearance as a ‘’living nightmare’’.

• Police say they cannot rule out the possibility that the chef has been abducted.

March 25

• Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway, leading the investigation, says he believes Miss Lawrence may have come to harm after meeting someone she knew. He confirms upwards of 100 police officers involved in the search and says North Yorks Police are bringing in officers from other forces to help.

• CCTV footage of the chef’s last known movements are released.

March 30

• Mr Galloway makes an appeal for information on BBC1’s Crimewatch programme

April 7

• Mr Lawrence holds his first weekly press conference at his home and appeals for anyone protecting his daughter’s possible abductor to come forward.

April 16

• Police say they are investigating ‘’significant’’ new lines of inquiry, including a couple seen arguing near a car on Miss Lawrence’s route to work the day after she was last seen and two men apparently trying the front door to her house in the week before she disappeared.

April 24

• Detectives say they are treating Miss Lawrence’s disappearance as a suspected murder investigation and Crimestoppers offers a £10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible.

Mr Galloway also reveals new information received from members of the public. He says one witness reported seeing a man and a woman walking near the University of York between 6am and 6.30am on March 17 and March 19. Another witness saw a man and a woman, possibly matching Miss Lawrence’s description, at 5.35am on March 19 on Melrosegate on the chef’s route to work.

April 29

• Mrs Lawrence releases her first statement through police describing her daughter’s disappearance as ‘’every parent’s worst nightmare’’

May 6

Police reveal they have received more than 1,000 calls about Miss Lawrence’s disappearance since March 22 and have taken 1,096 statements and reports. Officers involved in the investigation have visually searched around 1,270 properties, including gardens and outbuildings and student halls of residence at the University of York.

May 15

• Police release CCTV footage of a man seen near Miss Lawrence’s home in the early hours of March 19. Mr Galloway says the number of searching officers has been scaled-down and police are now only carrying out intelligence-led searches.

June 2

• A reconstruction of Miss Lawrence’s last known movements and possible witness sightings is screened on BBC1’s Crimewatch programme.

Mr Galloway tells the programme that Miss Lawrence was involved in relationships of ‘’complexity and mystery’’ and appeals to anyone who had ever been in a relationship with the chef to come forward.

August 19

• Police say an external review of the investigation by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) is ‘’extremely positive’’ and the force are acting upon a list recommendations.

September 18

• Detectives reveal they have extended their investigation to Cyprus.

2010

March 18

• Police reveal Ms Lawrence spent the night with a mystery boyfriend just two days before she went missing. It was ‘’critical’’ they spoke to the man, a detective adds.

March 24

• Detectives search an area near York University following new information.

May 6

• Mr Lawrence calls for an urgent independent inquiry into the police investigation of his daughter’s disappearance and suspected murder.

He claims North Yorks Police has developed a ‘’bunker mentality’’ and has been “rude and dismissive” towards members of the public contacting them with information. The force says it has received no complaints from members of the public about its officers. They describe the inquiry as ‘’thorough, professional and challenging’’.

May 25

Police confirm they have spent two days searching a house about 10 miles from Claudia’s home as a result of a ‘’recent development’’.

July 29

Police confirm they are scaling back the number of officers dedicated to the inquiry.

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Madgwick says 100 officers were dedicated to the investigation at its height.

A year after Miss Lawrence disappeared, this figure had dropped to about 20 to 30 and there were now 16 detectives involved. Mr Madgwick says will be cut cut to seven officers the following month.

August 8

A man arrested on suspicion of burglary has been spoken to about the case, North Yorks police say. But he is described as ‘’one of many people spoken to during the course of the investigation’’ and there still have been no formal suspects identified by the inquiry team.

September 20

Mr Lawrence speaks of his ‘’devastation’’ after it is revealed that a cash reward for information was being dropped.

The decision means the North Yorks Police will remove their appeal posters from fleet vehicles because they refer to the reward.

2011

March 18

On the second anniversary of Miss Lawrence’s disappearance, Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway reveals that he could have ‘’potentially’’ spoken to her killer.

December 13

Detectives say they are pursuing a new lead which could be ‘’significant’’

2012

March 16

Peter Lawrence speaks of his daily pain over his daughter’s disappearance and makes a plea for anyone who may still harbour a sense of ‘’misguided loyalty’’ to come forward and help with the police investigation.

July 10

Martin Dales, spokesman for Mr Lawrence, says a former private detective has contacted him to say he spotted someone with a striking resemblance to Claudia a week earlier in Amsterdam.

2013

February 27

Family and friends of the missing chef make an emotional appeal for help to find her on what would have been her 39th birthday.

October 29

Police announce that a new forensic search of Miss Lawrence’s home is to begin as they launch a fresh review of the case.

2014

March 17

Mr Lawrence, speaking ahead of the fifth anniversary of his daughter’s disappearance, says not knowing what happened to his daughter five years after she disappeared is like a “cancer” eating away at him.

March 19

Police say a new forensic examination of Claudia’s house has uncovered the fingerprints of people who still have not come forward five years after she disappeared.

They say they are seeking to trace two men and two vehicles seen near her home.

April 17

North Yorkshire Police say 121 people have come forward to help their inquiry since a national appeal was made to coincide with the fifth anniversary of her disappearance. They say taxi drivers may have important information about the case.

May 13

A 59-year-old man is arrested on suspicion of murder by detectives investigating the disappearance. A police spokeswoman says Miss Lawrence has not been found and they cannot rule out the possibility of further arrests in the future

 

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