Claudia, six years on: Police vow to go after secret relationships

Claudia has been missing since 2009
18 Mar 2015 @ 8.06 am
| Crime
claudia-lawrence-6-year-anniversary
Claudia Lawrence ‘seemed her usual, happy, positive self’ before her disappearance

Today (Wednesday, March 18) marks the sixth anniversary of the disappearance of York chef Claudia Lawrence – and the head of the police investigation team has issued a hard-hitting statement to mark the milestone.

Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn says that they know that there are local people who are still trying to keep their relationship with Claudia a secret, and that some have deliberately lied about their association with her.

Det Supt Malyn, head of North Yorkshire Police’s Major Crime Unit, has headed up the investigation into Claudia’s disappearance since 2013.

This is what we learned from his statement today.

Claudia’s last known movements

On the evening of Wednesday, March 18 2009, Claudia returned to her Heworth Road home after a day’s work at the University of York’s Goodricke College where she was a chef.

She received two telephone calls from home that evening – one from her mother Joan and then from her father Peter.

In both calls “she seemed her usual, happy, positive self,” said Det Supt Malyn.

Shortly before 8.30pm she sent a text to a friend working overseas. He replied a short time later – “but we don’t believe Claudia read the text,” he said.

Claudia didn’t arrive at work at 6am the following morning. At some point after speaking to her parents the previous evening, she had disappeared.

There have been many false leads

In the months that followed, the public provided a lot of useful information about what may have happened, possible sightings “and, crucially, about Claudia’s life, habits and interests”.

Det Supt Malyn said:

As with any major police investigation, there were moments when new information came into the incident room which looked on paper to be really promising. Sadly, none of these leads ever came to anything.

The information started to dry up

“As the months wore on, what had been a torrent of information in the early days was reduced to the occasional drip,” he said.

In January 2013 the detective who led the investigation retired with Claudia still missing.

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Det Supt Malyn talks to the media near Claudia’s Heworth home

New investigation, new perspective

North Yorkshire Chief Constable asked the county’s new Major Crime Unit to review the case in the autumn of 2013.

The team have looked at the events and police inquiries with “a fresh perspective”, Det Supt Dai Malyn said.

Without the pressure of daily media attention, we have spotted things that may not have seemed significant or hugely relevant at the time, and to prioritise and put greater emphasis on certain aspects of the enquiry that this new team felt were necessary and warranted.

People ‘left their mark’ on her home

Science has moved on in six years, and new fingerprinting techniques have revealed fresh evidence at Claudia’s home:

There are a number of people who we now know spent time in Claudia’s house and who literally left their mark there; but, for whatever reason, those individuals have failed to come forward and acknowledge their presence in her home.

north-yorkshire-police-logo-25How to help the police

Call North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 1, and pass details to the Force Control Room
Or Crimestoppers 0800 555 111
Use the anonymous form on the Crimestoppers website
Please quote “Claudia Lawrence” when passing on details

People keeping secrets and lying

Scrutinising old and new evidence, two things became apparent, says Det Supt Malyn.

First, that there are people locally who knew Claudia and who have actively sought to keep that a secret – and we know who some of those people are.

Secondly, we know that some people have deliberately lied about a number of issues concerning their association with Claudia.

‘Significant new leads’

Last month the police focused their attention on the alleyway that leads to the back of Claudia’s house.

“This was based on specific information that this review discovered causing me and the team to believe that the alleyway had potential significance in explaining what happened to her.

“This is still being very actively progressed.”

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Police search the alleyway last month

‘Come forward – or be arrested’

Det Supt Malyn vowed to make the lives of those withholding information very difficult if they do not cooperate.

This is what he said:

There are a number of people who are of very particular interest to me. There are those who have yet to admit fully their relationship with Claudia or events in the days leading up to her disappearance.

I would make a further appeal for those to come forward now and provide these explanations. If I reach the point where we believe people continue to obstruct this investigation or assist or cover up for the person or persons responsible, they will be arrested.

This is a very intrusive process involving interviews and searches which we will do in order to eliminate or implicate them in Claudia’s disappearance.

More arrests likely

The police have arrested and interviewed two men about Claudia’s disappearance. One remains on bail while their enquiries in relation to him continue.

“In the coming weeks and months we may make additional arrests as we continue to develop our lines of enquiry,” said the police chief.

There are some guilty people out there

“Six years have passed since Claudia disappeared. For her loved ones, the pain caused by her absence and the circumstances of her disappearance has not faded,” said Det Supt Malyn.

And nor, I assume, has the guilt and knowledge that one or more people have about what happened to this young woman.

This is a view shared by Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy.

“We are hugely committed to uncovering the truth regarding Claudia and I do hope that someone will have the courage to come forward at this time,” he said.

But the crime may never be solved

The police work, supported by national experts, will continue for as long as it takes to analyse all the evidence, old and new.

But Det Supt Malyn admitted:

Ultimately, we may not be able to prove what happened to Claudia, or be able to find her. But that will not be for lack of determination, tenacity and meticulous detective work, nor whilst there are still clues that need to be investigated.

The full statement

This is what Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn said in full.

Six years ago today, a 35-year-old woman who lived in a quiet residential street on the outskirts of York vanished.

Most people who are reported missing are found, generally safe and well, within a matter of hours of being reported to the police.

But the case of Claudia Lawrence has proved to be a very, very different sort of missing person enquiry.

On the evening of Wednesday, March 18th 2009, Claudia had returned to her Heworth Road home after a day’s work at the University of York’s Goodricke College where she was a chef. We know that she received two telephone calls from home that evening – one from her mother Joan and then from her father Peter, and in both calls she seemed her usual, happy, positive self. Then, shortly before 8.30pm, she sent a text to a friend working overseas. He replied a short time later – but we don’t believe Claudia read the text.

Claudia didn’t arrive at work at 6am the following morning. At some point after speaking to her parents the previous evening, she had disappeared.

During the many months that followed, detectives worked hard to identify as many possible leads to help find Claudia. The public of North Yorkshire – and beyond – provided a great deal of information about what may have happened, about possible sightings, and, crucially, about Claudia’s life, habits and interests, in an effort to help us understand what had happened.

Claudia’s family and friends played – and continue to play – a very important part, keeping Claudia in the public’s eye and urging anyone with information about her whereabouts to come forward.

As with any major police investigation, there were moments when new information came into the incident room which looked on paper to be really promising. Sadly, none of these leads ever came to anything.

As the months wore on, what had been a torrent of information in the early days was reduced to the occasional drip. The first, second, then third anniversaries of her disappearance came and went, and in January 2013, the detective who had led the investigation retired with Claudia still missing.

In the autumn of 2013, North Yorkshire’s Chief Constable Dave Jones decided that the four-year-old enquiry should be thoroughly reviewed by the then newly-formed Major Crime Unit to see what opportunities existed with information given at the time and to re-invigorate interest in the case to generate new leads.

Without any prior involvement in the case, my team and I have been able to look back at the events of March 2009 and the enquiries that followed it, at a different pace and with a fresh perspective. Without the pressure of daily media attention, we have spotted things that may not have seemed significant or hugely relevant at the time, and to prioritise and put greater emphasis on certain aspects of the enquiry that this new team felt were necessary and warranted.

Science has moved on in six years. Additional fingerprints have been found using techniques that the review team have decided to capitalise on based on the advice of national experts. There are a number of people who we now know spent time in Claudia’s house and who literally left their mark there; but, for whatever reason, those individuals have failed to come forward and acknowledge their presence in her home.

Other experts have been involved to help us understand what may have happened to her phone, to identify vehicles of interest captured on CCTV and to advise on satellite navigation data that we have recovered.

By scrutinising in meticulous detail what people told the original enquiry, and then comparing that with other information that was either available at the time or which has only recently come to light, two things have become evident: first, that there are people locally who knew Claudia and who have actively sought to keep that a secret – and we know who some of those people are; secondly, we know that some people have deliberately lied about a number of issues concerning their association with Claudia.

In the months since we started our review, we have made very significant progress. We have arrested and interviewed two men about Claudia’s disappearance. One remains on bail while our enquiries in relation to him continue. In the coming weeks and months we may make additional arrests as we continue to develop our lines of enquiry.

In the light of information that has only recently come to the fore, we are actively pursuing what are rightly described as new leads. Last month, we focused our attention on the alleyway that leads to the back of Claudia’s house. This was based on specific information that this review discovered causing me and the team to believe that the alleyway had potential significance in explaining what happened to her. This is still being very actively progressed.

There are a number of people who are of very particular interest to me. There are those who have yet to admit fully their relationship with Claudia or events in the days leading up to her disappearance. I would make a further appeal for those to come forward now and provide these explanations. If I reach the point where we believe people continue to obstruct this investigation or assist or cover up for the person or persons responsible, they will be arrested. This is a very intrusive process involving interviews and searches which we will do in order to eliminate or implicate them in Claudia’s disappearance.

Six years have passed since Claudia disappeared. For her loved ones, the pain caused by her absence and the circumstances of her disappearance has not faded. And nor, I assume, has the guilt and knowledge that one or more people have about what happened to this young woman.

Our work, which is being supported and informed by a body of national experts in their respective fields, will continue for as long as it takes to analyse all the evidence that was available at the time, and the new information that has come to light since then as a direct result of our review. The enquiry has the full support of North Yorkshire Police’s Chief Officer Team.

Ultimately, we may not be able to prove what happened to Claudia, or be able to find her. But that will not be for lack of determination, tenacity and meticulous detective work, nor whilst there are still clues that need to be investigated.

If you know what happened to Claudia, or know that you have some relevant information but have not yet come forward, then do so, today. Six years is a long time to live with that knowledge.”