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Saturday 24 February 2018

House of missing chef Claudia to be searched again

Dave Higgens

A new forensic search of the home of missing university chef Claudia Lawrence is beginning as detectives launch a fresh review of the case.

The 35-year-old was reported missing four-and-a-half years ago after she failed to turn up for work at York University.

Despite a high profile investigation by North Yorkshire Police involving up to 100 officers, no trace of Miss Lawrence has ever been found.

Officers have said they believe she has been murdered but no body has ever been discovered.

The new search of the house where she lived alone in Heworth Road, York, follows the formation of a new Major Crime Unit at the North Yorkshire force.

But senior detectives stressed the move has not been prompted by any new lead.

Detective Superintendant Dai Malyn, who heads the Major Crime Unit, said: "There's no new smoking gun or startling piece of evidence. I wouldn't want people to believe that's the case.

"This is just part of the review process."

Mr Malyn said the search, which could last a fortnight, was the beginning of a review as part of the new team's remit to look at important cold cases.

"Most cold case review work considers forensic re-evaluation as techniques advance and this case is no different," he said.

"I am also mindful that, at some point in the future, the house may become re-occupied and these opportunities would otherwise be lost."

The detective said forensic science was evolving and he hoped advances since 2009 might assist with his review.

He said there was nothing in Miss Lawrence's home that prompted the decision to search it again.

"Originally the house was tidy and didn't appear to have any sign of disturbance," he said.

"But that's not to say you can't do something in a house then tidy it up to make it look as if everything was ordinary. These are the things that we'll be looking at."

Miss Lawrence was last seen by work colleagues on Wednesday March 18, 2009, when she finished for the day.

She was reported missing by her father, Peter Lawrence, who has led a tireless campaign to keep his daughter's disappearance in the news.

Detectives have said in the past that they believe the key to the inquiry is Claudia's relationships with a number of men - relationships a previous head of the inquiry described as having an ''element of complexity and mystery to them''.

Mr Malyn said: "As ever, we will afford anyone who contacts us our full attention if they think they have information which could assist - no matter how small or irrelevant they think that information might be.

"It is never too late for people to come forward with information now that, for whatever reason, they felt unable to share with us in the past."

Peter Lawrence said: "I am grateful for the initiative by the new team investigating Claudia's case to re-visit her house and conduct further investigations there, including DNA testing.

"Advances in forensic science and testing in the past four years make this a very worthwhile exercise, and anything which helps the search to find Claudia, or at least find out what happened to her on that morning in March 2009, is welcomed."

Press Association

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