Five years ago today (March 19), Claudia Lawrence left her York home. She never returned.
What began as a missing persons investigation quickly became a murder inquiry – and today police revealed fresh clues in the hunt for what happened to Claudia.
Detectives from the North Yorkshire Police Major Crimes Unit, launched last year, undertook a new forensic examination of Claudia’s home on Heworth Road last October.
On the fifth anniversary of the chef’s disappearance, police revealed that they have discovered:
- DNA from an unidentified man on a cigarette in her car
- previously undiscovered mystery fingerprints in her house
- Claudia had used her mobile phone in Acomb prior to her disappearance
- that her hair straighteners had gone missing and she may have dyed her hair.
Police also released a new still from CCTV cameras of a man they would like to question.
Claudia’s case will feature on tonight’s Crimewatch programme, screened at 9pm on BBC One tonight, March 19.
Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn, Head of the Major Crime Unit, said: “A primary focus in any suspected homicide investigation is that of the lifestyle of the victim concerned.
“In that respect, this case is no different and even now we want to learn more from people about Claudia’s life, and in particular her movements and associations during the days, weeks and months that preceded her disappearance.
“Often family, friends or acquaintances may hold information, even unwittingly, that could lead to the breakthrough needed.
“Their knowledge of how a person behaved or reacted immediately before and after Claudia’s disappearance, is vital to us in identifying any unusual or abnormal behavioural changes. It remains one very credible line of enquiry which we will continue to carefully scrutinise.
“Anybody who witnessed any change either at the time or since I urge to contact us.”
New evidence: the cigarette
New forensic techniques were used to extract the DNA from an Embassy Regal cigarette butt found in Claudia’s Vauxhall Corsa.
The profile is for an unidentified man. Claudia’s car was being repaired at a York garage when she disappeared.
Police have yet to trace a couple seen arguing on Melrosegate Bridge at 5.35am on the morning Claudia went missing.
The man, described as around 5ft 6in tall, thin, and wearing a dark-coloured hooded top with the hood up and dark combat trousers was smoking a cigarette – held in his left hand, suggesting he was left-handed.
The woman was smaller than the man, she had mousey brown hair and was wearing a blue, waist length jacket.
Using advanced techniques not available in 2009, forensic detectives have discovered new fingerprints at Claudia’s home on Heworth Road.
Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn, head of the North Yorkshire Police’s Major Crime Unit, said the prints were found throughout the house.
He said police were keen to eliminate people who were in her home before and after her disappearance.
Detectives have also undertaken new tests on Claudia’s mobile phone, a silver Samsung D900. They believe it was deliberately turned off by someone at about 12.10pm on Thursday, March 19, 2009.
Claudia used her mobile intensively. By studying cell site records, police have found out that she was in Acomb in the weeks leading up to her disappearance.
Det Supt Malyn said she might have been socialising with a person or people in Acomb, and appealed to the public for more information.
Missing hair straighteners
Detectives believe Claudia left for work as normal early on March 19, 2009. Her bed was made and evidence suggested she had eaten breakfast and brushed her teeth.
However her GHD hair straighteners are missing from her home. Det Supt Malyn said it was unlikely Claudia would have had them with her in her blue and grey Karrimor bag, which is yet to be found.
The missing straighteners could be “crucial to the investigation”.
An empty box of hair dye found in the house may mean Claudia had changed the colour of her blonde highlights – or that she was dyeing someone else’s hair.
Appeal to find this man
This is a CCTV still of a man in the Co-Op, Tang Hall, on April 1, 2009. He told staff in the store that he knew Claudia but he has never been traced.
Described as black, aged in his late 20s and around 5ft 8ins tall, he spoke with an African accent. If anyone can help identify him, they are urged to contact police.
Claudia Elizabeth Lawrence, a 35-year-old chef from York, was reported missing by her father, Peter Lawrence, on Friday, March 20, 2009.
She was last seen by her colleagues at the University of York on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 18 2009, when she finished her shift for the day.
She spoke to her parents – dad Peter Lawrence and mum Joan Lawrence – by telephone on the Wednesday night.
She has never been seen or heard from since then.
North Yorkshire Police made a series of high-profile appeals for information to assist the investigation.
In April 2009, detectives announced that they were treating Claudia’s disappearance as suspected murder.
At one stage more than 100 police officers were involved in the investigation and the search for Claudia extended to the Republic of Ireland and Cyprus.