Who is this person? And why are they behaving suspiciously near Claudia Lawrence’s home on the last day she was seen alive?
Police believe the answers to these questions may be critical as their investigation into Claudia’s disappearance enters its seventh year.
The previously unreleased CCTV footage was played to York residents on a big screen on Wednesday (March 18) between 3pm and 9pm.
Detectives positioned the screen in Heworth Place, the same street featured in the CCTV footage captured exactly six years earlier.
As local residents gathered to watch the film, police hoped it would jog someone’s memory and lead to fresh information.
What the film shows
The video recorded the scene at 7.15pm on Wednesday, March 18, 2009.
This was a short while before Claudia spoke to her parents in two separate phone calls. At this time, detectives believe, she was in her house on Heworth Road.
Those conversations were the last time anyone heard from Claudia.
The film shows a person walking down Heworth Place, which leads to the back of Claudia’s house.
Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn, leading the investigation, said:
As the person heads back towards Heworth Road they suddenly stop when another unknown person walks past.
Who is this? Do they live locally? What were they doing?
If you can help to identify either person, please contact us as soon as possible. We are waiting to hear from you.
How 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|
Link with the alleyway
The release of the footage, on the sixth anniversary of the disappearance of York University chef Claudia Lawrence, is connected to a new line of inquiry undertaken by the Major Crime Unit.
This focuses on an alleyway leading from Heworth Place to the back of Claudia’s house. Last month this was searched by police, who consider the alleyway “had potential significance in explaining what happened to her”.
What residents think
Soon after the big screen began to show the CCTV footage, local people gathered to watch.
They were discreetly filmed by a two-man police unit.
Among them was Richard Hudson, who ran Hudson’s Butchers across the road from Claudia’s home. He didn’t know the then-35-year-old chef, but met some of her friends from her home town of Malton when he helped out at Castle Howard.
After watching the footage, he said: “It’s rather strange it’s coming out after all these years.”
Mr Hudson agreed that the main figure did act suspiciously, speculating that the reason they stopped was because they knew the other person walking along Heworth Road and would have been recognised.
Sheila Richardson lives on the other side of Heworth Road to Claudia. But her long shifts as a nurse meant they kept different hours and never met.
Of the figure in the footage, Sheila said: “It doesn’t look like somebody in their 20s or 30s, but someone who’s older and quite stocky.”
The way the figure stops is “very suspicious”.
Having a daughter herself, Sheila feels great sympathy for Claudia’s parents.
“It’s so hard to think that somebody has disappeared or died, and there are no real clues to pin anything down.
“Apart from seeing this. It might be the clue they’re looking for.”
Eighty-one year old Thomas Ward knew Claudia by sight. “I know she knocked about with some girls – was it Thursday night they had drinks at the pub?”
Mr Ward said he had once witnessed someone bundle Claudia into their car, seemingly by force – and had reported what he had seen to police.
“I am hoping she’s still around,” he said. “But it’s one of those mysteries where the police can’t solve the case.”