[T]he three year review by North Yorkshire Police of the investigation into the disappearance and suspected murder of Claudia Lawrence has now moved to a reactive phase which will review any new and compelling information that comes to light.
This is due to the proactive review and, in some areas, a re-investigation, being all but complete.
Unless one outstanding line of enquiry relating to DNA profiling, estimated to take a further six weeks to finalise, provides a breakthrough in the case, the review which has cost £1m will start to scale down next month.
Claudia’s parents Peter and Joan attended a meeting with detectives on Tuesday 10 January at North Yorkshire Police’s Headquarters, where they were given a detailed presentation on the current position and direction of the review. They were also informed that the review is reaching its conclusion. Claudia’s sister, Ali, was briefed separately the day before.
Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy, who attended the family meeting, said: “Step by step, we have explained to Claudia’s family the extensive work the review team has conducted in an attempt to determine precisely what happened to Claudia.
“The team has reviewed the entirety of the initial investigation into Claudia’s disappearance in 2009, and as a result, has identified many new lines of enquiry which have been pursued with vigour and determination.
“Despite their exhaustive efforts, the support of national experts, the application of the very latest forensic techniques to exhibits recovered many years ago, and despite the team tracing and speaking to many people who did not come forward in the first enquiry, we have sadly not been able to find that crucial piece of information.
“A total of nine people were arrested or interviewed under caution during the course of the review, and in the summer of 2014, in early 2015 and in December 2015, we submitted files to the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to a number of individuals.
“The CPS concluded we had gathered insufficient evidence to be able to bring any charges against those people.
“I want to pay public tribute to Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn who has led this review from its outset. This case is an extremely challenging and complex one, and he and his team have been utterly professional, extremely thorough and steadfast in their determination to find that one vital piece of information that would help solve this case.
“It is not for the want of trying that a breakthrough has not yet come, but rather the result of the continuing refusal of those who know what happened to Claudia to come forward and tell us the truth.
“The case will not be closed until those responsible for Claudia’s disappearance and, we believe, her murder, are brought to justice. Whilst the current review team will and has been scaled down, the new Cleveland and North Yorkshire cold case dedicated team will still have responsibility to review any information that is considered relevant.
“Disappointing news though this is for Claudia’s family, we have not given up hope, and I do believe that one day we will be able to tell them what happened to Claudia.”
The last confirmed contact anyone had with the 35-year-old University of York chef was when she spoke to her mother Joan on the phone just after 8pm on Wednesday, 18th March 2009. Claudia failed to attend work the following day, and was reported missing on the Friday.
There is nothing in the manner of her text messages or from her phone billing that indicated she was going to do anything other than attend work the following morning.
The review of the original investigation began in the autumn of 2013.
Led by Det Supt Malyn, the team was made up of experienced staff and senior detectives from North Yorkshire Police, with other regional forces and national agencies providing peer support when required. They have also been supported by experts in a number of different fields.
Among many other lines of enquiry, the team:
- Reviewed a large amount of CCTV from local council systems, private premises and buses that was seized by the original team. This, for instance, led to the image of the man in Limes Court being found that Det Supt Malyn and his team consider very relevant
- Assessed and analysed other “passive” data, including mobile phone records
- Conducted extensive checks on Claudia’s finances
- Undertook comprehensive forensic investigations in Claudia’s house and other buildings, on open land, on DNA samples, in cars, garages, and notably on many fingerprint marks. This work included the use of sniffer dogs, ground penetrating radar, the analysis of aerial photography, and the use of geologists and archaeologists
- A review of exhibits seized and fingerprints lifted throughout the investigation was a key piece of work, and more than 4,100 exhibits and over 400 fingerprints have been reviewed
- Produced the North Yorkshire Police microsite dedicated to appeal points and information about the Claudia Lawrence investigation and the use of electronic appeal boards
- Dealt with 7,183 nominals who have come into the enquiry
- Seized 4,114 exhibits
- Raised 8,077 actions
- Taken 2,517 statements with a further 3,815 officers’ reports
- Received 457 messages and recorded another 678 transmissions (emails)
- In total, 627 police officers and staff have played some role or other during the investigation
No crime scene has ever been identified, and based upon the forensic work undertaken and in the view of experts, it does not appear that Claudia was subjected to a violent attack in her home involving the loss of blood.
Unusually, Claudia did not have a computer, did not access the internet via her phone and did not have a social media presence. Those facts precluded extensive investigative opportunities that normally feature in most missing person cases.
During the review the team focused on a number of people who – for different reasons – came to attention. Their movements at the time of Claudia’s disappearance needed to be established in order to either eliminate or implicate them in the case.
This work involved interviews, house searches, review of telephone activity, and speaking with other witnesses to clarify their movements and other work.
In total, 159 people were fully reviewed.
The eye-witness sightings of an unknown man and a woman spotted arguing near Claudia’s house remain inconclusive, but an unknown man seen on CCTV footage near Claudia’s home around the time she disappeared remains of very significant interest. Despite extensive enquiries and media appeals, it has not been possible to identify this individual.
Det Supt Malyn said: “With the exception of one outstanding piece of work relating to DNA profiling, we have now completed all the work we set out to do and in accordance with the terms of reference set for the review.
“I acknowledge how sad Claudia’s parents and sister feel that we have been unable to give them the answers they want, and everyone in the team shares their frustration.
“We have worked tirelessly for three years and we are sorry that we have not been able to prove what happened to Claudia, or to find her.
“It remains the case that people close to Claudia have not always been entirely truthful with us and have withheld information. And this has made our task extremely difficult.
“The review team will now be reduced in line with the reduced demand, but the investigation will always remain open – and regularly reviewed – until Claudia is found and those responsible for her disappearance and murder are brought to justice.”