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Claudia Lawrence: Who was the smoker in Claudia’s car?

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Detectives investigating the disappearance of Claudia Lawrence want to find a man whose DNA was found on a cigarette in her car, it can be revealed today.

They also want to trace a “left-handed smoker” spotted with a woman on a bridge the morning the chef is believed to have gone missing and identify a mystery man who told supermarket staff that he knew Claudia.

The public appeal comes as officers with North Yorkshire Police’s Major Crime Unit chase new lines of enquiry on the fifth anniversary of Claudia’s disappearance.

Mysteries surrounding Claudia’s missing mobile phone and a couple who were seen arguing outside the University of York also form part of the appeal as does a call for friends to come forward and rule themselves out of the case after new forensic techniques found additional fingerprints in her home in York.

Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn, Head of the Major Crime Unit, said: “The new information we have made public demonstrates the value and importance of this review.

It affords us the ability to examine information gathered in the original investigation and re-apply it with current investigative techniques and thinking as if the incident had just occurred.

“Such an approach, together with the very latest expertise we have utilised from the National Crime Agency, forensic specialists and advisers, leads us to conclude there are new lines of enquiry that should be pursued to conclusion. “We believe the very real possibility still exists that this appeal will, even five years later, produce new information that could be of particular significance to the case.”

As part of a nationwide drive to publicise the case, it will also feature on BBC One’s Crimewatch at 9pm tonight and will be followed, half an hour later, by the launch of a new website - www.northyorkshire.police.uk/claudialawrence - which features details of the new appeals, an interactive map, multi-media content and a timeline of events.

The independent charity Crimestoppers is giving its support by offering a £10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

Claudia was last seen alive on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 18, 2009, when she walked home from work, later speaking to her parents, Joan and Peter, separately on the telephone that evening.

She was due to walk the three miles to work at the University of York early the following morning but never turned up and was reported missing on Friday, March 20.

It led to one of the largest investigations in the history of North Yorkshire Police and sparked widespread local, national and international media coverage.

The force’s newly-formed Major Crimes Unit later took charge of the investigation and promised to go back to the very start to try and solve Claudia’s disappearance.

The appeals from the Major Crime Unit include:

*The identification of additional fingerprints following a forensic re-examination of Claudia’s home;

*Finding the man whose DNA profile was found on a cigarette butt in Claudia’s car;

*Identifying the “left-handed smoker” who was seen with a woman on Melrosegate Bridge on Thursday, March 19, 2009, at around 5.35am – is there a link to male DNA found on cigarette butt in Claudia’s car?;

*Tracing the man who told staff at the Co-Op store at Tang Hall, York, who told members of staff that he knew Claudia;

*Solving the mystery surrounding Claudia’s missing silver Samsung D900 mobile phone - new analysis shows it was active in the Acomb area in the weeks before she disappeared and, detectives believe, it was deliberately turned off by someone on Thursday, March 19, 2009, at around 12.10pm;

*Identifying a man and woman who were seen arguing by a car outside the University of York at around 6.10am on Thursday, March 19; and

*Finding missing GHD hair straighteners that were inside Claudia’s house – evidence supports she left for work but the hair straighteners were missing.

Det Supt Malyn 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.

“Over time loyalties sometimes change and information withheld five years ago may now be less problematic or difficult for individuals to share with us. Forensic work shows there are those who have been in Claudia’s house or car in the past and we urge them to come forward. This includes those that may have worked on the house or car or visited through the course of their business. They can be assured the elimination process is simple and straight forward.”

He added: “The pain, anxiety and grief Claudia’s family are suffering should be uppermost in their minds when making the decision whether or not to contact us. Unless responsible for her disappearance, it is difficult to imagine why anyone some five years later, would now not come forward in confidence and be conclusively eliminated. Either call us direct or anonymously through Crimestoppers.”

Anyone with information should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 1, and pass details to the Force Control Room, quoting “Claudia Lawrence” when passing on details.

Information can also be passed to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, quoting “Claudia Lawrence, North Yorkshire Police”.

Alternatively, go to www.crimestoppers-uk.org and fill in an Anonymous Online Form.

 

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