The senior detective leading the new investigation into the case of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence says people who “continue to obstruct” the criminal probe risk arrest and having their homes searched.
Speaking on the sixth anniversary of Miss Lawrence’s disappearance, Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn of North Yorkshire Police said he believes some local people who knew her “actively sought to keep that a secret” while others lied about their links with her.
And he urged those who were yet to admit fully their relationship with the missing woman or the events in the days leading up to her disappearance on March 18, 2009, to come forward.
He said: “If I reach the point where we believe people continue to obstruct this investigation or assist or cover up for the person or persons responsible, they will be arrested.
“This is a very intrusive process involving interviews and searches which we will do in order to eliminate or implicate them in Claudia’s disappearance.”
Miss Lawrence, who would have been 41 last month, was reported missing by her father on Friday March 20 after concerns were raised when she failed to turn up for her 6am shift at York University. Detectives have since come to believe she was murdered.
Mr Malyn said the torrent of information passed to detectives working on the original investigation had “reduced to the occasional drip” as the months passed without finding the missing woman. It was announced in 2013 that the inquiry would be reviewed by the force’s Major Crime Unit.
A number of new searches have been carried out since 2013, including a detailed re-examination of Miss Lawrence’s house in the Heworth area of York and a fingertip search of the alleyway leading to the back of the chef’s house.
A 60-year-old man was arrested last year in connection with her disappearance and suspected murder but was later released without charge, while a 47-year-old man remains on bail on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
Mr Malyn said: “Without any prior involvement in the case, my team and I have been able to look back at the events of March 2009 and the enquiries that followed it, at a different pace and with a fresh perspective.
“Without the pressure of daily media attention, we have spotted things that may not have seemed significant or hugely relevant at the time, and to prioritise and put greater emphasis on certain aspects of the enquiry that this new team felt were necessary and warranted.
“Science has moved on in six years. Additional fingerprints have been found using techniques that the review team have decided to capitalise on based on the advice of national experts.
“There are a number of people who we now know spent time in Claudia’s house and who literally left their mark there; but, for whatever reason, those individuals have failed to come forward and acknowledge their presence in her home.
“Other experts have been involved to help us understand what may have happened to her phone, to identify vehicles of interest captured on CCTV and to advise on satellite navigation data that we have recovered.
“By scrutinising in meticulous detail what people told the original enquiry, and then comparing that with other information that was either available at the time or which has only recently come to light, two things have become evident.
“First, that there are people locally who knew Claudia and who have actively sought to keep that a secret – and we know who some of those people are; secondly, we know that some people have deliberately lied about a number of issues concerning their association with Claudia.”
The detective, who leads the Major Crime Unit, said his team had made “significant progress” since the force began reviewing the case in 2013 and may make more arrests in the coming weeks and months.
He appealed for anyone with new information to come forward, adding: “Ultimately, we may not be able to prove what happened to Claudia, or be able to find her.
“But that will not be for lack of determination, tenacity and meticulous detective work, nor whilst there are still clues that need to be investigated.”
Anyone with information that could assist the investigation should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 1, and pass details to the Force Control Room.