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No charges for men arrested in Claudia case

No charges for men arrested in Claudia case

Published at 6:33pm 8th March 2016. (Updated at 10:25am 9th March 2016)

Four men arrested over the suspected murder of York chef Claudia Lawrence will not face charges.

They were detained last year, following a review of the original investigation into the 35-year-old's disappearance in March 2009.

The head of North Yorkshire Police's Major Crime Unit, who led the review, says he's now sure that some people know what happened to Claudia, but have refused to come forward.

Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn also believes that a man pictured on CCTV walking near Claudia's house at the time of her disappearance "remains the most important person to trace".

He added: "I am left with the inescapable conclusion that this case could still be solved if only people were honest with us. The fact that they are not is agonising for Claudia's family and they should be ashamed of themselves.

"A man was filmed by a CCTV camera in Lime Court, Heworth Road, very close to Claudia's house, on the morning after she vanished. Our review managed to unearth additional CCTV footage from that same camera shot the previous evening, which appears to show the same man in the same place.

"We had this footage examined by a number of experts in the UK and abroad, but it is only as good as the camera, and it cannot be enhanced using current techniques. Despite exhaustive efforts, we have not been able to identify the man.

"The lack of extended CCTV footage from that CCTV camera on the days and weeks either side of Claudia's disappearance has been one of our biggest frustrations and is typical of the type of challenge that faces a cold case review team. We have reviewed material seized by the original team and, wherever possible, looked to see if additional material could be secured.

"We don't know if that man was in the area as a matter of daily routine, or whether his appearance is of critical significance. I believe he must be local to the area, and despite extensive appeals, he hasn't come forward. I can only speculate why he hasn't done so, and whether someone is protecting him."

A spokesman for Claudia's dad, Peter Lawrence, said: "I know Peter, the family and Claudia's friends will be feeling that the search for what has happened to Claudia seems to have turned out to be yet another false dawn in an already forlorn situation.

"The police have worked tirelessly to try and find answers, but currently without success. It is nearly the seventh anniversary of Claudia disappearing and it seems that we're all back to square one; it's really quite depressing, especially as someone is clearly withholding the information needed."

Police pledge to keep case open

Since 2013, up to 20 detectives and police staff have worked full-time on the case review, at a cost of nearly £800,000.

As a result of the review, a 59-year-old local man was arrested on 13 May 2014 on suspicion of Claudia's murder and later released from bail.

On 23 July 2014, a 46-year-old local man was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and was released without charge following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service.

On the sixth anniversary of Claudia's disappearance, detectives released the previously unseen CCTV footage of the man acting suspiciously in Lime Court.

It was recorded at around 7.15pm on 18 March 2009, about an hour before Claudia spoke to her mum and dad on the phone.

After the footage was released, the four men, who are all in their 50s and from the York area, were arrested on 23 March and 22 April on suspicion of murder.

They were all released from bail last September to allow the Crown Prosecution Service to assess evidence and consider whether to bring charges.

Detective Superintendent Malyn said: "For legal reasons, I am limited about what I can say, but I respect the decision made by the Crown Prosecution Service.

"We have made several arrests in this enquiry and, as a result, we have had positive reactions from the public and very useful information.

"We do not arrest people without weighing up the proportionality and justification for the arrest. To eliminate people from an enquiry, we sometimes have to search for evidence that either supports their alibis or not. Seven years on, this is more difficult to do just relying on memory, therefore, if it is justified, proportionate and necessary, we will arrest or apply for search warrants.

"The investigation team will continue to thoroughly assess any new leads and information. We remind those who we suspect are withholding key information about Claudia that we will not give up our quest to find the truth.

"As we move towards the seventh anniversary of Claudia's disappearance, we hope the public will continue to help us and provide that vital information the family and we need to find out what happened to Claudia.

"We can't rule out that a complete stranger to Claudia was involved and managed to avoid CCTV cameras, being disturbed by witnesses and is unknown to the investigation team, her friends and family. Until then, we will continue to investigate the information that regularly comes into the team and look at all possibilities.

"However, I still strongly favour the theory that the person - or persons - responsible for Claudia's disappearance was someone - or several people - who were close to her. It was either very well-planned or there was a huge element of luck to have got away with it, so far at least. In my view, they have probably been helped by the fact that those closely associated with Claudia have withheld key information.

"The team has worked tirelessly to get a breakthrough in this case and I thank every one of them for this. I'm hopeful one day we will get that bit of luck or that a courageous person will step forward to give us that break.

"I know Claudia's family have appreciated our extensive efforts during the review and active investigation over the past two-and-a-half years. I also know what a fraught and painful process this has been for them as they continue their desperate search for answers about Claudia's disappearance.

"I have personally told them that North Yorkshire Police will never give up on Claudia. The case will remain open until the day Claudia has been found and those responsible for her suspected murder are brought to justice."

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy, who has overseen the review of the investigation, said: "Over the past two-and-a-half years, I have seen first-hand the sheer tenacity and professionalism of Det Supt Malyn and the Major Crime Unit to advance the Claudia Lawrence investigation.

"I am hugely grateful to the senior investigating officer and his team for their tenacity and sheer hard work to search for the truth. I also thank the group of national experts who have provided such valuable support and guidance to the investigation.

"This investigation will never be closed before we find the truth. If new information comes to light about Claudia Lawrence or anyone involved in her disappearance and suspected murder, North Yorkshire Police will act immediately."

Anyone with information which could assist the investigation is asked to call North Yorkshire Police on 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through the Online Anonymous Form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org