Man quizzed in Claudia probe bailed

Times Series: A forensic officer with a dog outside a house in North Shields which is being searched by police A forensic officer with a dog outside a house in North Shields which is being searched by police

Police investigating the disappearance of university chef Claudia Lawrence are continuing to search two homes after a man arrested on suspicion of her murder was released on bail.

North Yorkshire Police said the man, named locally as former lab technician Michael Snelling, 59, was released from custody yesterday evening.

He was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of killing Miss Lawrence, who went missing in York in March 2009.

Two houses - in York and North Shields, Tyneside - are being examined by police and forensic officers as part of the investigation and searches are expected to continue for several days.

In a statement last night, the force said: " North Yorkshire Police have released a 59-year-old man on conditional bail following his arrest yesterday on suspicion of murdering Claudia Lawrence.

"Forensic searches at relevant properties are expected to continue for a number of days.

"Every effort will be made to minimise disruption to local residents and the public affected by this work.

"North Yorkshire Police would like to thank those people for their patience and understanding.

"As investigations continue with the possibility of further arrests to be made, all sections of the community and the media are reminded and encouraged to respect the rights of others, including those connected to the case.

"It is also important that the investigation team have every opportunity to follow due legal process."

Searches at the houses in Hollywell Road, North Shields, and Burnholme Grove, York, continued throughout yesterday with police using sniffer dogs at both addresses.

Mr Snelling was arrested at the Hollywell Road property on Tuesday morning, according to neighbours. It was understood to be his mother's home before she moved to a residential facility.

People living near him said he split his time between this address and his run-down semi in Burnholme Grove.

Both properties have been the subject of intense police searches over the past two days.

Neighbours said Mr Snelling worked for some time as a lab technician in the biology department at York University but recently started work for a mental health charity.

His York house is about half a mile from the small house in the Heworth area where Miss Lawrence lived alone.

Miss Lawrence, who worked in a kitchen at York University, was 35 when she was reported missing by her father Peter on March 20, 2009.

She was last seen at around 3.05pm on March 18, walking back towards her home, and that night she spoke to both her parents on the phone.

It is thought something happened to her after she left for work early on March 19.

North Yorkshire Police launched a review of the investigation last year after a new major crime unit was established by the force. Detectives have always said they believe the chef was murdered.

Last year, the new investigation team conducted a detailed, two month re-examination of Miss Lawrence's home.

Then, in March this year, senior officers announced a series of new lines of inquiry on the fifth anniversary of the day she failed to turn up for work. The announcement coincided with a fresh appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch.

They said the new forensic examination of her house uncovered the fingerprints of people who had not yet come forward.

They also found the DNA profile of an unknown man on a cigarette butt in the university chef's Vauxhall Corsa.

Police have said before that Miss Lawrence's mobile and rucksack have never been found.

Miss Lawrence's father has mounted a five-year campaign to find his daughter and, in March, spoke of the "torture" his family had suffered through not knowing what had happened to her.

Martin Dales, a friend and spokesman for Peter Lawrence, stressed the public could still have vital information that could help the inquiry.

He said: "The media coverage is an opportunity for people to be reminded of the essential need for information to keep flowing in.

"People might well have had their memories stirred by this. There must be a lot of people out there who ought to be speaking with the police.

"We need to get people to engage with the police."

Mr Lawrence has suffered "quite a shock" since he was told of the first arrest in the search for his daughter, Mr Dales said.

There had been others in the five years since she disappeared, including the discovery of a body in 2009 which turned out not to be Miss Lawrence.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree