Man released in Claudia Lawrence investigation

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A man arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice by police investigating the disappearance of York chef Claudia Lawrence has been released on bail, officers said last night.

The arrest of the man, 46, earlier today is understood to be linked to an intense search operation which has been going on today at a pub in York - about three miles from where Miss Lawrence lived.

People living around the imposing brick building said officers arrived in a number of vehicles at about 8am and worked inside throughout the day as colleagues maintained a cordon around the car park.

Late this afternoon drilling could be heard coming from inside the premises.

Around half an hour later a police crime scene officer left carrying drilling equipment in a case.

Miss Lawrence worked in a kitchen at York University and was 35 when she went missing.

She was last seen at around 3pm on March 18 2009 as she made her way home from her shift and was reported missing by her father two days later.

Her family believes something happened to her as she left for work early on March 19. Police believe she has been murdered.

Since the fifth anniversary of her disappearance new lines of inquiry have emerged, although her body has never been found.

North Yorkshire Police launched a review of the investigation last year and carried out a detailed re-examination of Ms Lawrence’s home.

Detectives launched a fresh appeal for information on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme earlier this year.

New lines detectives have explored include two unknown vehicles, one of them a car seen near Ms Lawrence’s home, and the disclosure of mystery fingerprints found in her flat.

Detectives said at the time of the Crimewatch appeal that they were interested in Acomb.

They said evidence derived from calls made from Miss Lawrence’s missing mobile phone suggested she had been spending time in the Acomb area in the weeks up to her disappearance.

She is thought to have socialised in The Acomb pub.

A 59-year-old York man was arrested in May on suspicion of her murder and was re-bailed last month.

Today people watched in the blazing sun as the police operation continued at the pub, which occupies a prominent position on a roundabout and which has a bookmakers business attached to one side and a children’s play area at the rear.

Victor Overall, 68, who lives opposite the pub, said he noticed the police arrive between 7.30am and 8am today.

He said: “We thought it must be something more serious than a robbery at the bookies, with all these police and the CSI and everything, but never in our wildest dreams did we think it was anything to do with Claudia Lawrence.”

Mr Overall, who has lived in his house for 20 years, said the pub used to have a bad reputation but it has been “turned around” by the current landlord over the last few years.

“We can’t believe what’s happening so close to our own home, “ he said.

“We’ve lived here 20 years and there have been occasions in the past, as there are in all pubs, when things get rowdy and the police get called. So we’ve seen the odd police car over there but never anything like this amount.”

Uniformed officers guarded the perimeter of the building and other police could be seen working inside the building and, from time to time, take objects out into waiting vehicles.

Some of the things taken out appeared to be doors, wrapped in plastic.

Tonight a North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “Detectives investigating the disappearance of Claudia Lawrence can confirm that the 46-year-old man arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice earlier today has been released on police bail pending further inquiries.”

The force said the investigation was “very much active” and said there was the possibility that further arrests will be made.

The force reminded the media not to publish information which may compromise the inquiry or the legal rights of people involved in the proceedings.

Miss Lawrence’s father, Peter - who has mounted a vigorous campaign to find his daughter - was grateful for the police’s hard work, his spokesman said.

Family friend Martin Dales said: “Peter remains very grateful for all the hard work that North Yorkshire Police are continuing to put in to finding Claudia.

“It is to be hoped that this is another vital piece in the jigsaw of information that needs to come in to the police: it is much better if people volunteer information than wasting valuable police time in them having to find it out for themselves and then come looking for people.”

Most of the officers who had been in the house left shortly after 6pm leaving a handful of colleagues guarding the scene.