A 59-YEAR-OLD man arrested today on suspicion of murdering York chef Claudia Lawrence has been named as Michael Snelling.
Police have this afternoon boarded up a house in Burnholme Grove, beside Burnholme Community College, after a day of searching the property.
Miss Lawrence has not been seen since March 2009.
Mr Snelling is understood to have been arrested this morning at a relative's house in North Shields. Officers have searched that property but searches have primarily focussed on the back garden of the house in York and on a paved area behind the garage as well as the inside ot the property.
Officers in forensic suits have put up a cordon around the house and boarded up the door.
Officers have also removed evidence bags and a suitcase from the house. One bag looked to contain material. Another officer has been taking video footage of the house.
The downstairs curtains are closed. The house is around three quarters of a mile from Claudia's home.
Neighbours said a police van arrived at 8am and then a larger van at 11.30am. They said they believed the occupant lived on his own. Camera crews are now outside the house.
Police conducted fresh forensic searches of Claudia's house in Heworth Road last October, and made a new appeal on TV's Crimewatch in March, citing several new leads.
The scene in Burnholme Grove today
As part of the Crimewatch appeal, police said they were looking for a white man aged 55 to 65, described as about six feet tall with a full head of medium-length grey hair which appeared scruffy and windswept.
He was reportedly seen at Claudia's front door on the day she disappeared, between 6.45am and 6.55am, wearing a sandy-coloured knee-length Mac-style jacket which was unfastened and either made of thick material, or had extra clothing underneath.
Forensic examinations are expected to last several days, police have said. A car has also been seized as part of the inquiries.
It is the first arrest of someone suspected of causing Claudia harm.
The investigation team has stressed that Claudia has not been found.
Police cannot rule out the possibility of further arrests as the review continues, a North Yorkshire Police spokesman said.
Claudia’s family have been notified and are being supported by trained officers.
- Shock and hope as news of arrest breaks -
Jen King, one of Claudia's closest friends, said the arrest showed progress was being made with the investigation.
Jen, pictured above with Suzy Cooper, another of Claudia's friends, said: "It has been five years. It proves it's very much still alive in the minds of the police and it just goes to show despite the accusations from people that the police are not bothered they are very much bothered about it.
"If it goes somewhere that's great but if not it shows the investigation is ongoing.
"It's a step towards this one day being resolved."
Claudia's father Peter (above) confirmed he had been told the news this morning. He said: "I'm very pleased they appear to be making progress by making this arrest."
Peter Lawrence’s close friend, Martin Dales, who has supported the high-profile campaign to keep Claudia’s name in the public eye, said it was encouraging that someone had been arrested.
“This is the first arrest in just over five years since Claudia went missing and we must now let the law take its course,” he added.
“We have always said it is time for some closure – be that good or bad news - and we now have to wait to see what happens.”
Jim Melsom, who owns the Nag's Head pub near Claudia's home, said he was "stunned" when he heard of the arrest.
He said: "If it’s right, it’s good news for Peter Lawrence and his family, and also for the local area.
“This has just gone on and on, it’s never gone away, and it would be good if it has finally been resolved.”
During the early days of the investigation into Claudia’s disappearance, the pub - along with many other properties across York – was searched for clues and items were taken away, but the searches resulted in no leads.
Burnholme Grove resident Terry Ellis, who used to drink in the Nag’s Head, said he had seen the his neighbour drinking at the pub.
He said: “He used to sometimes come in and stand at the end of the bar, but he kept himself to himself. He has lived here quite a while.
- Background -
Claudia was last seen after leaving work at Goodricke College, part of the University of York, on the afternoon of March 18, 2009. She spoke to her parents by telephone that night but has not been seen or heard from since.
In March, detectives released fresh appeals and new evidence.
Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn, who has led the latest investigation
The seven fresh leads included new CCTV footage of a mystery man, DNA found on a cigarette in Claudia's car and that she had used her phone in the Acomb area in the weeks before her disappearance.
A cold case review began last autumn with police revisiting the original investigation using new methods "as if the incident had just occurred".
Julia Mulligan, police and crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said today: “I am satisfied to see the investment made in the new Major Crime Unit is able to provide dedicated resources for North Yorkshire Police to concentrate solely on investigation of serious crime, including unresolved cases such as the disappearance of Claudia.”
A Press reader took these photographs from a nearby garden, showing police in the back garden of the house in Burnholme Grove:
- Appeal -
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. Please quote “Claudia Lawrence” when passing on details. Information can also be passed to the independent charity 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.
For further information on the Claudia Lawrence investigation, go to the North Yorkshire Police website www.northyorkshire.police.uk/claudialawrence