AN historic building in the heart of York has been at the centre of an unusual missing persons case.

The building at 1, Aldwark, which is a short walk from York Minster and became the city’s first synagogue in 600 years, has been the subject of a missing persons’ case which Claudia’s Law has helped to resolve.

The synagogue was once a joiner’s shop and officially became a place of worship for the small Jewish community in the 1890’s. Work in the joiner’s shop would stop so that the family could join in the worship which continued until the shop closed in 1975 – along with the synagogue.

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York Press: The synagogue doubled as a joiner's shop at one timeThe synagogue doubled as a joiner's shop at one time (Image: Supplied)

Trevor and Sue Caley were granted a guardianship order as Trevor was the brother of the owner of the property, Maurice Caley, who had gone missing and had not been seen for some years. The state of the building had started to cause concern to the neighbouring RAFA club, prompting the search.

York solicitor, Rachel Roche, owner of Roche Legal who handled the case, said: “Each year in the UK an estimated 170,000 people are reported missing.

"This case was different because the missing person did not have many friends, no consistent job and no other family members so it was therefore more challenging to prove that he was missing from his usual place of residence and day to day activities, as required by the legislation.

“Our client was contacted by professionals searching for relatives of the derelict property that was causing problems for neighbours. Our client believed his brother could be possibly dead.

“His brother, who was very private throughout his life, sold his marital home to buy 1, Aldwark in 1978 and worked on it until 1982 when he stopped, perhaps, due to issues with it being in a conservation area. The guardianship order was subsequently granted with the court expressing concern that without the order the property was, and would remain, uninsured.

“Whoever applies for guardianship over a missing person’s affairs needs to prove to the court that they have ‘sufficient interest’ in the missing person’s affairs. This case has attracted interest worldwide, as it involves a former synagogue with historic significance.”

York Press: Rachel RocheRachel Roche (Image: Roche Legal)

The infamous massacre of Jews in Clifford’s Tower in 1190 and the subsequent Jewish expulsion from the Kingdom of England in 1290 meant that a synagogue was not established in the city until the joiner’s shop assumed that role in the 19th century.

The Jewish Chronicle newspaper reported in September 1892: “ A small number of Jews have recently settled in York. Applied to Chief Rabbi for facilities to celebrate New Year and Day of Atonement. He has presented them with Sepher and Shofar. Divine service will therefore be held on the New Year in York for the first time, in all probability since the expulsion in 1290.”

Claudia’s Law is the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 which came into force on 31 July 2019 and was colloquially named after 35-year-old Claudia Lawrence, a chef at York University, who went missing in 2009.

York Press: Claudia Lawrence with her father, PeterClaudia Lawrence with her father, Peter

A change in the law was championed by her late father Peter and Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake and makes it possible to apply for a court order to be appointed as guardian over a missing person’s money and estate once an individual has been missing for at least ninety days.

Previously, there was no such law, and it was only possible to declare a missing person as deceased if they had been missing for far longer, with no ability for their loved ones to manage their affairs.

Rachel Roche has produced a comprehensive free eBook which gives advice in the case of a missing person and is part of a series of self-help books she has written and published.

The eBooks are available to download at