A MYSTERIOUS dark-coloured van was captured on CCTV parked outside the home of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence on the night she disappeared.

Police have appealed for help in tracing the vehicle – which they believe is a Ford Ranger Thunder.

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway, who is leading the investigation, said they had recovered CCTV of the vehicle at 9.01pm on Wednesday, March 18, outside Claudia’s home in Heworth Road.

He said that vehicle, which is described as a dark blue or black double cabbed pick-up van, was seen to leave the address at 9.37pm – heading in the direction of Malton Road.

“Our enquiries have failed to establish who this vehicle belongs to,” Det Sup Galloway said.

“If anybody knows who it belongs to, we would like to hear from them.

“Have you been offered that vehicle for sale, have you been asked to valet that vehicle in the past couple of weeks?

“If so, please come forward and assist the investigation. The vehicle may be nothing to do with the disappearance of Claudia, but it is something I definitely need to establish.”

He said the CCTV footage did not show anybody getting into the vehicle.

Claudia, 35, was last seen at around 3.10pm on that Wednesday, walking towards her home.

Later that night, she spoke to both her parents on the phone and sent text messages to various friends – but after 8.23pm all contact stopped.

She received a text message from a friend at 9.12pm – but she never replied and it is not known if that message was read.

Det Sup Galloway said he had not given up hope of finding Claudia alive.

He said: “There are chances. She is an adult, not a child and she can sustain herself alone and with other friends and maybe people we don’t know about.

“She could be anywhere. We need assistance to help her. I have not given up hope, nor have her family.”

Around 40 detectives are now involved in the investigation, with a further 60 police officers involved in searches around the city.

Chief Inspector Dave Hannan, deputy head of operations at North Yorkshire Police, said: “We are not scaling down the search for Claudia. Officers are going house to house. They are searching with the consent of the owners of the house.

“They are looking in lofts, behind bath panels – anywhere that we might find something that leads us to where Claudia is.”

Today a mobile police van displaying a large missing poster was touring the Tang Hall and Heworth areas.

* If you have any information to help the enquiry, phone North Yorkshire Police on 0845 60 60 247 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111