Updated: POLICE teams and sniffer dogs have searched four York houses as the hunt for missing chef Claudia Lawrence continues.

Two of the properties were within yards of the 35-year-old’s home in the Heworth area of the city.

The investigation into the vanishing of Claudia – who has not been seen for almost four months – first moved to a property containing five flats, some of which appeared to be unoccupied, in Heworth yesterday morning.

Scenes of crime investigators wearing plastic gloves scoured the two-storey building on the corner of Heworth Green and Eastern Terrace and a locked shed in its rear yard, before also searching a house in Heworth Road – the street in which Claudia lives – in the afternoon.

They also focused on properties in Alexander Avenue, in Huntington, and Plum Tree Court.

But North Yorkshire Police have not said why the properties have formed part of the probe into her disappearance, which is being treated as suspected murder, or whether any items were taken away for analysis.

Yesterday’s searches come three weeks after Claudia’s local pub, the nearby Nag’s Head, was searched for the second time since she vanished.

Speaking about yesterday’s developments, which also saw sniffer dogs led around the outside of the houses, a North Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “The searches are the latest aspect of the search strategy, which is a central feature of the ongoing and continuously developing investigation.

“The searches are detailed and have been conducted as a result of the information and material gathered during what is a broad-ranging investigation.”

One Heworth resident, who lives near the house searched yesterday morning, said: “A few months ago, we would have been surprised to see so many police around here so often, but now it’s just an everyday thing for us.

“I’ve no idea why they’re searching here.”

Claudia was last seen on March 18, the day before she failed to turn up for work at the University of York’s Roger Kirk Centre, since when a nationwide appeal for help has been launched and a £10,000 reward for information offered by Crimestoppers.

Detectives have focused a key part of their investigation on Claudia’s private life and have appealed for those who knew her to contact them. Anybody with information should call police on 0845 6060247 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.