A MAN who was arrested on suspicion of murdering York chef Claudia Lawrence was released on conditional bail last night.

North Yorkshire Police said that following the release of Michael Snelling, aged 59, forensic searches at relevant properties were expected to continue for a number of days.

“Every effort will be made to minimise disruption to local residents and the public affected by this work,” said a force spokesman.

“North Yorkshire Police would like to thank those people for their patience and understanding.”

Mr Snelling, a former lab worker at the University of York, was arrested at a relative’s house in North Shields on Tuesday.

Searches were carried out at his semi-detached house in Burnholme Grove throughout Tuesday and yesterday.

A customer at the Nag’s Head in Heworth, who did not wish to be named, said Mr Snelling had regularly visited the pub.

He said: “He’s a nice bloke. He used to come in and stand at the end of the bar and just chat.

“He’s a nice guy, I got on well with him.

“He was a season ticket holder at Newcastle United, so there was always something to talk about with him.”

Martin Dales, friend and spokesman for Claudia’s father, Peter, said Mr Lawrence was “fragile”, following the latest events in the investigation.

Mr Dales said: “I think he’s feeling the weight of all that happened.

“It’s bringing up the whole five years in one blink.

“The whole effect of what happened yesterday - it’s the first time there’s been an arrest in the whole process and that in itself is of huge significance.”

Forensics experts were brought to the Burnholme Grove house at about 9am yesterday, where they were faced with more than a dozen national and local media representatives.

Police erected a blue tent to the rear of the property, before the forensics experts entered the house - which had been boarded up by police on Tuesday - and left about an hour later carrying a yellow evidence bag, and later returned to prise up a paving slab from the rear of the property.

Police with a sniffer dog searched the house in Hollywell Road, North Shields, which is believed to belong to Mr Snelling’s mother, yesterday morning, and a sniffer dog was also brought to the Burnholme Grove house at just before 3pm.

Claudia was last seen on CCTV on March 18, 2009.

She failed to arrive for her morning shift as a chef at the University of York the following day, sparking a huge police search.

Several people have since been arrested over hoax messages, but this week’s arrest is the first directly connected with the investigation into Claudia’s disappearance.

Two months ago, detectives made a fresh appeal on BBC’s Crimewatch on the fifth anniversary of her disappearance, revealing new lines of inquiry to the public, including CCTV footage of a mystery man, two mysterious vehicles including a car seen near Claudia’s home, DNA found on a cigarette in Claudia’s car, the fact that her hair straighteners were missing from her home, and the revelation of mystery fingerprints found in her flat.