CLAUDIA Lawrence murder suspect Mike Snelling was devoted to his mother and “never seemed to bother much with women”, friends said yesterday.

Sniffer dogs from North Yorkshire Police were dispatched to Mr Snelling’s family home in the North East yesterday to search the back garden.

Robbie Robinson, an 81-year-old retired plumber, who lives next door to the house in North Shields, said: "He's a lovely lad. He's very friendly. He did everything for his mam.

“He used to come up here every weekend to look after her and for Newcastle United matches."

He revealed Mr Snelling’s mother Dorothy, who suffers from dementia, was moved into a care home around four months ago.

But her son continued his weekly trips to Tyneside Mr Robinson continued, adding: "He never married.

“He didn't seem to bother with women. He was just devoted to his mother. He kept her in her own home as long as he could.

“He was just that kind of lad. Whenever he saw me getting a taxi he said ‘you should have just asked me for a lift’. His mam thought the world of him."

He said that Mr Snelling’s brother Alan, from Forest Hall, Newcastle, had died recently after a history of heart problems.

Mr Robinson had comforted the brothers’ sister Anne in the aftermath of the bereavement and she sent him a “thank you” card.

Mr Robinson’s last conversation with Mr Snelling on Sunday was about this - with the pensioner asking Mr Snelling to thank Anne for the card.

Mr Snelling would have been due to travel back to York on Tuesday, but was arrested in the morning.

He made the trip back to his native Tyneside every weekend to visit his mother and take her out.

He would also watch Newcastle United at home during his visits and was a season ticket holder.

Mr Robinson added: “He would come home every Friday for the football match.

"He would come back every weekend to take his mother to get the shopping in.

“She's in a home now for dementia but he made sure he kept her at home as long as he could.

"I've lived here for 40 years and seen him grow up."

Yesterday police took a black Labrador sniffer dog into the semi-detached property in Hollywell Road where a team of police and forensic scientists is at work.

Mr Snelling is a former University of York lab technician who started working for York Mind after leaving the university biology department last year. Mind refused to comment.