THE father of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence says he feels that the search for her has “taken two steps back”.

Peter Lawrence said he and his family raised their hopes when 2014 saw a renewed police appeal to the public, five years since her disappearance, including new information made public in a television appeal by North Yorkshire Police in March.

This year also saw the first arrest over the suspected murder of Claudia, who disappeared in 2009, and Mr Lawrence believed the family might have finally found out what happened to her.

Mr Lawrence said: “The details of the arrest, I found out from the press. I had no idea they were looking at that man.

That was quite a surprise, it was someone local they were looking at.

“Of course, then it dragged on for months and months which was difficult because you think ‘oh, there may be some progress’, but it drags on and you realise there probably isn’t.”

The man arrested on suspicion of Claudia’s murder, now aged 60, was released from police bail in November.

A 46-year-old man was arrested in July on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and remains on police bail, but Mr Lawrence said he did not feel the second arrest was of benefit to the investigation.

He said: “We have been told the first man has been released from bail. It gave me hope towards some sort of answer at the time. The second arrest was a little bit of a sideline, as it wasn’t taking the investigation any further. At the moment, I just feel we have taken two steps back. That’s how it feels.

Ali feels the same. It is the not knowing what happened that is difficult.”

This year will mark the fifth Christmas that Claudia’s family and friends will not see her, but Mr Lawrence said he was still optimistic an answer to her disappearance could be found.

He said: “We have gone through another year coming up to another Christmas and it looks as though Claudia still won’t be with us.

“The Major Crimes Unit contact is brief and sporadic. But the positives are we have still got the MCU with some very experienced senior detectives working on Claudia’s case.”