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Sniffer dog in Claudia house probe

Police using a specially trained dog have joined a search operation at a house where a 59-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murdering university chef Claudia Lawrence.

North Yorkshire Police are questioning Michael Snelling, who was arrested yesterday morning at a house in North Shields, Tyneside, on suspicion of killing Miss Lawrence, who went missing in York in March 2009.

This morning, police took a black labrador sniffer dog into the semi-detached property in Hollywell Road and a number of police and forensic scientists could be seen at work.

Another police team was continuing a search started yesterday at Snelling's home in Burnholme Grove, York.

People living close to the North Shields address, which is believed to be Snelling's mother's house, said the former York University lab technician was arrested at that house yesterday morning. His car was also seized, they said.

Police moved in to search the property at the same time as a team began to probe his run-down semi in York.

Neighbours in York said Snelling spent a lot of time in North Shields, in the area where he grew up, but would return to York during the week for work.

They said he worked for some time as a lab technician in the biology department at York University but recently started work for a mental health charity.

North Yorkshire Police confirm ed that a 59-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of Miss Lawrence's murder but stressed the chef had not been found. He remains in custody.

Hollywell Road resident Ronald Robinson, 81, said yesterday: " His job was down there but he lives up here. 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 seen him grow up as I've lived here for 40 years."

Investigators returned to the house in North Shields just before 9am to continue their search of the property.

Parking outside, three forensic specialists began carrying equipment into the house before taking the police dog in on a lead.

Two other officers remained outside as the investigation continued.

People living near Snelling's house in York said they were shocked by the police activity at t he house where he had lived for more than 20 years.

The house is about half a mile from the small house in the Heworth area of York where Miss Lawrence lived alone.

Miss Lawrence, who worked in a kitchen at York University, was 35 when she was reported missing by her father Peter on March 20, 2009.

She was last seen at around 3.05pm on March 18, walking back towards her home, and that night she spoke to both her parents on the phone.

It is thought something happened to her after she left for work early on March 19.

North Yorkshire Police launched a review of the investigation last year after a new major crime unit was established by the force. Detectives have always said they believe the chef was murdered.

Last year, the new investigation team conducted a detailed, two month re-examination of Miss Lawrence's home.

Then, in March this year, senior officers announced a series of new lines of inquiry on the fifth anniversary of the day she failed to turn up for work. The announcement coincided with a fresh appeal on BBC's Crimewatch.

They said the new forensic examination of her house uncovered the fingerprints of people who had not yet come forward.

They also found the DNA profile of an unknown man on a cigarette butt in the university chef's Vauxhall Corsa.

Police have said before that Miss Lawrence's mobile and rucksack have never been found.

Yesterday, a force spokesman said : "Police cannot rule out the possibility of further arrests in the future as the review continues."

Miss Lawrence's father has mounted a five-year campaign to find his daughter and, in March, spoke of the "torture" his family had suffered through not knowing what had happened to her.


From Belfast Telegraph