Claudia Lawrence, a chef at York University, was 35 years old when she went missing in 2009. She was spotted on her way to a 6am shift at work but never arrived and hasn’t been seen since.
Her disappearance was treated as murder, six weeks after her disappearance, and it is the view of some that North Yorkshire Police (NYP) bungled the initial investigation, codenamed Operation Cabin and led by Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway. The police also managed to upset the Lawrence family almost from the start. Not least by issuing a photograph of Claudia with the wrong colour hair soon after she went missing but, mostly, by profiling her as a promiscuous woman with ‘a secret life’.
Claudia’s parents, Peter and Joan Lawrence, and her elder sister, Ali Sims, have campaigned persistently and effectively to keep the case in the public eye and to try to achieve some sort of closure into what is an unimaginably traumatic experience for them and the rest of their family.
North Yorkshire Police undertook to review the Claudia Lawrence case in 2013 following the formation of a new Major Crime Unit based in Harrogate. The original Operation Cabin investigation had reportedly cost £750,000 (read more here) and involved thousands of police man hours but produced no arrest and no trace of Claudia, whatsoever.
Since then, detectives led by Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn (pictured below) have carried out a number of high-profile searches as part of what is now known as Operation Essence. Four local suspects are currently on bail as the Crown Prosecution Service consider a file of evidence sent to them in December, 2015. One was arrested in March, 2015 with the other three detained the following month. All were released without charge.
In May, 2015 a freedom of information request made by the York Evening Press revealed that Operation Essence had been costed at £398,415 up to January, 2015 with 20 staff attached to the investigation.
Remarkably, that figure spent on finding the murderer(s) of Claudia Lawrence is LESS than NYP spent on Operation Rome, which was an investigation into one member of the public and two journalists for alleged harassment on the internet, or via email. Rome involved 14 officers from five departments over a 31 month period and cost £409,970 (see breakdown of costs here). Like Operation Cabin, Rome was a failure and didn’t produce a single arrest.
Also, like Cabin, the ill-starred and poorly executed Operation Rome now has a successor investigation: Operation Hyson. The pursuit of the journalists goes on and, this time around, the harassment case is one being pursued through the civil courts, using police money. The final cost of Hyson is likely to, again, be over the published figure for the second phase of the Claudia Lawrence probe.
What follows, therefore, has to be a question to the police about their priorities. Is solving the highly published mystery of the missing chef really not as important to the force as attempting to silence journalists?
Answers on a postcard to either: PCC Julia Mulligan at her Harrogate HQ or the Chief Constable at Newby Wiske police HQ.
Page last updated Monday 29th February 2016 at 1340hrs
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