Sunday 23rd June 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

Claudia: New Developments

by TIM HICKS

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Introduction

Regular readers will know that the NYE has steadfastly covered the Claudia Lawrence murder investigation and in particular, has asserted that serial killer Christopher Halliwell is a very strong suspect for her murder.

Halliwell (pictured above, left) is currently in prison on a full life sentence for the 2011 murder of Sian O’Callaghan and the 2003 murder of Becky Godden-Edwards.

The NYE asserts that Halliwell is a strong suspect because:

  • He had a family connection to Yorkshire.
  • He worked itinerantly and travelled widely to go fishing and narrow boating, which could have brought him to Yorkshire.
  • There have been credible sightings of Halliwell in Yorkshire.
  • Claudia’s murder fits perfectly with Halliwell’s known modus operandi.
  • Claudia fits with his victim preferences.
  • Halliwell fits the description of the man seen on Melrose Gate Bridge at the same time Claudia would have been there.
  • Based on these factors, Detective Superintendent Stephen Fulcher -who arrested Halliwell and knows him and his modus operandi better than anyone- stated that he believed Halliwell may be responsible for Claudia’s murder.
  • Just before Claudia’s abduction, Halliwell went “off the grid”. He filled up his car with fuel in Swindon, switched off his ‘phone and disappeared.  The same standard operating procedure he used when he abducted and murdered Sian O’Callaghan. This in itself is highly suspicious and indicates that at the time Claudia was murdered, Halliwell was following the standard procedure he employed when engaged in an abduction and murder.
  • NYP issued CCTV showing a man behaving suspiciously near Claudia’s home on the 18th and 19th of March 2019. Footage can be seen here. Halliwell went to enormous lengths to avoid being seen. The man in the CCTV stopped to avoid being seen by a passerby.
  • NYE reader Arrin Stoner enhanced this CCTV which shows a man closely resembling Halliwell.

Enhanced CCTV image showing a man closely resembling Halliwell outside Claudia’s home,
provided to NYP by the NYE and ignored

In summary, the NYE appears to have established a motive, opportunity and a forensic link through CCTV to Halliwell. That having been said, I freely accept that the above analysis could be wrong – but if this is so, NYP has a duty to investigate this information, respond openly and justify its position.

The response of NYP has been to ignore this information and issue a statement that it is “unlikely” that Halliwell was in York at the material time, even though it has not been able to establish his movements. My article Claudia: Halliwell confirmed as a suspect covers the statement and the incredible mistakes it contains.

The statement is also interesting for what it does not say. A series of sketches of rural locations was recovered from Halliwell’s home and a cache of women’s clothing was recovered from a pond in Ramsbury, Wiltshire, some of which belonged to one of his victims. The statement does not say that these items of clothing have been examined to see if they belonged to Claudia. Nor does it say that the sketches have been reviewed to see if they could indicate the place where Claudia’s body has been hidden. So I can only conclude that this evidence has also been ignored.

There has been no categorical statement from any official source saying that Halliwell has been eliminated as a suspect in the Claudia Lawrence investigation. Yet NYP is ignoring the CCTV images and refusing to interview Halliwell in prison.

The situation with the Claudia Lawrence investigation appears to me to be unprecedented in the history of the British Police Service. Astonishing in a case of this importance.

The conduct of this investigation is now so bizarre, that I have made formal complaints about it to the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, -who is charged with holding the police to account- to force NYP to address the issues the NYE is raising.

They can be read below.

The Complaints

From: Timothy Hicks
Sent: 21 April 2023 18:53
To: Information NYPCC (info@northyorkshire-pfcc.gov.uk)
Subject: Murder of Claudia Lawrence

Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Zoe Metcalfe,
Office of the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire,
12 Granby Road,
Harrogate,
North Yorkshire,
HG1 4ST

Dear Commissioner Metcalfe,

Murder of Claudia Lawrence

 Further to my e mail to you of the 15th of April 2023, which has not been acknowledged and which you appear to be ignoring in accordance with your joint policy with the Chief Constable of proscribing me, I write to confirm that I have published an article on the latest statement from North Yorkshire Police on the Claudia Lawrence murder investigation, which is below for your information.

http://nyenquirer.uk/halliwell-confirmed-suspect/

Can also confirm that I have not received any response from Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox to my e mail of the 15th of April 2023, which is below. Accordingly, please can you record a complaint against Detective Superintendent Fox for:

    1. Incivility: Failure to respond to correspondence.
    2. Failure to comply with College of Policing guidance on media relations.
    3. Failure to follow up all lines of enquiry in the Claudia Lawrence enquiry relating to the suspect Christopher John Halliwell, specifically: Enhanced CCTV images received from NYE reader Arrin Stoner.
    4. Failure to follow up all lines of enquiry in the Claudia Lawrence enquiry relating to the suspect Christopher John Halliwell, specifically: Correspondence from myself with the same enhanced CCTV images.
    5. Failure to follow up all lines of enquiry in the Claudia Lawrence enquiry relating to the suspect Christopher John Halliwell, specifically: My e mail of the 15th of April below.
    6. Failure to follow up all lines of enquiry in the Claudia Lawrence enquiry relating to the suspect Christopher John Halliwell, specifically: Failure to interview Christopher John Halliwell in prison over his whereabouts at the material time and to give him the opportunity of admitting or denying his involvement in the murder of Claudia Lawrence.
    7. Failure to follow up all lines of enquiry in the Claudia Lawrence enquiry relating to the suspect Christopher John Halliwell, specifically: Failure to review clothing found at a trophy store at Ramsbury Wilts, thought to have been taken from Halliwell’s victims to see if any of it can be matched to Claudia.
    8. Failure to follow up all lines of enquiry in the Claudia Lawrence enquiry relating to the suspect Christopher John Halliwell, specifically: Failure to review a series of sketches of locations made by Halliwell to see if they can be identified as the White Horse at Kilburn, or any other place where Claudia Lawrence’s body could be hidden.
    9. Issuing a media statement to the public which stated it was “unlikely” that Christopher Halliwell was in York at the time of Claudia Lawrence’s abduction, when this assertion has no basis in fact, because Halliwell’s whereabouts at the time are unknown.

Pending resolution of this complaint and the related complaint about Chief Constable Winward below, I would request that Detective Superintendent Fox is suspended from any further part in the Claudia Lawrence investigation and a senior officer from another force, preferably the Metropolitan Police is called in to perform a complete review the investigation and to lead it going forward.

Please can you also direct NYP to issue a statement clarifying the situation with the investigation and confirming clearly if Halliwell a) has been eliminated as a suspect and how this has been achieved, or b) remains a suspect.

I would welcome any media statement you, Chief Constable Winward or Detective Superintendent Fox would care to issue for publication in the NYE

I look forward to your response in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Timothy Hicks

NUJ Membership Number WO15306

~~~

Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Zoe Metcalfe,
Office of the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire,
12 Granby Road,
Harrogate,
North Yorkshire,
HG1 4ST

Dear Commissioner Metcalfe,

Further to my e mail below, please can you record a complaint against Chief Constable Winward for pursuing a policy of proscribing me as a journalist. This policy has resulted in requests for media comment being ignored and information I have provided in connection with ongoing investigations being disregarded. This is:

    1. Contrary to the College of Policing Guidance on Media Relations and Communications.
    2. Contrary to the Chief Constable’s duty to investigate crime. In particular the investigation into the murder of Claudia Lawrence.

I look forward to your response in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Dear Detective Superintendent Fox,

Murder of Claudia Lawrence

I read the statement below with great interest.

Statement in response to media coverage linking Wiltshire convicted murderer Christopher Halliwell to the Claudia Lawrence investigation | North Yorkshire Police

I would very much like to discuss the case with you, as there have been developments which you may not be aware of on the Halliwell investigation. However the joint policy of Chief Constable Winward and Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Metcalfe  of proscribing me has meant that North Yorkshire Police has a policy of ignoring any information I provide to you and your colleagues. So there is no point in me forwarding any information to you.

Yours sincerely,

Timothy Hicks

Should Commissioner Metcalfe respond, her response will be published in due course.

How has the investigation been reduced to this?

It appears that it is not possible to get NYP to investigate information, unless you issue a complaint. How can an investigation into a major crime been reduced to this level of apathy?

According to former detective Mark Williams-Thomas here the initial NYP investigation into Claudia’s murder -codenamed Operation Cabin was “poor”. In 2013, NYP re-opened the investigation under the codename Operation Essence.

Halliwell was arrested in 2011 and in accordance with standard procedure Wiltshire Police issued a notice to all forces asking them to consider if Halliwell could be responsible for any murders in their force area. This, coupled with the media comment should have alerted NYP that Halliwell should be considered as a suspect in Claudia’s murder. However Halliwell was ignored by both Operation Cabin and Operation Essence until Detective Superintendent Fulcher said that Halliwell may be responsible for Claudia Lawrence’s murder in 2016.

The NYE’s analysis of both Claudia Lawrence investigations indicates that they were bungled from day 1:

Ignoring the enhanced CCTV images, failing to interview Halliwell in prison, or examine the sketches and clothing, the misleading statement -which has no factual basis- that Halliwell is “unlikely” to be the killer, are only the latest examples of ongoing, continuous, inexcusable investigative failure. Coupled with the failure to interview witnesses or maintain normal relations with local media are irrefutable evidence of an investigation that has been completely mismanaged and will never achieve a successful outcome.

In this documentary, retired Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Colin Sutton of the Metropolitan Police – the man who caught serial killer Levi Bellfield – asserts that NYP is too small a Force to have enough experienced senior detectives to handle an investigation of this size and complexity.

I agree with DCI Sutton’s assessment.

NYP is a small Force and its Force Area does not have any large inner cities. So NYP detectives do not get the exposure to the full range of crime and large investigations that detectives from larger forces that have these areas (e.g. the Met, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Police Scotland, West Midlands Police etc.) obtain. Consequently NYP detectives are not as capable or experienced in large investigations as detectives from the larger urban forces.

The impression is of a Force that is completely out of its depth in performing this investigation.

An investigation contaminated with conflict of interest and confirmatory bias

During the course of the investigation, six men were arrested and had their names released to the press by NYP, to bring further pressure to bear on them. None of them were charged with any offence and have all now been released from police bail. However, their lives are permanently blighted, because they are known locally to be suspects in Claudia’s murder.

In my article “Claudia the other victims”, I described how NYP has fixated obsessively on the belief that Claudia’s killer is one of her social circle. It appears to have been infected with confirmatory bias towards this line of enquiry that is now exhausted, to the exclusion of all other suspects. Specifically Halliwell.

Should Halliwell be confirmed as Claudia’s murderer, it will show that NYP bungled the investigation. This will be a disaster for the reputation of NYP and some of its senior officers, which of course includes Detective Superintendent Fox. This means that NYP has a conflict of interest between its duty to impartially investigate Halliwell as a suspect on the one hand and protecting its own reputation on the other.

Is this the reason that NYP is ignoring lines of enquiry that point to Halliwell?

I reiterate my personal view that this case is solvable, but only if a senior detective from another force is brought in to lead it.

The Final Word

Throughout my coverage of this crime, I have had feelings of admiration for Claudia’s parents Joan and Peter (now sadly deceased) and her friends. They have tirelessly and courageously tried to progress the investigation. I think they have been very badly let down by North Yorkshire Police. I will again leave the last word to Claudia’s mother, Joan:

“I still don’t feel the police have investigated the link between Claudia’s disappearance and Christopher Halliwell. The police may not have proved he had anything to do with my daughter’s disappearance, but they haven’t disproved it either”.

Right of Reply

If you are mentioned in this article and do not agree with the views expressed in it, or if you wish to correct any factual inaccuracy, please let me know using the letters@nyenquirer.uk email address and your views and a correction will be published if appropriate.

NYE Appeal for Information

Whenever the authors run an article on a cold case, the NYE always runs an appeal for information, to try to keep the case in the public eye and generate information.

Christopher Halliwell had a slim athletic build and spoke with a slight Swindon accent. He is pictured in the lead illustration in 2011, two years after the murder of Claudia Lawrence. You can see and hear him in the video here.

  • Did he offer you a lift in his mini-cab?
  • Did you know of Christopher Halliwell’s father Alan Keith Halliwell who is believed to have lived in Huddersfield, York, Ampleforth and/or Oswaldkirk and who previously served in the RAF at Swindon and other locations?
  • Did you see Christopher Halliwell staying in a bed and breakfast or hotel along the A19, in Darlington, Middlesbrough, Scarborough, York or the North York Moors area?
  • Did you see Christopher Halliwell:
  • Fishing at Scarborough?
  • Fishing at Whitby?
  • Fishing at Scaling Dam?
  • Fishing at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits?
  • Fishing at York University Lake?
  • In York?
  • At Ampleforth?
  • At Oswaldkirk?
  • At the Kilburn White Horse?
  • At the Nag’s Head or the Acomb Hotel in York?
  • In Middlesbrough?
  • Fishing along the River Tees?
  • On the North York Moors?
  • In Darlington?

Any information would considerably assist our knowledge of Halliwell’s movements. So please contact the NYE in complete confidence using our email address: news@nyenquirer.uk if you think you can help.

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