Claudia: Time for Scotland Yard
by TIM HICKS
Currently, the single biggest unsolved crime story in the UK is the disappearance of Claudia Lawrence (pictured above, right) in York in 2009. Claudia was a thirty-five-year-old chef at the University of York’s Goodricke College, who was last seen at around 3.05pm on Wednesday the 18th of March 2009, at the junction of Heworth Road and East Parade, walking back towards her home on Heworth Road, York.
She spoke to her father and mother that evening over the telephone and later sent a text message to a friend. The last text message from her phone was sent at 8:23 p.m. She has not been heard from since. Claudia was due to walk the three miles to work on Thursday the 19th of March for a shift beginning at 6am. But did not turn up for work on that day. She was reported missing the next day and her disappearance has been declared a murder.
Despite a massive investigation by North Yorkshire Police (NYP), Claudia’s body has never been found.
Serial Killer Christopher Halliwell (pictured above, left) was arrested in 2011 for the murder of Sian O’Callaghan and Becky Godden-Edwards in Swindon. Subsequently Detective Superintendent Stephen Fulcher who arrested Halliwell stated that he believed Halliwell may be responsible for Claudia’s murder. Claudia’s murder is entirely consistent with Halliwell’s modus operandi.
Enter NYE reader Arrin Stoner
On the 18th of March 2015, NYP made an appeal with CCTV showing a man behaving suspiciously near Claudia’s home at about 19.15 on the 18th of March 2009. The NYP appeal with the footage can be seen here. Other footage taken on the 19th of March was subsequently released.
The NYE has an international reputation for quality criminal investigations. We have built up contacts through the Global Investigative Journalists Network and our readership includes retired Police Officers and investigators in the UK, Europe and the United States.
One of these is Arrin Stoner, from Los Angeles, who was a security consultant in the casino industry in Los Angeles working on surveillance and loss prevention. He is sometimes hired as a consultant by private investigators to analyse CCTV.
Arrin has his own YouTube channel which specialises in investigations of crimes that involve analysis of CCTV. He uses YouTube to showcase his skills.
Arrin’s analysis of the NYP CCTV and the Claudia Lawrence case can be seen below:
Arrin has produced twenty-two enhanced images of the face of the man in the NYP footage, which he forwarded to me. An extract from his covering letter is reproduced below:
“My name is Arrin Stoner and I have a YouTube channel where I research and analyze missing person and murder cases. Recently, a subscriber told me about the Claudia Lawrence case. I live in Los Angeles so Claudia’s case isn’t as high profile here as it is in the UK, therefore, I had never heard about her case, nor had I ever heard of Christopher Halliwell. Because of my lack of knowledge, I had no inclinations or biases of who this person could possibly be.
I spent hundreds of hours analyzing the CCTV footage captured in the side street near Claudia’s house on the night of March 18th and the morning of March 19th. I extracted hundreds of frames and edited them down to around 50. I sent those over to North Yorkshire PD several weeks ago and never heard back from them.
I am forwarding you some of the images because I think the public will find them interesting. After spending hundreds of hours going through the footage, it’s my opinion that the man seen outside Claudia’s house the evening of March 18th and the morning of March 19th is Christopher Halliwell.”
Initially sceptical, I nearly fell off my seat when I viewed the images in full resolution. Halliwell has a slim build, a receding hairline, big ears, a long face and a big nose. Features which reflect light quite well and are well suited for CCTV recognition at night in the light emanating from street lights.
As you would expect from enhanced CCTV images from thirteen years ago, the images are grainy and would not stand up as identification evidence in court. However, upon careful viewing, they are, in my opinion, consistent with Halliwell. Unfortunately, it is unhelpful to view the enhanced images within the very limiting low-resolution constraints of the 620 x 350 pixels (landscape format) size reproduceable on the NYE.
Initially, I was merely cautious. In accordance with our editorial policy, I asked for a second opinion from one of our readers who is a retired senior Police Officer who worked as a detective on murder investigations. His response is below:
“Thank you for very kindly forwarding me the enhanced images to look at.
Yes, you have to take your time and focus but to my eyes some of the images would appear to have the same facial detail as Halliwell.
In my humble opinion, if this type of enhancement hasn’t been carried out by North Yorkshire Police then these, along with the other circumstantial evidence against Halliwell, should be a game changer.
Surely with these images and the other circumstantial evidence it is enough to justify opening up a cold case review. Who knows, Halliwell if interviewed may be ready to talk. Surely it is worth trying to bring about justice and some closure for the family and friends of Claudia Lawrence.
I do hope there can be progress on this case through yours and the other interested parties highlighting the growing evidence pointing to Halliwell as the killer.
I would hope publicity about the enhanced images and circumstantial evidence from the book results in a positive response from North Yorkshire Police.
Please keep in touch and if I can assist in any way do not hesitate to contact me.”
Refusal by NYP to pursue all lines of enquiry
Having obtained this verification, I forwarded all the images to NYP stating that I thought the features resembled Halliwell. I asked NYP to see if the images could be enhanced any further and to perform gait analysis on the man in both CCTV clips. I also asked for a media statement.
The response to this information was exactly the same as it was to Arrin. It was ignored.
Halliwell’s arrest in 2011, revealed him to be a credible suspect for Claudia’s murder. However, the decision in 2009 to focus the investigation on Claudia’s circle of friends has, I believe, led to him being ignored as a suspect.
Halliwell has never been impartially investigated as a suspect and eliminated. He has not even been interviewed about her murder. Claudia’s brave mother Joan has summed it up perfectly:
“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”.
Time to call in Scotland Yard
According to former detective Mark Williams-Thomas here, the NYP investigation into Claudia’s murder – codenamed Operation Cabin and led by Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway – was “poor”. In 2013, NYP re-opened the investigation under the codename Operation Essence.
Reading through the NYE’s coverage of the Claudia Lawrence case below:
- Post mortem on Operation Cabin – Part 1
- Post mortem on Operation Cabin – Part 2
- Post mortem on Operation Essence – Part 1
- Post mortem on Operation Essence – Part 2
- Claudia: Where Now
It is clear that the investigation was bungled from Day 1. The impression is of a Force that was completely out of its depth in performing an investigation of this scale and complexity.
Ignoring the enhanced CCTV images is only the latest example of investigative failure.
In this documentary, retired Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Colin Sutton – the man who caught serial killer Levi Bellfield – asserts that NYP was too small a Force to have enough experienced senior detectives to handle an investigation of this scope and complexity.
I agree with DCI Sutton’s assessment.
In my article Claudia: the Other Victims, I described how, during the course of the investigation, six men have been arrested and had their names released to the press by NYP, to bring further pressure to bear on them. None of them was remanded in custody or charged with any offence and they have all now been released from Police bail.
NYP appears to be obsessively pursuing a belief that the murderer is a local man that knew Claudia and ignoring all other lines of enquiry.
I believe the reason for this is that if the killer turns out to be Halliwell, NYP will have to admit that it bungled the murder investigation and wrongfully arrested six innocent men – thereby ruining their lives.
The possibility of a successful outcome has been harmed by the failings of successive NYP investigations. I nevertheless believe that Claudia’s case is solvable. However, in my view, this can only occur if an impartial cold case review is conducted by a very senior detective from another Force.
For the sake of Claudia’s family and friends, it is time for Chief Constable Winward to stop protecting the reputation of her Force by preventing impartial scrutiny of the investigation.
She should request a review by Scotland Yard.
This is now the only way Claudia’s family and friends will find out what happened to her.
Right of Reply
NYP was provided with a draft of this article and invited to comment. NYP used its policy of proscribing the NYE, to evade its duty to comment.
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 email@example.com e mail 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 minicab?
- 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?
Might you have seen Christoipher 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?
Vicky Glass and Donna Keogh
- In Middlesbrough?
- Fishing at Scaling Dam?
- Fishing along the River Tees?
- Fishing at Scarborough?
- Fishing at Whitby?
- On the North York Moors?
- In Darlington?
- Fishing along the River Tees?
Any information would considerably assist our knowledge of Halliwell’s movements. So please contact the NYE in complete confidence using our e mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org if you think you can help.