Traffic thunders at all hours of the day along the A19 as it skirts along the western fringes of the North York Moors en route to and from industrial Teesside.
Yet despite being in full view of passing motorists, police believe that a layby on a fast section of this busy road on the outskirts of the picturesque market town of Thirsk, North Yorkshire, holds the key to finding the body of Rania Alayed.
It is six months since the mother-of-three disappeared from her home in Manchester’s Cheetham Hill but her remains have never been found despite a massive operation involving two police forces, forensic experts and ground and air military search teams across a 19-mile stretch of road.
Yesterday the dead woman’s uncle laid a simple bouquet of flowers close to where detectives are convinced her body was hidden and subsequently moved – possibly in a large suitcase or a rolled up carpet - in the weeks between her disappearance and it being reported to police last summer.
Ali Aydi, originally from Syria had travelled from his home in Lebanon where Ms Alayed’s parents live to describe the anguish of the hunt and urged anyone with information that will help police find her remains to come forward.
He said her parents and children faced an uncertain future and wanted now to give her a dignified burial.
“Rania was taken from us six months ago when she was brutally murdered, in the most beautiful years of her life. She leaves behind three children who face life without her,” he added.
Ms Alayed’s husband, Ahmed Khatib, 33, and his brother Muhanned Mahmood Al Khatib, 38, have been charged with her murder. Another brother, Hussain Al Khatee, 34, has been charged with perverting the course of justice.
Meanwhile, an Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation is underway into the handling of the case by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) after it emerged that they had been made aware of allegations of violence against Ms Alayed prior to her going missing. They will also probe contacts between Cleveland police and officers in Greater Manchester.
Ms Alayed, who had previously lived in Middlesbrough, moved from her home in Norton in Stockton-On-Tees in January. Former neighbours described her as a “canny lass”, polite but quiet and reserved. Her children used to play with friends in the street.
She was last seen in public in Salford on the evening of 7 June although was not reported missing until nearly a month later. Although her body has not been found, police believe she has been killed.
At the centre of the inquiry is a white Leyland DAF 200 camper van which is believed to have been used to transport her from Manchester back up to the North East and which it is suspected stopped at a layby on the northbound carriageway in the early hours of 8 June.
Some 350 motorists whose vehicles were in the area at the time have received letters from police whilst dozens of officers supported by the Royal Engineers, fly-pasts by RAF jets, police helicopter searches, forensic botanists and forensic archaeologists, ground-penetrating radar and specialist sniffer dogs, have excavated stopping areas.
Yet attempts to find her body have proved unsuccessful and the search was called off in September with detectives saying they would return only when they received information that could provide a more exact location.
Detective Chief Inspector Pete Marsh, of GMP’s major incident team, speaking at the scene said the family had “understandably been desperate for answers”. "It took us three or four weeks before we knew Rania was dead from the time she was killed. We believe her body was brought here. The question I have got to ask is, 'has she been moved in that four-week period'” he said.
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