Fresh witness sought in Claudia Lawrence case

A critical new witness was being sought in the hunt for Claudia Lawrence today as it emerged that the missing chef had spent the night with a previously unknown boyfriend just two days prior to her disappearance.

It is exactly a year since the 36-year-old failed to turn up to work at York University prompting an international search. But last night Det Supt Ray Galloway who is leading the investigation, urged the man who had been with her on Monday 16 March to come forward.

He also revealed for the first time that Ms Lawrence had been in a casual sexual relationship for several months before her disappearance. She had been seeing a man who was himself in a long-term relationship though he is not believed to be the boyfriend she was with on the Monday night.

Admitting he was "frustrated" that it had taken so long for such a "critical" piece of "extremely hot intelligence" to emerge, Mr Galloway said the normally guarded Miss Lawrence had told a friend about the liaison the day before she was last seen alive when he commented on her tired appearance.

He said she had been "out into the very early hours with what she described as a boyfriend and we are talking deep into the night - half past four or five o'clock in the morning. That is something we didn't know previously."

Linking Miss Lawrence's "complex" and "compartmentalised" love, work and social lives is seen as crucial in unlocking the mystery of her disappearance, which police are treating as murder. But despite having interviewed some 2,797 people and followed leads to Cyprus and Ireland no arrests have been made. Police remain baffled at the failure of witnesses to come forward and be candid.

"Very few people knew what she (Miss Lawrence) did when she went home and closed the doors. It has been a regular feature of her life that wherever she has lived often the curtains have been drawn. It's almost metaphorical that she goes behind her front door and closes her life to the outside world," he said.

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