A DNA profile from a cigarette butt found in the car of missing chef Claudia Lawrence could be linked to a “left-handed” smoker spotted on the route of her final walk to work, police have said.
In a new appeal to mark the fifth anniversary of her disappearance, police revealed that they had not traced the people whose genetic profiles were found in new searches of her home and inside her Vauxhall Corsa car that was at a local garage when she went missing in York.
Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn, who is heading a review of the case, said that there could be a link between the cigarette and a man spotted smoking with a woman on a bridge at 5.35am on March 19, 2009, that Miss Lawrence crossed during her journey to work.
"Despite numerous high-profile appeals, neither the man nor the woman have been traced. We believe it is important to repeat the appeal for any information that could identify these people,” the detective said.
"In particular, the man who smokes with his left hand could be significant to the investigation in relation to the male DNA profile found on a cigarette butt in Claudia's car."
Despite the new leads thrown up by a review of the case, police denied reports that they had identified a prime suspect responsible for the 35-year-old’s disappearance.
Ms Lawrence spoke to her parents on the night before she went missing and officers believe that she went missing as she walked to the University of York.
Officers have re-examined her terrace home for the last two months and retrieved new fingerprints using new scientific techniques that were yet to be identified. Mr Malyn said: "There is also other DNA material from items examined in the house that have been recovered. Forensic work is ongoing in respect of these items."
Her mobile phone and rucksack have not been found. Police said that the mobile was turned off less than seven hours after the sighting of the “left-handed” smoker and the woman on the bridge.
Detectives in the original inquiry team said they believed the key to the inquiry was her relationships with a number of men. A former head of the investigation said they had an "element of complexity and mystery to them".
Ms Lawrence’s father, Peter, yesterday described the torture that his family had suffered during the five years of searching.
"It's now five years, which is over 1,800 of those days and nights. It is an awfully long time for anyone to be in this position. And it eats into you.
"It's actually like a cancer and it just gets worse and worse because there's no resolution until we know what happened to Claudia."