EXCLUSIVE: Police began gravel pits search for missing Claudia Lawrence after ground survey by landowners the Church of England
- Area being searched by police had been part of church environmental survey
- Source said today ‘What has come out of that has come as a shock to everyone’
- Police have refused to reveal what sparked this week’s large-scale searches
- Claudia was reported missing in 2009 after failing to turn up at work in York
Detectives looking for Claudia Lawrence began searching in gravel pits and a fishing lake following an environmental survey commissioned by church landowners.
The area in Sand Hutton, eight miles from the missing chef’s York home, was the subject of an investigation of terrain and surroundings around two years ago.
Its results are understood to have been passed to relevant authorities and this week police search teams arrived at the site unannounced.
The rights to use the land is currently held by the York & District Amalgamation of Anglers, who fish in the pits, which are now filled with water.
A source told MailOnline: ‘Police arriving at the land came as a complete surprise to everyone outside of the force.
‘It came after an environmental survey was announced for the area a few years ago.
‘What has come out of that has come as a shock to everyone.’
North Yorkshire Police has consistently refused to explain what sparked the search of the land this week.
The police searches started earlier this week with no announcements before officers arrived
Machinery pumps have been used to filter out the lake to make it easier to look for clues
Claudia Lawrence failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009
It today again did not respond to a request for a comment when contacted by MailOnline.
The Church of England said it was unable to provide any further information but confirmed it was working with the force.
A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘The Church Commissioners for England have been made aware of police activity which is taking place at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits, Yorkshire.
‘Whilst we are unable to say how long this activity may last, the Commissioners will continue to support North Yorkshire Police with their requirements and apologise for any disruption caused.’
A spokesman for the amalgamation of anglers said: ‘The Trustees of York & District Amalgamation of Anglers have been made aware of the ongoing police investigation at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits and are thoroughly co-operating with all organisations involved.’
Miss Lawrence was reported missing after she failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009.
The police’s sudden interest in the area at Sand Hutton to the east of York could only have been sparked by new information, a friend told MailOnline on Wednesday.
Specialist officers and staff, including underwater search teams, and forensic experts are expected to spend days at the site.
The fishing spot near York, is being searched by police investigating the suspected murder
Police divers are currently searching the waters at a fishing lake at Sand Hutton in an effort to crack the 12-year-old case
Peter Faulding of Specialist Group International, a diving forensic team not involved in this search, told MailOnline it appeared as if they were trying to displace silt and debris on the lake floor.
He said: ‘I think what they are doing is using a suction dredge that will remove gravel and leaf mould from the pit by sucking it to the surface where is passes through a mesh to enable the forensic teams to look for any evidence.
‘This suction dredge is controlled by a diver on the bottom in a specific grid pattern so nothing is missed.
‘They will also be conducting fine fingertip searches over the same area and using underwater metal detectors for items of jewelry and other evidence.
‘I would imagine they are searching with some very good intelligence.’
On Wednesday Martin Dales, a friend of Miss Lawrence’s late father Peter, told MailOnline: ‘The police did everything they could at the time, searching the river, the waters at the university.
‘You don’t press the button on an operation like this unless there is a good reason for it.
‘There must have been some kind of new information about this area.
‘I can think of a lot of places as far away that have not been searched before.
‘I don’t know where the decision to search here has come from – nobody knew anything about it.’
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