Detectives reviewing the cold case of missing Harrogate mother Marsha Wray say they believe she was murdered on the day of her disappearance more than 16 years ago.
Senior officers have also now revealed they believe a second person may have been involved in covering up her murder in 1997 and trying to make it look like a suicide.
The 38-year-old Starbeck nurse, described as a “devoted” mother, disappeared after waving goodbye to her young children outside Hookstone Chase Primary School in January of that year.
Now, as a major £300,000 crime unit is opened in Harrogate to review such ‘stalled’ cases, officers have revealed new details about what they believe happened that day.
“I’m convinced that she was killed on that morning,” said Det Supt Dai Malyn at the launch of a new review, pledging to get to the bottom of what happened.
“It is perhaps ironic, but I worked on this case as a young detective when Marsha went missing. I remain as determined now to bring closure to this case and provide answers to her family and friends.”
Marsha, a nurse at Harrogate District Hospital, was last seen on January 24 1997 turning left at the school gates after dropping off her then nine-year-old daughter Philippa and son Robert, six.
Her car was later spotted at the Ripley and Nidd Valley Gorge woods where it stayed for four days before disappearing. It was recovered in Leeds a month later.
Now, police say, it may have been left there by someone unconnected to her death, trying to make it look like suicide.
“Why that vehicle was there, and how it got there, is vital to this investigation,” said Det Supt Mayn.
“I’m convinced to this day there is somebody who was asked to assist, particularly in the removal of the vehicle.”
Calling on them to come forward, he said: “This will be on your conscience for ever and the anxiety and worry about a knock on the door by the police in the future.”
And appealing directly her killer, Det Supt Mayln said: “It may be that you never intended to kill Marsha but as a result of panic you did something you will regret for the rest of your life.
“Her family need to know where Marsha is now so that she can have a dignified burial and help them move on. It is not to late to come forward.”
A cold-case murder investigation into the disappearance of missing Harrogate mother Marsha Wray is now under review by specialist detectives at a new Major Crimes Unit.
The 38-year-old nurse, described as a “devoted” mother, vanished in January 1997 after dropping her two young children off outside Hookstone Chase Primary School.
Now, 16 years after she mysteriously disappeared, an elite squad is set up at a new £300,000 Major Crime Unit (MCU) in Harrogate to review such ‘cold cases’ along with serious violent and sexual crimes.
It is hoped that advanced technology, forensic and investigative techniques can shine new light on the investigation.
And, in a new twist, the original officer who investigated her disappearance is to head up the specialist team.
“It is perhaps ironic, but I worked on this case as a young detective when Marsha went missing,” said Det Supt Dai Malyn, head of the MCU.
“I remain as determined now to bring closure to this case and provide answers to her family and friends.
“The Major Crime Team will do everything possible to bring the person responsible for her disappearance and murder to justice.”
Marsha Wray, who lived on Forest Lane with husband Colin, 49, daughter Philippa, then nine, and son Robert, six, disappeared on Friday, January 24, 1997.
She was last seen waving goodbye to her children after dropping them off outside the school gates. Ten days later she was reported missing by her distraught sister.
Engineer Colin was to tell told police she had changed in the weeks before, becoming involved in drugs and having an affair.
On the day she vanished, he said, she told him she needed some time to herself and was going away for a while.
Police later searched the River Nidd, scoured Nidd Gorge where her car, a red Metro registration K426 WVV was spotted.
In May 1998, 40 officers searched the semi-detached home she shared with her family in Starbeck, digging up the gardens and using sniffer dogs to search for clues.
A man in his 40s was arrested and later released without charge. But no trace of the missing mother has ever been found.
And now, 16 years after she disappeared, specialist detectives are to look again at the case to consider if any angle was missed.
Det Supt Malyn, in a fresh appeal for information, said historic cases like Marsha’s are often reliant on local information for that crucial breakthrough.
“There is a possibility that someone out there, who is not responsible for her death, may be involved,” he said.
“I believe there’s somebody, close to the family or her friends, who has vital information.
“My hope is that they will come forward. If you can help, please do the right thing.”
MAJOR CRIME UNIT
Specialist detectives at Harrogate’s new £300,000 crime unit are to provide ‘dedicated’ cover for major incidents across the county from murders to kidnaps, violent and sexual crimes.
Officers in an elite 31-strong team are to focus on large-scale crimes, as well as re-examining several ‘stalled’ cold cases like that of Marsha Wray and missing York chef Claudia Lawrence.
Police chiefs say this investment shows a commitment from North Yorkshire Police (NYP) to tackling serious crime.
“In the past when such incidents occurred, extra resources had to be abstracted from the local neighbourhood policing and CID teams to support investigations,” said Chief Constable Dave Jones.
“We now have a dedicated Major Crime Unit that has the required resources to deal with serious investigations with little or no impact on day-to-day local policing.”
Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, added: “It will not only significantly boost the police’s capability to deal with serious crimes, but will also lessen the impact on local neighbourhood policing by reducing the number of officers seconded out of local communities.”
The team is to be headed up by Det Supt Dai Malyn and overseen by Det Chief Supt Simon Mason, head of crime operations.
It will feature officers and staff, specialist detectives, exhibit and disclosure staff, a Major Incident Room, and a CCTV viewing room.
“It’s traditional, old fashioned investigative sleuthing, but at the same time using all technology available to us, both forensic and otherwise,” said Det Chief Supt Mason.
“Ultimately, this move is about improving our service to the public so we can secure justice for victims and
their loved ones under the most traumatic of circumstances.”