POLICE investigating the disappearance of York chef Claudia Lawrence will send files of evidence against four murder suspects to prosecutors.
The four men, aged in their 50s and from the York area, were arrested in March and April this year before later being released on bail.
North Yorkshire Police has confirmed that it intends to send a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and will ask the organisation to consider bringing charges against the four.
A total of six people have been arrested since North Yorkshire Police launched a review of its original Claudia Lawrence investigation in 2013.
Following their arrests, officers carried out a number of searches, including a detailed re-examination of Miss Lawrence’s home in the Heworth area of York, and a fingertip search of an alleyway that leads to the rear of the house.
Miss Lawrence, a chef at York University, was 35 when she went missing on her way to a 6am shift at work in 2009. She has never been found.
But North Yorkshire Police has said it will take “some time” for prosecutors to consider the evidence against the four suspects.
Detective Superintendant Dai Malyn, head of the force’s Major Crime Unit, urged the public not to identify the men.
He said: “This is to ensure the investigation and legal process are not compromised or potentially damaged in any way.
“This includes naming or publishing images of the men, their home addresses, places of work, their vehicles and properties on traditional media platforms or social networking sites.
“Your co-operation and support is greatly appreciated by the investigation team.”
At the time of her disappearance police said they believed she was murdered although no body has ever been discovered.
North Yorkshire Police reviewed the case in 2013 following the formation of a new major crime unit, and since then officers have carried out a number of high-profile searches as part of what is now Operation Essence.
In May The Yorkshire Post revealed that the force’s new investigation into the case had cost around £400,000 up until the end of January 2015 and, at times, had 20 dedicated police staff and officers working on it.
In contrast, no arrests were made under the initial investigation – called Operation Cabin – despite thousands of man hours and more than £750,000 in resources being used during various searches.
Martin Dales, who is a close friend and spokesman for Claudia’s father Peter Lawrence, has explained that the family is keeping a close eye on matters. He said: “Obviously it is pleasing that the investigation is ongoing and has reached this particular point.
“We will wait and see what the CPS come up with when they have had the chance to study the documentation.”
Anyone with information that could assist the investigation should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101.