Police to review Harrogate mother’s murder case


A murder investigation launched 16 years ago after a devoted Harrogate mother vanished without trace is to be reviewed again by a new Major Crime Unit.

Nurse Marsha Wray vanished on January 24, 1997, after dropping her children, Philippa, then nine, and Robert, six, off at Hookstone Chase primary school in the town.

Her car, seen at Nidd Gorge in the days after her disappearance, was later recovered in Leeds but no trace of the missing 38-year-old has ever been found.

Now, 16 years after she disappeared, North Yorkshire Police has revealed it is to re-examine the case with the help of a new Major Crimes Unit which is to be set up at Harrogate Police Station.

Specialist officers will assess several “stalled” cases, including Marsha Wray, to see if advanced technologies can shine new light on the investigation.

“Over their history many police forces have a number of serious cases, that despite every effort to conclude them, have either stalled or remain undetected,” said Det Chief Supt Simon Mason, head of crime for North Yorkshire Police. “It is nationally recognised best practice for forces to periodically examine such cases and re-examine them as investigative techniques and forensic science develops.”

Marsha, a nurse at Harrogate District Hospital, lived on Forest Lane with her children and 49-year-old husband Colin before she disappeared.

Engineer Colin 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.

After she was reported missing, police searched the River Nidd and scoured the Nidd Gorge, where her car had been seen, with helicopters and heat seeking cameras.

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.

And in 1999, two years after she disappeared, police confirmed they were treating the case as a murder investigation.

“Somebody out there is harbouring a terrible secret which will haunt them forever,” said investigating officer Det Insp Javad Ali at a press conference to mark two years since her disappearance.

“I hope our investigation will haunt them. I want them to know we are not giving up.”

This week, it emerged that a new Major Crimes Unit will review the case along with that of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence.

While unresolved cases like Marsha’s are never closed, said DCS Mason, the unit would be pivotal in allowing for a fresh review.

He added the unit’s work would pursue all lines of enquiry in the hope of resolving such cases for the sake of her family and friends.