Historically important York synagogue central to missing persons case

An historically important York building, which became the city’s first synagogue in 600 years, has been the subject of an unusual missing persons’ case which Claudia’s Law has helped to resolve.

Claudia’s Law is the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 which came into force on 31 July 2019 and was colloquially named after 35-year-old Claudia Lawrence, a chef at York University, who went missing in 2009. 

A change in the law was championed by her late father Peter and local MP Kevin Hollinrake  and makes it possible to apply for a court order to be appointed as guardian over a missing person’s money and estate once an individual has been missing for at least ninety days. 

Previously, there was no such law, and it was only possible to declare a missing person as deceased if they had been missing for far longer, with no ability for their loved ones to manage their affairs.

The synagogue at 1 Aldwark in York was once a joiner’s shop and officially became a place of worship for the small Jewish community in the 1890’s. Work in the joiner’s shop would stop so that the family could join in the worship which continued until the shop closed in 1975 – along with the synagogue.

The Applicant for the guardianship order was Trevor Caley, the brother of the owner of the property Maurice Caley who had not been seen for some years. The state of the building had started to cause concern to the neighbouring RAFA club, prompting the search.

Rachel Roche, owner of York based Roche Legal who handled the case, said: “Each year in the UK an estimated 170,000 people are reported missing. This case was different because the missing person did not have many friends, no consistent job and no other family members so it was therefore more challenging to prove that he was missing from his usual place of residence and day to day activities, as required by the legislation.

“Our client was contacted by professionals searching for relatives of the derelict property that was causing problems for neighbours. Our client believed his brother could be possibly dead.

 “His brother, who was very private throughout his life, sold his marital home to buy 1 Aldwark in 1978 and worked on it until 1982 when he stopped, perhaps, due to issues with it being in a conservation area. The guardianship order was subsequently granted with the court expressing concern that without the order the property was, and would remain, uninsured.

“Whoever applies for guardianship over a missing person’s affairs needs to prove to the Court that they have ‘sufficient interest’ in the missing person’s affairs. This case has attracted interest worldwide, as it involves a former synagogue with historic significance.”

The infamous massacre of Jews in Clifford’s Tower in 1190 and the subsequent Jewish expulsion from the Kingdom of England in 1290 meant that a synagogue was not established in the city until the joiner’s shop assumed that role in the 19th century.

The Jewish Chronicle newspaper reported in September 1892: “ A small number of Jews have recently settled in York. Applied to Chief Rabbi for facilities to celebrate New Year and Day of Atonement. He has presented them with Sepher and Shofar. Divine service will therefore be held on the New Year in York for the first time, in all probability since the expulsion in 1290.”

Rachel Roche has produced a comprehensive free eBook which gives advice in the case of a missing person and is part of a series of self-help books she has written and published.

Rachel added: “The eBooks cover a wide range of issues that can be quite challenging. The latest book ‘What to do When a Loved One Goes Missing’ sets out the first priorities when someone goes missing, the process of applying for guardianship, the responsibilities involved in acting as a guardian for a missing person, and the process of applying for a declaration of presumed death.

“The self-help books designed to demystify the legal process and help clients deal with challenging situations.”

The eBooks are available to download here. 

Note to editors:

Alex is available for interview and can be contacted on 01904 866139 or through Chris Jones Media on 07774 772820/ 07738 005133.

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