Police are searching industrial land less than a mile from the home of a Sunderland grandfather who disappeared without trace more than two years ago.
Officers and forensics teams have been carrying out searches on land in Hendon over the last couple of days.
The Echo understands that the activity is related to the search for Robert Hutchinson, whose disappearance two-and-a-half years ago is being treated as murder, since early on in the investigation.
The police presence has focused on industrial premises just under a mile from Mr Hutchinson’s home in Corporation Road.
Local residents told the Echo a forensics tent had been erected at the location and a specialist radar equipment has been used to scan under concrete.
Northumbria Police would not confirm a link to the murder inquiry, and would only say that the activity is related to an ongoing enquiry.
A search is being carried out as part of an ongoing investigationNorthumbria Police spokeswoman
A force spokeswoman said: “A search is being carried out as part of an ongoing investigation.”
Mr Hutchinson was 56 at the time he went missing after he was seen leaving his home at 6.20pm on Monday, June 23, 2014.
He was then seen on CCTV footage putting petrol in his Nissan Micra at Asda in Grangetown.
The father of two – daughter Paula Hutchinson and son Gavin Newton – and grandfather of Paula’s son Josh, has not been seen since.
His car was later found abandoned in Stewart Street, just off Chester Road, in Eden Vale.
A murder investigation was launched when police came to believe he had come to harm – but there was no trace of a body.
Officers said help from the community would be key in finding out what had happened to Mr Hutchinson, who was well-known in the area.
In September this year three men, aged 43, 48, and 57, were questioned in relation to Mr Hutchinson’s murder.
They have now been released with no further action.
Paula has previously said she is struggling to come to terms with the uncertainty of what happened to her father.
“People don’t just go missing,” she said.
A Crimestoppers reward of £3,000 was offered for information leading to a conviction for murder.
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.