POLICE searching a house and garden for a missing young woman have taken routine DNA samples from a man next door and removed bags of potential evidence.

Officers hunting for 19-year-old Hazel North yesterday spoke at length to Edward Steele, who said he found what appeared to be women's clothes in his garden next door to the property.

Mr Steele, 39, was questioned after police arrived at the scene in Northcraig Road in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire. Miss North was reported missing from her home 60 miles away in Dunfermline, Fife. Police said she was last seen by her sister on March 4 and was going to see a friend in Kilmarnock.

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Mr Steele said: "They chapped on my door at about 5.30am and questioned me all day. I'm the one they've been questioning. I moved some clothes in our garden a couple of days ago and put them in the bin. They were black trousers and a pink top. They were maukit and soaking so I just put them in the bin. A couple of weeks ago I saw two girls standing in the back garden. They were in their twenties and if I see them again I'd know them. The police showed me a picture of the missing girl but it's not her."

Mr Steele, who said he was not a suspect and was not cautioned, added: "They took DNA samples from my mouth because I'd touched the clothes."

The property being searched is one of four flats in a social housing development. Mr Steele's partner Jane McIntosh, 34, said the flat had been empty and boarded up before a van arrived about two weeks ago.

She said: "I saw what seemed to be a removal van with a couple of guys. One of them was well-built in his late forties."

Miss McIntosh said the couple had not seen anyone coming or going from the property since. Officers searched the flat and dug a hole in the corner of the garden, which is enclosed by wooden fencing and a 10ft wall to the rear. Police said inquiries were ongoing.

Miss McIntosh said: "I saw a police car then I saw them standing outside my door. They said, 'We can't tell you anything at the moment but it's nothing to worry about.' There was about six of them wearing white suits digging. You get so far then you hit concrete. I came back from the bingo and Edward was being questioned in the kitchen, and had been for a couple of hours."