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Detectives looking for missing university chef Claudia Lawrence today announced that they have begun a new search operation in gravel pits around eight miles from her home in York following the 35-year-old’s disappearance twelve years ago.

Miss Lawrence, who lived by herself in the Heworth area of York, failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009 and was reported missing by her father Peter Lawrence two days later, after her friends said they had not heard from her.

In the twelve years since her disappearance, nine people have been questioned, but no charges have ever been brought. The case – which is being treated as a suspected murder – has never been closed by North Yorkshire Police. 

Her father Mr Lawrence – who campaigned tirelessly for Claudia’s Law, which allows relatives to control of their missing loved ones’ financial matters – died in February aged 74, without finding out what happened to her. His friend Martin Dales said earlier this year that there could be one or more people ‘at large’ who knew what happened to her.

Now police have confirmed that an operation has begun to search gravel pits at Sand Hutton, to the east of York.

Speaking at the site, Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox, senior investigating officer in the case, said: ‘The searches which have commenced here today at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits are in relation to the disappearance and suspected murder of Claudia Lawrence more than 12 years ago.

‘While I cannot say at this stage how long the search may take, I do anticipate that a number of specialist officers and staff, including underwater search teams, and forensic experts are likely to be at this location for a number of days.

‘Whilst I am unable to disclose what brought us to this location, I would like to stress that the searches that you will see in coming days are just one of several active lines of inquiry which are currently being investigated and pursued by North Yorkshire Police Major Investigation team in our efforts to establish what happened to Claudia and to identify any person responsible for causing her harm.

‘I can confirm Claudia’s family are aware this activity is taking place.’  

The investigation is one of the largest North Yorkshire Police has ever undertaken, with thousands of interviews, statements and searches, and received extensive media attention. 

Claudia Lawrence, 35, failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009 and was reported missing by her father two days later

Claudia Lawrence, 35, failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009 and was reported missing by her father two days later

Claudia Lawrence, 35, failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009 and was reported missing by her father two days later

Police officers searching the land at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits near York in connection with the disappearance of missing Claudia Lawrence

Police officers searching the land at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits near York in connection with the disappearance of missing Claudia Lawrence

Police officers searching the land at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits near York in connection with the disappearance of missing Claudia Lawrence

In the twelve years since her disappearance, nine people have been questioned, but no charges have ever been brought. The case - which is being treated as a suspected murder - has never been closed by North Yorkshire Police. Pictured: Police launching a new search on land at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits

In the twelve years since her disappearance, nine people have been questioned, but no charges have ever been brought. The case - which is being treated as a suspected murder - has never been closed by North Yorkshire Police. Pictured: Police launching a new search on land at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits

In the twelve years since her disappearance, nine people have been questioned, but no charges have ever been brought. The case – which is being treated as a suspected murder – has never been closed by North Yorkshire Police. Pictured: Police launching a new search on land at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits

Miss Lawrence, who lived by herself in the Heworth area of York, failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009 and was reported missing by her father Peter Lawrence two days later, after her friends said they had not heard from her

Miss Lawrence, who lived by herself in the Heworth area of York, failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009 and was reported missing by her father Peter Lawrence two days later, after her friends said they had not heard from her

Miss Lawrence, who lived by herself in the Heworth area of York, failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009 and was reported missing by her father Peter Lawrence two days later, after her friends said they had not heard from her

Police have confirmed that an operation has begun to search gravel pits at Sand Hutton, to the east of York

Police have confirmed that an operation has begun to search gravel pits at Sand Hutton, to the east of York

Police have confirmed that an operation has begun to search gravel pits at Sand Hutton, to the east of York

The investigation is one of the largest North Yorkshire Police has ever undertaken, with thousands of interviews, statements and searches, and received extensive media attention

The investigation is one of the largest North Yorkshire Police has ever undertaken, with thousands of interviews, statements and searches, and received extensive media attention

The investigation is one of the largest North Yorkshire Police has ever undertaken, with thousands of interviews, statements and searches, and received extensive media attention

Undated North Yorkshire Police handout of Claudia Lawrence with her father Peter

Undated North Yorkshire Police handout of Claudia Lawrence with her father Peter

Undated North Yorkshire Police handout of Claudia Lawrence with her father Peter

Claudia Lawrence's route home from work and matched by her now missing mobile phone

Claudia Lawrence's route home from work and matched by her now missing mobile phone

Claudia Lawrence’s route home from work and matched by her now missing mobile phone

A CCTV image shows a man walking near the house of murdered chef Claudia Lawrence

A CCTV image shows a man walking near the house of murdered chef Claudia Lawrence

A CCTV image shows a man walking near the house of murdered chef Claudia Lawrence

This person has never been identified and is still being hunted by investigating officers

This person has never been identified and is still being hunted by investigating officers

This person has never been identified and is still being hunted by investigating officers

The disappearance of Claudia Lawrence

2009

March 18 – Miss Lawrence speaks with her parents over the phone and, at 8.23pm, sends her friend a text. She has not been seen or heard from since.

March 20 – Miss Lawrence’s father, Peter, contacts North Yorkshire Police after his daughter fails to keep an arrangement to meet a friend at the Nags Head pub. She also fails to attend work.

March 23 – Mr Lawrence describes his daughter’s disappearance as a ‘living nightmare’ during a news conference in York.

April 24 – Detectives say that Miss Lawrence’s disappearance is being treated as a suspected murder investigation. A £10,000 reward is offered for information that could lead to the conviction of those responsible.

2010

May 6 – Mr Lawrence calls for an urgent independent inquiry into the police investigation of his daughter’s disappearance and suspected murder.

July 29 – Police confirm they are reducing the number of officers dedicated to the inquiry into Miss Lawrence’s disappearance.

2013

October 29 – A new forensic search of Miss Lawrence’s home is announced as police launch a fresh review of the case.

2014

March 19 – Five years on from Miss Lawrence’s disappearance, officers discover at her home the fingerprints of people who have still not come forward to the investigation.

May 13 – A 59-year-old man is arrested on suspicion of murder. He is released on police bail and eventually released without charge on November 17, 2014.

2015

March 23 – A man in his 50s is arrested on suspicion of murdering Miss Lawrence and is released on police bail the following day.

April 22 – Three more men, all in their 50s and from the York area, are arrested on suspicion of murder and are released on bail.

September 17 – A file of evidence on four men arrested on suspicion of murder is sent by North Yorkshire Police to the Crown Prosecution service (CPS) so it can consider whether to bring charges.

2016

March 8 – Police say the CPS has decided the four men will not face charges.

2017

January 17 – Mr Lawrence says he is ‘hugely depressed and disappointed’ as the investigation into his daughter’s disappearance is scaled down.

2019

March – Nearly a decade on from her disappearance, Miss Lawrence has still not been found. Her father says in an interview that ‘it’s very difficult’ to conceive of her still being alive.

July – The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill, also known as Claudia’s Law, came into force. This followed years of campaigning by Mr Lawrence and allows relatives to take control of their missing loved ones’ financial matters.

2021

February 15 – The death of Peter Lawrence in announced.

March 18 – Speaking after taking over the police investigation, Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox said it is not too late for people to come forward and stop the ‘unrelenting anguish’ caused to the chef’s loved ones.

August 24 – A new search operation is announced at the gravel pits at Sand Hutton, about eight miles from York.

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Earlier this year, Mr Fox repeated North Yorkshire Police’s believe that several people know, or have suspicions about, what happened to Miss Lawrence. 

He said some of the information received by the force ‘appears extremely interesting and sparks a whole new line of investigation’, and he urged anyone providing this information to get back in touch with as much detail as possible. 

Miss Lawrence’s silver Samsung D900 phone and blue and grey Karrimor rucksack have never been found.  

Detectives have previously said that they ‘strongly suspect key and vital information’ which would offer a breakthrough was being ‘withheld’ and that the answer to her disappearance lies ‘locally’.  

They have vowed not to quit, saying: ‘North Yorkshire Police will never give up on Claudia until it is known who is responsible for her disappearance and suspected murder.’ 

Miss Lawrence never turned up to her 6am shift at the university’s Goodricke College on March 19. The day before, she left work at 2.30pm and started walking the three-mile trek home, which she had been doing for weeks while her car was unavailable.

A friend driving past spotted her on Melrosegate and offered her a lift, which she accepted, and she was then dropped off at her cottage on Heworth Road at around 2.50pm. 

A friend later saw Miss Lawrence returning home at 3.05pm and there was a reported sighting in between of her posting a letter nearby.

At around 8pm she texted a friend and then half an hour later she received a call from her mother, who described her as sounding ‘cheerful and relaxed’.

The last text Miss Lawrence received was from a male friend in Cyprus who worked in a bar.

After failing to turn up for her morning shift on the 19th, her manager attempted to call her mobile but did not receive an answer. At 12.08pm Miss Lawrence’s phone switched off, with later investigations showing that this was done deliberately.

In the evening she was scheduled to meet her friend Suzy Cooper but didn’t turn up. Ms Cooper then contacted Mr Lawrence, who went round to the house with a spare key to check on his daughter. 

He then reported his daughter to North Yorkshire Police as a missing person.

A man seen standing outside Miss Lawrence’s house between 6.45am and 6.55am that day has never been identified by police. 

Another male filmed by a CCTV camera in Lime Court, Heworth Road very close to her house has also never been traced.  

On June 2, 2009, the case was covered on an episode of BBC’s Crimewatch in which Detective Sergeant Ray Galloway, then leading the search, said they were without any strong leads.

After presenter Kirsty Young pushed him to talk about the ‘areas of Claudia’s life that are delicate to say the least and definitely complex’ which had not yet been touched on, Mr Galloway said: ‘It’s become apparent that some of Claudia’s relationships had an element of complexity and mystery to them’. 

Amid suspicions that Miss Lawrence had suspicious relationships unknown to her friends or family, her father refuted the claims on the Today Programme. 

Mr Lawrence said: ‘We really wonder whether, certainly recently, she had time to form any relationships other than those about which we know. She saw her best friend, Suzy, and myself very regularly and she worked in quite a strenuous job. We wonder about it.’ 

In September 2009, detectives said the search had been extended to Cyprus, with Mr Galloway stating Miss Lawrence ‘knew several people who live on the island’ and that she may have ‘received job offers’ while there.

Mr Galloway later stated that interviewees had been ‘reluctant and less than candid’ when spoken to, and that officers had been sent to Cyprus to interview people whom she had met there.

In March 2010, police began searching various areas of York including Heslington and land near the university, including a children’s play area, upon receiving new information.

However, officers did not find any new leads from these searches.  

In 2013, North Yorkshire Police set up a new Major Crime Unit, which was established specifically to look into kidnaps, rapes and ‘stalled’ cases. 

Using advanced techniques not previously available, the MCU found additional fingerprints and a man’s DNA on a cigarette end in her car. Work surrounding her Samsung D900 mobile phone showed from cell site activity that she was in the Acomb area of York in the weeks leading up to her disappearance and that the phone was deliberately turned off by someone at about 12:10pm on Thursday, March 19, 2009.

A number of arrests were then carried out in relation to the investigation, including six men on suspicion of murder. However, none were charged.

In June 2019, the Government introduced the Guardianship (Missing Person’s) Act 2017, informally known as Claudia’s Law. 

A fresh appeal for answers about Miss Lawrence’s case was made in March this year, on the eve of the 12th anniversary of her disappearance. 

Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox, Head of the North Yorkshire Major Investigation Team, said: ‘In October last year, following the retirement of Detective Superintendent Dai Malyn, I was appointed as the new Senior Investigating Officer in charge of the Claudia Lawrence case. 

Peter Lawrence at York Police Station for a press conference in April 2009 alongside Superintendent Ray Galloway

Peter Lawrence at York Police Station for a press conference in April 2009 alongside Superintendent Ray Galloway

Peter Lawrence at York Police Station for a press conference in April 2009 alongside Superintendent Ray Galloway

Peter Lawrence holding up poster of his daughter outside the Houses of Parliament in 2011

Peter Lawrence holding up poster of his daughter outside the Houses of Parliament in 2011

Peter Lawrence holding up poster of his daughter outside the Houses of Parliament in 2011

Claudia’s Law 

Peter Lawrence received an OBE for helping to shape the 2017 Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act, known informally as Claudia’s Law.

The law, known informally as Claudia’s Law, created a new legal status of guardian of the affairs of a missing person, allowing someone to act in their best interests after they have been gone for 90 days or more.

The new legislation means families can oversee the financial and property affairs of their missing loved one, if the person has been missing for 90 days – lessening what can be a huge burden at a traumatic time.    

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‘I share his determination and sincerely hope that one day we will find Claudia and bring to justice those responsible for her suspected murder. 

‘In my view, there are likely to be several people out there who either know or have strong suspicions as to what happened to Claudia.

‘For whatever reason, they have maintained a silence for 12 years. 

‘That is an awfully long time to carry such a burden of guilt. The longer you carry it, the greater the anguish you are causing to Claudia’s family and friends. 

‘Please do the right thing, come forward and speak to me.’ 

Miss Lawrence’s mother Joan Lawrence earlier this year said she cried when she heard about the disappearance of Sarah Everard, who was kidnapped and murdered by a Metropolitan Police officer in London. 

She told the Mirror: ‘It brought back all the memories of the weekend when Claudia went missing. I know exactly how her parents are feeling… It’s the worst possible pain’.  

Mr Dales added: ‘I think these things, the strain of it is palpable. In this case, obviously trying to help people with the legislation side of things, it’s not straightforward. 

‘Most missing people cases are solved, most people come back quite quickly, but you do have people for which that’s longer. 

‘He (Peter Lawrence) was a man of faith, he did practise that and he always said that helped him hugely, as it would be helpful for everybody. The key thing is that this needs closure, for his sister, his mother, his friends, everybody.

‘The police can only act on information that is passed to them. We all feel that there is someone withholding information in all of this.’ 

Mr Lawrence received an OBE for helping to shape the 2017 Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act, known informally as Claudia’s Law.

The law, known informally as Claudia’s Law, created a new legal status of guardian of the affairs of a missing person, allowing someone to act in their best interests after they have been gone for 90 days or more.

The new legislation means families can oversee the financial and property affairs of their missing loved one, if the person has been missing for 90 days – lessening what can be a huge burden at a traumatic time.    

Source: Daily Mail

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