The mother of missing York University chef Claudia Lawrence has spoken of her hope that her family will “get an answer” on the 10th anniversary of her disappearance.
In an interview with Sky News, Joan said she had a “gut feeling” that the renewed attention on her daughter’s case would trigger a fresh lead, and that she would get an answer “sooner rather than later”.
“I’ve had this gut feeling for two or three weeks now. I was really really down with [the anniversary] coming up and then I’ve had just this feeling that it’s going to bring some answers,” she said.
Over the last decade, nine people have been arrested or interviewed under caution in connection with Claudia’s disappearance, but there has been insufficient evidence to bring charges against any of them.
North Yorkshire Police have said they believe Claudia was murdered, although a body has never been recovered. The force has vowed that its determination to solve the case is undiminished despite the passage of time, with assistant chief constable Paul Kennedy insisting the investigation will remain open.
Claudia was last seen on CCTV as she made her way home from a shift as a chef at the University of York on at 3.05pm on 18 March, 2009.
She returned to her home in Melrosegate, in the Heworth area of York, and that evening the 35-year-old spoke to her parents by telephone and made plans with her mum Joan to spend Mother’s Day together.
Claudia later sent a text message to a friend at 8.23pm. The last message she received on her phone was from a bar worker in Cyprus at 9.12pm. She did not reply.
The chef – who planned to walk the three miles to work because her car was being serviced at the local garage – did not arrive for her early morning shift the next day and was reported missing by her father Peter on 20 March, after her friend Suzy Cooper told him she could not contact the “avid texter.”
Claudia’s passport and bank cards were left at home. Her bed had been made and there were breakfast dishes in the kitchen sink. Her electric toothbrush was also left on the kitchen draining board.
Her mobile phone – a silver Samsung D900 and a blue and grey Karrimor rucksack in which she carried her chef whites have never been found.
Also missing from her home were her GHD hair straighteners. Officers searching her home found an empty blonde hair dye box and a pair of rubber gloves – indicating she may have dyed her own brown hair or applied the colouring to an unknown person.
The investigation team have come to believe something happened to Claudia after she left for work early on 19 March. It is thought her mobile phone was deliberately switched off by someone at 12.02pm that day. The charger was missing from her home.
Analysis of Claudia’s mobile showed she was in the Acomb area of York in the weeks leading up to her disappearance – though repeated appeals failed to reveal who she might have been seeing in the area.
Other appeals focused variously on a white Vauxhall Astra van parked near Claudia’s home on the night before she went missing. On the day of her disappearance, there were sightings of a left-handed smoker seen with a woman on nearby Melrosegate bridge, an old-style light-coloured Ford Focus seen braking outside Claudia’s property and a man and woman seen arguing outside the university, though none of these provided a breakthrough in the case.
CCTV footage was released of a man seen to the rear of Claudia’s home on the morning of 19 March and nearby properties and pubs were also searched. The DNA of an unknown man was found on a cigarette butt in her Vauxhall Corsa but it was never traced.
‘Complexity and mystery’
That year, detective superintendent Ray Galloway appealed on Crimewatch for information about her love life. He told the programme: “It’s apparent that some of Claudia’s relationships had an element of complexity and mystery to them. I am certain that some of these relationships were not known to her family or friends.
He later said he believed she had been harmed by someone she had been in a sexual relationship with.
Six months after she disappeared, police said they had extended their investigation to Cyprus, where they went to speak to people Claudia knew on the island.
Focus on her private life continued, and in 2015, detective superintendent Dai Malyn warned that anyone found to have lied to investigators, particularly if they were romantically involved with Claudia, would be arrested.
He said: “I know people have lied to us. We already arrested one person on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and I will continue to arrest people, where there’s a legal basis, if I believe they’re lying to me.
“We are still finding out more and more about Claudia’s life and her lifestyle. People may lie because they are in a relationship and there could be a number of reasons. Why they are withholding information.
“One of the motives for not coming forward already is they might be in a relationship with Claudia and don’t want people to find out. We have significant leads, my team, and myself are determined that if anybody is lying to us we will be arresting people because I am convinced people have information which they are not telling us.”
In 2016 the senior detective who brought double murderer Christopher Halliwell to justice said Claudia’s disappearance fit the killers’ “pattern of behaviour.”
A North Yorkshire Police responded by claiming: “The team is not aware of any evidence that would link this individual to the disappearance and suspected murder of Claudia.”
Last year her father, Peter Lawrence, received an OBE at Buckingham Palace for services to the families of missing persons.
The retired solicitor campaigned for the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill, also known as Claudia’s Law, which was passed in April 2017.
The law, which applies to England and Wales, allows families of people missing for more than 90 days to deal with their affairs.
Lawrence has long clung to the hope that his daughter is alive, but now as he nears a decade without her, he admits it is getting “more difficult” to believe.
“It’s getting more difficult to believe that as time goes on. It’s very difficult now,” he said. Now 72, he summed up the past 10 years in one word as “horrible.”
He added: “It just keeps going on and on, of course, because of not knowing what happened, and it is the not knowing which has always been the worst part about it.
“I’ve always said that and, until such time as we know what happened, that will just go on, unfortunately.”
With tears in his eyes, he said: “Sometimes it seems an eternity and other times it just seems as though it wasn’t very long ago at all.
“I can’t understand that at all, but that’s how the feelings go.”
Claudia is described as white, around 5ft 6in tall, slim build, with brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a white t-shirt, blue jeans and trainers.
March 18 - Claudia 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 19 – Claudia’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 - Lawrence describes his daughter’s disappearance as a “living nightmare” during a news conference in York.
April 24 - Detectives say that Claudia’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.
May 6 - 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 Claudia’s disappearance.
October 29 - A new forensic search of Claudia’s home is announced as police launch a fresh review of the case.
March 19 - Five years on from Claudia’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.
July 23 – A 46-year-old man is arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. Following questioning he was released on bail to allow for further investigation.
February 25 – Fingertip searches of the alleyway behind Claudia’s home are undertaken.
March 23 - A man in his 50s is arrested on suspicion of murdering Claudia 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.
March 8 - Police say the CPS has decided the four men will not face charges.
January 17 - Lawrence says he is “hugely depressed and disappointed” as the investigation into his daughter’s disappearance is scaled down.
October - Lawrence receives an OBE at Buckingham Palace for services to the families of missing persons.
March - Nearly a decade on from her disappearance, Claudia has still not been found.