Disappearance of Claudia Lawrence

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Claudia Lawrence
Claudia Elizabeth Lawrence

(1974-02-27)27 February 1974
Disappeared18 March 2009 (aged 35)
Heworth, York, England
StatusMissing for 10 years, 10 months and 5 days
Known forMissing person
Home townHeworth, York
Parent(s)Peter and Joan Lawrence

Claudia Elizabeth Lawrence (27 February 1974 – disappeared 18 March 2009) was an English chef at the University of York who disappeared on 18 March 2009. Although the police have treated her disappearance as a case of murder, with various people arrested (but later released), her fate is unclear.


Last known whereabouts[edit]

Lawrence was last seen near her home in Melrosegate, Heworth, York, on the afternoon of 18 March, as she returned from her work as a chef at the University of York's Goodricke College at the Roger Kirk Centre. That evening she spoke to her parents by telephone, making plans with her mother to spend Mother's Day together.[2] Lawrence later sent a text message to a friend and has not been heard from since. The last text message from her was sent at 8:23 p.m.,[3] and her last received message, from a bar worker in Cyprus, was at 9:12 p.m. Lawrence's passport and bank cards were left at her home when she went missing.[4]

Reported missing[edit]

Lawrence was reported missing to North Yorkshire Police (NYP) after she failed to arrive at work for her early morning shift the following day.[3][5] NYP later reported that they were now treating her disappearance as a suspected murder.[6]

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme on 4 June 2009, Lawrence's father Peter said he doubted NYP claims that she had a secret life. He queried the comments made by Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway on the BBC's Crimewatch programme, specifically that parts of Claudia's life "remain a mystery" and that police believe she had "complicated relationships" that her family and friends knew nothing about.[7]

Six weeks after Lawrence went missing, the investigation into her disappearance was reclassified from a missing persons case to a suspected murder enquiry, although NYP have acknowledged they have no evidence that Lawrence is dead.[8][9]

Case progress[edit]

Original investigation[edit]

The independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers offered a reward of £10,000 to anyone providing information which leads to the arrest and conviction of any person linked to the disappearance,[2][10] but this has since been withdrawn.[11] NYP have said that any past personal acquaintances of Lawrence have a limited time to come forward "in confidence".[12] NYP have received over 1,200 calls offering information, and an appeal for help was made by Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.[2][8] In early June 2009, a reconstruction of Lawrence's last known movements was featured in a Crimewatch appeal.[13] Also in June, 100 days after his daughter went missing, Peter Lawrence launched a YouTube appeal for information.[14] In the appeal, he stated his belief that the internet was vital in the search.[15] In late August 2009, NYP and the Lawrence family used the annual Whitby Regatta in North Yorkshire to publicise the campaign.[5]

In September 2009, NYP revealed that the search for Lawrence had been extended to Cyprus.[16] Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway stated that Lawrence "knew several people who live on the island" and that she may have "received job offers" while there.[17] Galloway also stated that some people who had been interviewed had been "reluctant and less than candid" when spoken to, and that a team of officers had been sent to Cyprus to interview people whom Lawrence met there.[4] It was reported that the last text message received by Lawrence was from a man who was on the island.[16][17]

Later in September, detectives investigating the Lawrence case made a search of an area of the university where Lawrence worked.[18] In October 2009, NYP revealed they were looking for the driver of a "rusty white van" who was seen trying to talk to women on Lawrence's route to work in the days before she disappeared.[19]

On 24 March 2010, NYP began searching areas of Heslington in York, based on new information received "in the last few days".[20] On 24 March, land near to a children's play area, near a muddy farm track, was searched, and on 25 March the search was relocated to a field near to the university, an area of land which is bordered by a playing field and student accommodation.[21] It was later stated that NYP had not found any new leads from these searches and nothing of significance had been discovered.[22]

In late December 2011, the Lawrence family asked that the unknown person who had placed a wreath on the front door of Claudia's home each Christmas from 2009 onwards to stop placing them, as it was bringing further grief.[23]

In 2014, the charity Missing People formed the Missing People Choir, of which Claudia's father Peter is a member.[24]

2013 Major Crime Unit review[edit]

In June 2013, NYP announced the £300,000 creation of a new Major Crime Unit (MCU), set up to ease the burden on day-to-day policing. Based in Harrogate, the MCU was to be tasked from October 2013 to handle crimes including rape and kidnap, and review cold cases.[25] In July 2013, the force said the unit would assess several "stalled" cases when it opened in October, including the disappearance of a Harrogate woman in 1997 and that of Claudia Lawrence.[26]

The MCU subsequently assessed the case, and carried out new forensic searches at her home on Heworth Road. Using what were described as "advanced techniques not available in 2009",[27] 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 12:10 GMT on Thursday, 19 March 2009.[27]

On the fifth anniversary of her disappearance, a new appeal was made on the BBC's Crimewatch, which aired on 19 March 2014.[27] CCTV footage, recovered in 2009, showed a silver Ford Focus hatchback car, manufactured between 1998 and 2004, driving along Heworth Road. The car's brake lights come on as it approaches level with Claudia's house.[28]

On 13 May 2014, a 59-year-old man was arrested by NYP at a house in Burnholme Grove on suspicion of Claudia's murder.[29] The man has been named locally as Michael Snelling,[30][31] believed to be a project co-ordinator for the mental health charity, York Mind, who until 2013 worked for the Biology department at the University of York.[32][33] NYP, who also assisted Northumbria Police in a search of his deceased mother's house at North Shields, Tyneside,[30] said that further arrests could not be ruled out.[30] Snelling was released on police bail the following day[34] and the forensic search of his York property ended on 21 May 2014.[35] Snelling was re-bailed on 12 June 2014.[36]

On 23 March 2015 police announced that a local man in his 50s had been arrested on suspicion of murder, following a fresh search of an alleyway near Lawrence's home.[37]

However, on 8 March 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service abandoned proceedings against the four men who had been arrested on suspicion of murder, citing lack of evidence.[38] The NYP blamed a lack of co-operation from witnesses.[39]

Links to other cases[edit]

Police authorities admitted there were similarities with the cases of Melanie Hall and Joanna Yeates, two other young, blonde British women who disappeared in 1996 and 2010 respectively, but said that they have not yet found direct evidence to link them. When a young woman's body was discovered at Christmas 2010, Lawrence's father wondered whether his daughter had been found, but that victim was later identified as Yeates.[40]

In his 2017 book, Catching a Serial Killer: My hunt for murderer Christopher Halliwell, the Senior Investigating Officer in the murder investigation of Sian O'Callaghan, Stephen Fulcher, suggests there are similarities between Claudia and Sian's cases. A witness reportedly came forward to say they had seen Claudia speaking to a man matching the description of Sian's killer, Christopher Halliwell.[41] In 2018, investigative journalist Tim Hicks and retired police intelligence officer, Chris Clark, suggested that Claudia's murder is consistent with Halliwell’s modus operandi, that Halliwell had a good knowledge of northern cities and visited the area often.[42][43]

'Claudia's Law'[edit]

In June 2019, ten years after Lawrence's disappearance, the Government introduced the Guardianship (Missing Person’s) Act 2017, informally known as 'Claudia's Law'. The law would allow for a guardian to be appointed to manage the affairs of a person who has been missing for 90 days or more. Such a guardian would have the power to, for example, stop direct debits for utilities. The law was introduced after campaigning by Peter Lawrence with the support of MPs.[44][45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Claudia hunt: Ex-boyfriend tells of agony". The Scarborough News. 27 March 2009. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "The search for Claudia Lawrence". The Independent. 13 September 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Claudia Lawrence investigation – Detective Supt Ray Galloway". BBC Crimewatch. BBC. 31 March 2009. Archived from the original on 4 April 2009. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Search for Claudia shifts to Cyprus". The Independent. 19 September 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Regatta crowd plea over Claudia". BBC News Online. BBC. 23 August 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  6. ^ Wainwright, Martin (24 April 2009). "Hunt for missing chef Claudia Lawrence now a murder case". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2009.
  7. ^ "Peter Lawrence doubts police claims that Claudia had a secret life". York Press. 4 June 2009. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  8. ^ a b Savage, Danny (18 September 2009). "Six-month Claudia search takes toll". BBC News Online. BBC. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  9. ^ "Claudia case now suspected murder". BBC News Online. BBC. 24 April 2009. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  10. ^ "Crimestoppers offers 10k reward for Claudia Lawrence case". Crimestoppers UK. 24 April 2009. Archived from the original on 14 January 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  11. ^ "Claudia Lawrence 10k reward withdrawn for second time". BBC News Online. BBC. 14 March 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  12. ^ "Missing Claudia: 'Secret' Boyfriends Warned". Sky News. BSkyB. 7 June 2009. Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  13. ^ "Plea over Claudia relationships". BBC News Online. BBC. 5 June 2009. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  14. ^ "Claudia Lawrence's father in YouTube video plea". The Daily Mirror. 27 June 2009. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
  15. ^ "Missing Chef's Father Makes YouTube Plea". Sky News. BSkyB. 26 June 2009. Archived from the original on 5 October 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  16. ^ a b Key, Ian (19 September 2009). "Holiday flings could hold clues to missing chef Claudia Lawrence". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  17. ^ a b "Hunt for missing chef Claudia Lawrence extends to Cyprus". Daily Record. 19 September 2009. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  18. ^ "Claudia police search university". BBC News Online. BBC. 26 September 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  19. ^ Key, Ian (30 October 2009). "'Rusty van link' in hunt for missing chef Claudia Lawrence". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  20. ^ "York district searched in Claudia Lawrence inquiry". BBC News Online. BBC. 24 March 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  21. ^ "Family hope over new Claudia Lawrence search". BBC News Online. BBC. 25 March 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  22. ^ "No leads from Claudia Lawrence searches in York". BBC News Online. BBC. 26 March 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  23. ^ Foster, Mark. "Wreath grief for family of missing Claudia Lawrence". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  24. ^ Sanghani, Radhika (2 February 2017). "Peter Lawrence: My daughter Claudia has been missing for 8 years. Singing helps me cope". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  25. ^ "North Yorkshire Police plan £300k major crimes unit". BBC News. 12 June 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  26. ^ "Major Crime Unit to review disappearance". BBC News. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  27. ^ a b c "New clues found in home and car". BBC News. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  28. ^ "BBC One - Crimewatch, 19/03/2014, Claudia Lawrence CCTV 2". BBC. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  29. ^ "Man arrested on suspicion of murder". North Yorkshire Police. 13 May 2014. Archived from the original on 14 May 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  30. ^ a b c "Man held over Claudia Lawrence death". BBC News. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  31. ^ Evans, Martin; Malnick, Ed; Philipson, Alice (13 May 2014). "Friend of the missing chef is arrested on suspicion of her murder". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  32. ^ Liptrot, Kate; Bean, Dan (13 May 2014). "Man arrested on suspicion of murder". York Press. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  33. ^ Morris, Leon (13 May 2014). "Man apprehended named as ex-university worker". York Vision. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  34. ^ "Man bailed in Claudia Lawrence probe". BBC News. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  35. ^ "House searches in Claudia Lawrence case end". BBC News. BBC. 21 May 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  36. ^ "Man 're-bailed' in Claudia Lawrence probe". BBC News. BBC. 12 June 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  37. ^ "Claudia Lawrence: Murder arrest over missing York chef". BBC News. BBC. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  38. ^ "Suspects won't be charged over Claudia Lawrence 'murder' - angry police blame 'lying witnesses'". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  39. ^ "Claudia Lawrence case remains unsolved despite exhaustive efforts". North Yorkshire Police. Archived from the original on 10 March 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  40. ^ "Claudia's dad – My torment over Joanna Yeats case". Yorkshire Post. 10 January 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  41. ^ Fulcher, Stephen (2017). Catching a Serial Killer: My hunt for murderer Christopher Halliwell. Ebury Press. ISBN 9781785036279.
  42. ^ "DID HALLIWELL MURDER CLAUDIA LAWRENCE?". North Yorks Enquirer. 21 December 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  43. ^ "DID HALLIWELL MURDER CLAUDIA LAWRENCE? (PART 2)". North Yorks Enquirer. 31 December 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  44. ^ "'Claudia's law' to lift families of missing people out of legal limbo". GOV.UK. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  45. ^ "Claudia Lawrence: Call for Claudia's Law to finally be enacted". York Press. Retrieved 28 June 2019.

External links[edit]