Claudia Lawrence: Cops search gravel pits after chef, 35, vanished 12 years ago as 'new info' emerges after her dad died

Claudia Lawrence: Cops search gravel pits after chef, 35, vanished 12 years ago as 'new info' emerges after her dad died

August 24, 2021

POLICE are searching a gravel pit over the disappearance of missing chef Claudia Lawrence 12 years after she vanished.

Claudia, 35, was last seen on the evening of March 18, 2009, close to her home in Heworth, Yorks.


Although her body has never been found, police believe she was murdered.

Tragically Claudia's dad Peter Lawrence OBE died in February this year without ever finding out what happened to his daughter.

Police today revealed they are searching Sand Hutton Gravel Pits in York – around seven miles from where Claudia was last seen.

They haven't confirmed why the area is being trawled but said the search will take a "number of days".

Claudia's family have also been informed about the latest development.

Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox, from North Yorkshire Police, said: “The searches which have commenced here today at Sand Hutton gravel pit are in relation to the disappearance and suspected murder of Claudia Lawrence more than 12 years ago.

“While I cannot say today at this stage how long the search will take today we do anticipate specialist officers, staff, and 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 you will see in the coming days are just one of several active lines of enquiry which are currently being investigated and pursued by North Yorks Police major investigation team in our efforts to establish what happened to Claudia and to identify any person for causing her harm."

Earlier this year, DSI Fox said some information received by police "appears extremely interesting and sparks a whole new line of investigation".

Claudia hasn't been heard from since she called her mum Joan on the evening of March 17, 2009.

Dad Peter reported her missing the next day when she failed to arrive at the University of York for her job as a chef.

A huge search was launched with hundreds of officers and locals involved.

Searches focused on the route between her home on Heworth Road and the University of York but turned up no clues.

The investigation was also dampened by a lack of CCTV around Claudia's home as well as the fact she had no social media profile or smartphone when she vanished.

CLAUDIA DISAPPEARANCE

The probe has cost more than £1.5million, but the operation has been scaled back over the years.

Nine people have been arrested or interviewed under caution in connection with the investigation.

Cops have also submitted files to the Crown Prosecution Service but there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.

Many theories have been put forward over the years – including Claudia may have been trafficked to Amsterdam or moved to Cyprus but police have found no evidence of either.

A cold case investigation looking into whether convicted killer Christopher Halliwell was involved in her disappearance was opened in 2019.

Halliwell is currently serving life in jail for killing Sian O’Callaghan, 22, and 20-year-old Becky ­Godden.

But the twisted killer has been linked to at least 12 other murdered or missing women, including Claudia.

Chillingly, the date Claudia vanished is significant to Halliwell, whose former garden in Swindon was dug up by cops in the search for more victims.

The murderer abducted and killed his second known victim on March 19, 2011 — exactly two years after Claudia vanished.

12 years since Claudia’s disappearance

2009

March 18 – Claudia finishes work at 2.30pm and is given a lift home to Heworth Road at around 2.50pm. She is seen again at 3.05pm and a reported sighting is made of her dropping a letter in a post box.

At 8pm she texts a friend then speaks to her mum around 30 minutes later where she sounds "cheerful and relaxed".

She has not been seen or heard from since.

March 19 – 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 "it's very difficult" to conceive of her still being alive.

July – Claudia’s Law – otherwise known as the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 – comes into force. The change in the law means families of missing loved ones will be able to take control of their financial affairs in their absence.

October – Claudia's mum slammed the “peanuts” £40,000 budget to probe murder suspect Christopher Halliwell. Distraught Joan Lawrence, 76, said it was impossible for cops to investigate convicted killer Halliwell with "such a small amount of money".

December – Joan reveals she will never give up hope as she begs someone to "end my torture" and tell police what happened.

2021

February – Claudia's dad Peter dies without ever discovering what happened to his daughter

March – A fresh appeal is launched on the 12th anniversary of her disappearance

August 24 – Police confirm they are searching the gravel pits at Sand Hutton

Both Peter and Claudia's mum Joan never gave up hope she was still alive – with her dad previously revealing the pain of not knowing "eats into him".

He said last year: "I think about Claudia every day. It never goes away.

"I never thought this would get to 11 years, I'd have never believed we would be here, but unfortunately we are.

"It's the not knowing that's the worst part, it eats into you, the not knowing what's happened.

"Claudia would be 46 now. She would be a very different woman to the single gadabout she was as a 35-year-old.

"My own thoughts always come back to that she was probably abducted on her way to work."








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