The Disappearance of Claudia Lawrence

Claudia Elizabeth Lawrence was born on the 27th February 1974 and was 35 years old at the time of her disappearance. She was a home-owner and loved her job as a chef at the Goodricke College in the University of York. It's now been almost nine years since she disappeared without a trace... 

March the 18th 2009, Claudia arrived at work at 6am, as usual. At 2.31pm, she left work and started to walk the three miles back to her home on Heworth Road in York. The last confirmed sighting of her was at around 3.05pm on her walk home. That evening, she had phone calls with both her father, Peter and mother, Joan and they even made plans for the upcoming Mother's Day. Joan also said that whilst they were on the phone, they both had the same television programme on and she could hear it in the background. At 8.23pm, Claudia sends her last text message to a friend. At 9.12pm, she receives another text message. However, she did not reply and we can't know for sure whether she ever saw that message.

The next day - March the 19th 2009, Claudia fails to turn up for work. The same evening, she had made plans to meet her best friend, Suzy Cooper at the Nags Head pub for a few drinks and a catch-up. However, she also failed to turn up for this too. Suzy soon discovers that Claudia had failed to show up for work that day, so she contacts Peter Lawrence - Claudia's father, right away, who contacts North Yorkshire Police to report her as a missing person...and from March the 20th 2009, an investigation was underway. 

Police then began a search on her home and found that there were unwashed dishes in the sink, sufficient evidence that she had brushed her teeth and her work bag with her chef whites was gone, which indicates that she'd had breakfast and left for work on the 19th. There was no sign of any struggle or disturbance and nothing of huge value was missing; her bank cards and passport were still at home, but her mobile phone (silver Samsung D900) and hair straighteners were missing (GHDs – model number 14.4.1B) However, this could just mean that she sometimes took them to work for some reason. 

Police also found a Clairol Herbal Essences Fearless home hair-dye kit in the shade 62. This initially caused a lot of confusion because Claudia was thought to be blonde, not a brunette so the general idea was that she may have been dying someone else's hair. However, her mother soon confirmed that Claudia had recently made the change to a brunette and a lot of the images of her that had been circulating were a complete false representation of how she actually looked at the time of her disappearance. Claudia usually took her car to work, where it would only take her around 6 minutes to reach the University but on the day she went missing, her Vauxhall Corsa was in the local garage so she'd of had to go by foot, which would have taken her at least 30-40 minutes, depending on her pace and the route she took.

The next port of call was, of course, to check the nearby CCTV footage and there were a couple of sightings that were deemed as potentially significant. Firstly, at 7:15pm on the 18th March, a man dressed in dark clothing walks and enters the alleyway behind Claudia's home and disappears out of frame, only to reappear around a minute later, with what appears to be some kind of shoulder bag. As the unidentified man starts to walk back, another passer-by walks passed, which stops him in his tracks and he waits for them to leave, before carrying on walking. The next day (19th March) at around 5.07am, we see a man dressed again in dark clothing, repeating the same action of going into the alleyway and returning only a minute later again. As the individual hasn't been identified we can't confirm that it's the same individual on both occasions but it seems likely that it is. 

The only potential sighting of Claudia on her way to work the day she disappeared, came from a cyclist who saw a man and a woman on the Melrosegate Bridge, which is along her usual route to work, at around 5.35am. The man was described as about 5ft 6in tall with a skinny build. He was wearing a dark-coloured hooded top with the hood up, and dark-coloured combat trousers with pockets on the side. He was holding a cigarette in his left hand. (This sighting could be extremely significant to the investigation in relation to the male DNA profile found on an "Embassy Regal" cigarette butt in Claudia’s car.)

Investigators also checked Lawrence's phone records and found that the last text message she received was at 9.12pm on 18th March and was from a male friend in Cyprus. Claudia apparently loved Cyprus and holidayed there quite often and as a result, she was friendly with several people on the island, including local restaurant and bar owners. The content of the message was never revealed to the public but police did follow Cyprus as a lead of enquiry.

I feel like in the UK, some disappearances are highly documented in the media and others don't seem to get much of a mention at all. This was a case that I remember always seeing on the news for months and months. I think the media do play a very important part in investigations because if we're honest, they have total control on divulging information that will give the public a perception of the victim. I think this is quite wrong because I don't think a few facts about your lifestyle really sums you up as a person and the media really described Claudia in a negative light, which could be quite damaging to a case, as it might make the public feel less sympathetic. I think we all make mistakes in life, we all have secrets and I guess, when something like this happens, they can no longer stay secret. They also made a point of documenting private information on the relationships she'd had and the fact she liked to drink, it didn't paint the best picture and even her family said "they didn't recognise the person the media are describing" but I think the comments made about her from strangers are completely wrong, no matter what, she's still a victim and deserves to be treated the same way as everyone else. 

It was said in the "Donal MacIntyre: Unsolved" documentary that she was involved with some 'shady individuals' and had a lot of secret relationships, all of which were not prepared to admit they even knew her, let alone come forward and write a statement, which again definitely did not help the progress of this case.

The police soon marked this as a murder investigation, but without any leads, the hopes of finding the culprit or Claudia's body were very minimal.

In the autumn of 2013, the case underwent a full review, with officers reviewing CCTV, mobile phone records, DNA samples, 4,100 exhibits and more than 400 fingerprints. Crimestoppers also issued a £10,000 reward for information on the case.

The new information that was brought to light included:

  • CCTV footage that showed two vehicles that could be of significance. One being a white Vauxhall Astra van that was parked nearby to Claudia's home on the 18th March and was parked there for at least 30 minutes, and the other was an old-style light coloured Ford Focus hatchback that was seen braking outside Lawrence's home.
  • More information regarding her mobile phone was discovered. Although her phone was never physically found, they now know through her phone activity that she had been in the Acomb area of York in the weeks leading up to her disappearance which indicates that she possibly had links to the area but no one has ever come forward. They also confirmed that someone switched her phone off on purpose at 12:10am on the 19th March and it's never been turned on again.
  • We also heard more regarding the witnesses that have come forward. One of which saw a couple outside the York University, around the time Claudia should have started work on the 19th. The couple were arguing near a vehicle that had the door wide open, they have never been identified. A witness that worked in Co-Op also came forward and disclosed that a customer had come in on 1st April '09 and had said that they knew Claudia and had worked with her in the past. Regardless of all the appeals, he's never been identified or questioned.
  • Someone else that is a person of interest is a man that is described as white, clean shaven, slim build, 5ft 9in to 5ft 10in tall, aged in his 30s, with very neat dark hair which was brownish and stylishly cut with a fringe. He was wearing smart-casual clothing, comprising a mid hip-length, light tan coloured ‘Mac’ type jacket which appeared thin, waterproof and had a hood. He wore smart dark-coloured jeans or trousers and dark-coloured footwear. He was carrying a small dark rucksack over his shoulder which did not appear to have much in it. He knocked on Claudia's house and she apparently looked shocked to see him. She looked up and down the street and then let him inside. This individual is still yet to be traced.

There are a couple of pieces of information regarding this case that I find a little bit weird but thought they were worth mentioning. Firstly, every Christmas from 2009 onwards, someone placed a homemade wreath with white feathers on the front door of Claudia's home. Her family found this very distressing and asked if they'd stop as it was bringing further grief. After the third year, it didn't happen again but it's something the police are eager to get to the bottom of. Claudia's mother, Joan said: “If it was a wellwisher, surely they would come forward.” and I agree.

Secondly, there's a "physic" called Rodney Ballard that claims that he knows what happened to Claudia and has been in contact with her. As well as this being well documented in the media, he also has a Twitter account @yb295k where he has also made some comments regarding the situation. Personally, I don't really believe his claims and find his input to be quite distressing but I thought I should still address it. Apparently, he was the one behind the wreaths at Christmas but I'm not sure if this is fact or not.

And now we'll talk about the arrests that have been made thus far. On the 13th May 2014, a 59-year-old man was arrested on the suspicion of the murder of Claudia Lawrence. He was believed to be a project coordinator for the mental health charity 'Mind' but he was soon released on bail. Then on the 23rd July 2014, a 46-year-old man was arrested on the suspicion of perverting the course of justice, he also was released on bail and I didn't hear anything else about this case until the 23rd March 2015, a local man in his 50's was arrested on the suspicion of murdering Claudia Lawrence. Only a month later (April 2015), another three local men were also arrested and it was confirmed that all the arrests were linked. In March 2016, the CPS concluded "there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction, and therefore no further action should be taken against the four men. North Yorkshire Police announces the CPS decision not to charge the four men. The force pledges the Claudia Lawrence case will never close until she is found and those responsible for her disappearance are brought to justice."

And I haven't heard much else about this case since...So now we'll talk about some theories. Obviously, all theories featured on this blog are pure speculation and opinion, not fact. 

She relocated to Cyprus?
As Claudia had close links to the island, a few people seem to think that she was bored of her life and just wanted to relocate to a sunnier climate. Although I would like to believe this theory, I just don't. From what I've seen, family and friends were very important to her, she wouldn't just leave without a word and never contact them again. She also had left her bank cards and her passport behind so this theory is practically impossible. The police did take this lead of inquiry seriously though and even went over there and spoke to some of her acquaintances and didn't find anything, sadly. 

She was murdered by Chris Halliwell?
It has been well documented in the media that they believe Halliwell has killed a large number of women in the UK and the connection has been made to Claudia's case a number of times since. Even the mother of one of his victims believe this to be the case, and the fact he was a left-handed smoker and his father only lived an hour away from York does make me think it could be possible. It's also been said that the 19th March is a significant date to Halliwell because it's when an ex-girlfriend broke up with him and he even went on to murder Sian O’Callaghan on the 19th March 2011. It's also been documented that whilst in prison in the 80's, he asked a fellow prison inmate how many women he would need to kill to be considered a serial killer, which has led police to believe that there are many victims left to be discovered. I remember Halliwell quite well from the O'Callaghan case and he really is a monster, you only have to read up a little bit up about him to know that. If you aren't aware of the case, Sian went missing making her way home from a nightclub. Halliwell was a taxi driver and had picked her up, but instead of taking her home safely, he kidnapped and murdered her. He was caught and confessed to what he had done and in the end, he actually led the police to where he'd left her body in a shallow grave and then he also took them to where he'd buried another woman (Becky Godden-Edwards) eight years previous. He's currently in prison with a minimum sentence of 25 years. 

My theory is that she definitely came to some form of harm, whether it was at the hands of someone she knew that had pre-planned it or just an opportunist, I think it's definitely right to call this a murder investigation, not just a missing persons case. I think there are people out there that obviously know what happened to her and where her body is, but without their co-operation, I guess we'll never know what really happened. Even a detective said that he's sure there are people that know what happened but are either refusing to come forward or have been "economic with the truth."

I think this is such a tough case to solve due to the fact that so many people that did have private relations with her, just weren't and still aren't willing to talk. This combined with the fact that they haven't found a body or a crime scene will mean that there is very little evidence and no forensics to be able to rightfully find someone guilty. However, apparently they do have a full DNA profile of a left-handed male that left a cigarette butt in her car and although it doesn't necessarily mean he's the culprit, it's interesting that no one has ever come forward. I get the feeling that the police have cherry-picked which pieces of information they release and what they don't. I don't think we know much about this case at all and I think that's the way it will stay unless someone is finally charged. There is a lot of gossip and speculation that goes on in York regarding this case and although I don't think it's appropriate to write that sort of thing here, if you do find this case interesting and want to hear other people's views and all of the gossip and hearsay, definitely go over and read the many Reddit threads on this. I fell down a rabbit hole for HOURS.

I guess this is all I have to say regarding this case. I think I've touched on all the information I could find and also went through a few theories. This case is kind of an odd one because even though there were specious individuals found on CCTV, they have never been identified...or maybe they have but they tried to keep it out of the media? Who knows. I still remember this case so clearly, it still feels so recent, but so much time has passed. I hope one day something happens that defies all logic and it's finally solved. I can't even imagine the grief it must still bring. 

As usual, if you do have any information that could help the police either call anonymously on 0800 555 111 and quote: "Claudia Lawrence, North Yorkshire Police" or you could also contact the Missing People charity - here.

As always, thank you for reading! If you have any thoughts on this case, feel free to leave me a comment below and if you have any suggestions of cases to cover in the future, you can send me an anonymous suggestion here, or leave a comment! If you'd like to learn more about this case, here are some links! 

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