What happened to Claudia Lawrence? Latest on missing chef who disappeared 12 years ago, and are there suspects

The latest development in Claudia Lawrence’s missing persons case brought North Yorkshire police to a lake eight miles from her home

The most recent development in the search for Claudia Lawrence, a chef who went missing in 2009, led police to drain a lake roughly eight miles from her home - however, “nothing of significance” was found.

The search at Sand Hutton concluded on Sunday 5 September.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

What happened to Claudia Lawrence?

This is a timeline of the events that have occurred since Lawrence went missing in 2009.

2009

Lawrence worked as a chef at the University of York, and was reported missing when she did not appear for an early morning shift.

She was last seen on CCTV on 18 March 2009 on her way home from work, and that night she called both of her parents where she seemed in good spirits.

On 19 March, Lawrence did not arrive for her 6am shift, and at around 12:10pm her phone was deliberately switched off.

Her father, Peter Lawrence, reported her as missing on 20 March and on 21 and 22 March, a missing persons appeal was launched by North Yorkshire police. Her picture was posted all over York, including in shops and on buses, and her disappearance is front-page news.

Police search the biology department of the University of York in September. Tourism workers claim to have seen Lawrence in Cyprus in March.

In October, the police announced that they would be speaking with her former partners.

2010

A phone call sparked a four day search for Lawrence in Heslington after the first anniversary of her disappearance, but it turned out to have been a hoax. The hoaxer, Richard O’Rourke, was jailed for 18 months.

In May, roughly 20 officers searched a property in Ellerton, and an underwater team was dispatched to search the culverts that formed part of the property, however nothing was found.

In July of 2010, the investigation was scaled down after £770,000 had been spent on the case. The team of 100 officers was brought down to 16, and then eventually seven.

The latest property to be searched in connection with the case was one in Thornton-le-Dale.

2012

At the beginning of 2012, police investigated a hole in woodland in Heslington Lane, near the University of York.

2013

In January of 2013, the remains of a woman were found by the River Ouse in York, however this would later be revealed to be Lisette Dugmore, and not Lawrence.

Later in the year in October, forensic officers began a new search at Lawrence’s Heworth Road home, which lasted for several weeks.

2014

In May, a 59-year-old man was arrested by police on suspicion of Lawrence’s murder. Officers searched two houses, one in Burnholme Grove and another in North Shields, and also seized one car. He was released from bail in November.

In July, a 46-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in connection to the case. More searches are conducted at the Acomb pub in Kingsway West. He was released from bail in April 2015.

2015

At the beginning of 2015, a 22-year-old claimed to have murdered Lawrence. Daniel Oxley was jailed for life for murdering a man in County Durham, and during his arrest he made the claims about Lawrence.

His barrister said that Oxley “said attention seeking and grandiose things after he was arrested to those in authority to misrepresent his own position”.

New searches were launched in an alleyway behind Lawrence’s home, however nothing of significance was found.

In March, a 50-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of Lawrence’s murder, with searches taking place at a home in York. He was later released from bail.

The following month, three more men were also arrested on suspicion of Lawrence’s murder, however no charges were brought forward due to lack of evidence. All three men were released on bail, with no further progress taken.

In September, North Yorkshire police handed over their case against four men on suspicion of Lawrence’s murder to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether a successful prosecution could occur.

2016

The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that the men will not be charged with Lawrence’s murder, stating that there was “insufficient evidence” to prove that they had had any involvement with Lawrence’s disappearance.

Lawrence’s mother, Joan, said she was “absolutely devastated” by the news.

2017

In January of 2017, it was announced that the investigation would be scaled down to a “reactive phase”, and that only new and compelling information would be reviewed.

2018

North Yorkshire police said that they were carrying out a DNA analysis of a partial profile found on a cigarette in a car, but in November it’s revealed that this lead was a dead end.

What’s the latest?

Police have said that “nothing of obvious significance” was found following a major search of a lake as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Lawrence.

Teams of police experts, search dogs, divers and forensic archaeologists spent two weeks scouring the lake and nearby woods as the murder probe continues.

Detectives believe that Lawrence was murdered, however no body has ever been discovered.

A small number of items were recovered during the search at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits, with North Yorkshire Police saying that the items are being assessed for their forensic potential - but any relevance to Lawrence’s disappearance has not currently been established.

Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox, who is leading the enquiry, said that separate strands of information had been received by detectives.

He said: “When we assessed these separate and independently-sourced pieces of information against the wealth of information already generated during the last 12 years, we found they correlated with other information pointing to the area of Sand Hutton.

“Armed with fresh information to the enquiry, that seemed to corroborate known facts, we were duty bound to conduct thorough searches of the area.

“Not searching was not an option – not for Claudia, not for her family, and not for the wider public,” he added.

Fox said he was grateful to the public who have come forward with new information as a result of the publicity surrounding the search.

He added: “In the light of some media speculation, I would like to stress, however, that we are not liaising with any other police force in relation to these new lines of enquiry.

“As I hope the events of the last two weeks demonstrate, we are committed to establishing what happened to Claudia and bringing closure for her family.

“You cannot fail to be moved by the ongoing suffering of a mother who does not know what has happened to her daughter. I again repeat the request to those who know what has happened to Claudia to do the right thing, come forward and help end the torment of Claudia’s family.”

When did police drain the lake?

A lake in North Yorkshire was drained by police in the search for Lawrence on Thursday 4 September after police received new information from the public.

Officers began carrying out detailed searches of an area around a popular fishing spot a few miles from the centre of York.

The lake bed that the police searched is located around eight miles from Lawrence’s home.

The fire service delivered pumps to use at the site, and the smaller of the two lakes was drained.

The police also used ground penetrating radar equipment and cadaver dogs, as well as conducting a fingertip examination of the lake’s bed.

When did police start searching the gravel pits?

North Yorkshire Police confirmed on Tuesday 24 August that the operation to search the gravel pits at Sand Hutton had begun.

At the time, Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox 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.”

Fox took over as a senior investigating officer in the case earlier this year.

Police closed off a road outside the York Biotech Campus earlier on Tuesday, and search activity could be seen taking place beyond the cordon around a mile from the main A64 road between York and Malton.

A number of police vans and an incident command unit trailer were parked along the side of the road – and a number of areas of the forest were cordoned off with blue and white police tape.

Police officers, wearing black uniforms, could be seen searching the undergrowth along a public bridleway through the forest.

The search area included two former gravel pits that are believed to have been used as fishing ponds since 1969.

Are there any suspects?

Over the course of the investigation, a number of suspects have been brought to the attention of the police, including the 59-year-old man arrested in May 2014, and the 46-year-old man arrested in July 2014.

However, both were released, and no charges pursued.

According to Marie Claire, it’s thought that here has been nine arrests in total in connection with the Lawrence case, but ultimately none have resulted in charges.

Anyone with information that could assist the investigation should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 1, and pass details to the Force Control Room quoting “Claudia Lawrence”.

A message from the editor:Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.