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Misisng Monday – Claudia Lawrence

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Welcome back to another Missing Monday post and today we are looking into the case of Claudia Lawrence.

It is very likely that you have already heard of Claudia Lawrence because her case is one of the most famous in British history.

Yet despite its fame and the fact that it has been treated as a murder investigation for a number of years, very little has been discovered and the case remains open and unsolved.

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Who was Claudia Lawrence?

Claudia Lawrence was born on the 27th of February 1974  and would have been 35 years old when she disappeared in March of 2009. At the time she went missing, Claudia was working at the University of York as a chef and lived in Melrosegate, Hemworth. She was a keen horse woman and was said to have had a vivid and complex social life. Claudia was a vivacious and happy individual with her whole life ahead of her.

 Claudia’s disappearance 

The disappearance

It is officially recorded that Claudia went missing on the 18th of March 2009 but this is a contentious issue. There has been much debate over the exact time and circumstances under which she disappeared. Some people believe that she went missing on the evening of the 18th of March 2008. However other people believe that it’s more likely she vanished on her early morning walk to work on the 19th of March 2008.

It’s safer to just say that Claudia went missing sometime between the evening of the 18th and the early hours of the 19th of March 2008.

As with all missing person cases, it is really important to consider the events that took place in the run-up to her disappearance.

On the 18th of March 2008, Claudia attended her job as normal and then started her two-mile work home. She stopped to post a letter at this time and was caught doing so on CCTV. Sadly we still do not know who this letter was for or if it was relevant to the case.

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Shortly after this, she was seen by a colleague who stopped to give Claudia a lift home. He dropped her at her home address at 3.10pm but she left again shortly after. About 15 minutes later she was seen walking home again.

Over the course of the next few hours, Claudia made two calls to her mother. The last of which being at 8pm – 8.30pm, during which she made Mother’s Day plans. At this time Claudia said she was at home and had her TV on in the background.

During this call she had told her mother that she planned to have an early night.

At 8.23pm Claudia sent a text to her friend, this was the last text that she would ever send. This is a fact that is really suspicious for family and friends because she was known to text much later than this. In fact, Claudia sent 1000s of texts every single month.

At 9.12pm Claudia received a text from a friend of hers who worked in a bar in Cyprus. She never replied to this message and never used the phone again.

At 12.10pm on the 19th of March, her phone was “deliberately” turned off. It is assumed that police were able to triangle a location where her phone was used for the above actions, however, this has never been released to the public.

Due to the hours that Claudia worked, she sometimes had to walk the two-mile journey to work in the early hours of the morning. This is what she should have done during the early hours of the 19th of March 2009 as she was due to start at 6am but she never arrived at work.

We don’t know if Claudia went missing sometime in the evening or on this walk to work. There seem to be reasons to believe that it could have been either of these.

Three days later on Friday the 20th of March 2008, her father reported her missing.

Six weeks after Claudia disappeared the police reclassified the case as a murder and that is how it has been treated ever since.

The investigation 

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*Credit to the Mirror

As soon as they started investigating the case police were faced with a barrage of obstacles particularly surrounding Claudia’s personal life which they described as “complex”. Police were unsure how much information about this side of Claudia they should release to the public. They wanted the public to have as much information as possible and yet they feared that it might have a detrimental effect.

It was reported that Claudia was having affairs with men who were already married and as a result, they faced a wall of silence when they first started investigating the case. Many of these men were reluctant to admit their relationship with Claudia and as a result lied to police.

This does not diminish what has happened to Claudia. She was a single induvial who was free to live her life however she chose to do so. She is victim and while her private life might be important to the actual case. It is not important to how we treat Claudia or the crime to which she was a victim.

The police uncovered CCTV footage of an unknown male acting suspiciously in the alley behind Claudia’s home around the hours that she went missing. At around 7.15pm on the 18th of March, the male figure is seen walking up the alley behind her house. He has a backpack on his back at this time. A minute after he goes inside the alley, he leaves. However, he then notices a figure approaching and pauses before walking to the junction.

Why does he stop? Does he not want to be seen?

The same figure is seen again, doing the same thing at 5.07am on the 19th of March. Again, he enters the alley and a minute later he leaves.

This man is not local as he is not seen again on the days before or after Claudia went missing.

Police have not been able to identify him and he is considered a person of interest.

They were also able to uncover footage of a white Vauxhall Astra which was parked opposite her home between 9pm and 9.30pm on the 18th of March 2008.

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A few people reported having seen a couple arguing on University Road, outside the University of York, at about 6.10am. This is where Claudia was due to be and at the time she was due to start her 6am shift. The member of the public reported that there was a car there at this time and that the passenger-side door was open.

The police are yet to locate this couple and some people speculate if one of them was the missing women.

The police also made a series of errors when they initially started investigating the case. Sadly, this seems to be a reoccurring factor in missing person enquiries.

When police searched her home they were surprised to see how normal everything looked, there was no forced entry and nothing looked out of place. Her credit cards and passport had been left there.

Her bed had been made and there were breakfast bowls inside the sink.

However, police did uncover a partial print of an unknown person and in her car they found a cigarette, smoked by a left-handed male. The cigarette had DNA on it.

The only things missing from the house were Claudia, her mobile phone and her back pack which usually contained her chef whites.

However, they never invited members of Claudia’s family to the apartment to check that everything was in order. In fact, Claudia’s mother says that she was only shown photographs of her daughter’s home at a later point. In these images she noticed a pair of “old fashioned slippers” sat neatly on the floor and she believes that this was very odd. Her daughter would not have owned slippers like that nor have placed them down so neatly. This made her question if someone had cleaned the flat or perhaps tried to conceal something.

They initially failed to interview the mother and repeatedly used an outdated photo of the missing women. Her mother admits that she doesn’t know where that photo came from and she and other individuals repeatedly ask the police to change the image they were using.

The widely used image showed Claudia with blonde hair however at the time she went missing her hair was dark, as it is in the above picture.

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The police also failed to search the wasteland behind Claudia’s home.

In June 2009, Crimewatch broadcast a reconstruction of the events leading up to Claudia’s disappearance and this did lead to the police receiving numerous tip-offs.

In September 2009, the police extended their search to Cyprus as Claudia had known links there. In the past, she had been offered numerous jobs in the country and people had reportedly seen her there in the months after she went missing. It was also a friend in Cyprus who last sent a text to her phone. However, no further credence was given to this theory, she had not taken her passport and it was unlikely that she had left on her own accord.

In June 2013, the North Yorkshire Police established a Major Crime Unit and they decided to reinvestigate a number of cold cases. One of the cases chosen was that of Claudia Lawrence. Using new technology this force did some further work on Claudia’s missing Samsung D900. Whilst undergoing this process they noticed that she had repeatedly been in the Acomb area in the weeks before she went missing.

In March 2014, Crimewatch once again featured the case and asked viewers to help them identify a silver Ford Focus of the 1998-2004 model. This car was seen on CCTV on the road leading to Claudia’s property and was caught breaking just outside her house. This car has never been identified.

Car. Credit to nyp

In the intervening years between 2014 and 2017, a number of local men were arrested in connection with the murder of Claudia. These men were all in the 40s-50s and were connected to the Nags Head pub. This pub was located a few doors from Claudia’s home and was frequented by her.

To this day none of these have gone to court of their alleged offences and in 2016 the CPS formally abandoned all charges.

The theories 

In the other cases that I have written about, there was one glaringly obvious theory which seemed to stand out from the rest. However in this case there seem to be numerous possibilities.

I think that the police are right in assuming that this is a murder investigation, so I want to quickly rule out one of the theories regarding her disappearance. I do not believe that Claudia willingly left her life behind and sadly I do think that she was a victim.

Instead, we have to look at which of the following options is most likely in regards to how and why this crime happened.

Serial Killer // It has been considered that Claudia was the victim of a serial killer who was operating in the area at the time she went missing. Detectives involved in the case of convicted killer Chris Halliwell, believe that he is a good suspect for her murder. At the time Claudia went missing Halliwell’s father was living a few streets away from Claudia. Claudia’s disappearance also fits the profile of his other victims because all are young women who were walking alone at night or early morning. While North Yorkshire Police say they will consider all theories, they are quick to state that they are “not aware of any evidence that would link this individual to this disappearance”.

Killed by an acquaintance in her home // At first glance, this seems to be a likely incident, however, the more you look at it the less likely this seems. There was no evidence of a crime having taken place inside the home and it would have been really hard to move a body. While this is undoubtedly a line of inquiry that needs to remain on the table, I don’t think it is the likely answer.

Killed by an acquaintance elsewhere // This is what the police think happened and it does seem to fit the situation. I think all evidence points to the fact that she went somewhere willingly with someone she knew. I think that there was a rendezvous, a date or a meeting and that something sinister happened at this time.

Abducted on her walk to work // As we are unable to locate the time that Claudia went missing, we have to consider the possibly that it was in the early morning of the 19th as opposed to the evening of the 18th. It would have been dark when she was walking to work and so it might have been possible. However, some crime investigators argue that she still had to walk along a fairly busy road in order to get to work and so abduction would have been very risky. However, the other option is that she took a lift from someone that she knew while she was walking to work. However, this still leaves a few things unanswered, like why her phone was knocked off or why she stopped sending messages.

My theory

This is one of the hardest cases that I have ever written about because there are so many things that could have happened. At times I think that she met with someone and at other times I think that she was taken on her way to work.

I think it’s most likely that she went to stay at the home of one of her partners and that something sinister happened while she was there. This would explain why her home is undisturbed and why her uniform was missing, perhaps she was going to work from there. I also think that the “arguing couple” could be connected to this theory and that perhaps that lady was Claudia.

I have to also assume that the strange man caught on CCTV is somehow connected to this case but I can’t seem to think how.

However, I still think that it is worth considering that Chris Halliwell might be responsible. If he was in the area at the time, then he should be investigated as a suspect. It’s not often that someone coincidently goes missing at the same time that a serial killer is in the area.

I do think that this case will be solved one day, I just hope that it is sooner rather than later.

Please contact the police if you have any information on this case.

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