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Hard to believe missing chef Claudia is still alive after 10 years, says father

Claudia Lawrence disappeared in York 10 years ago Photo: North Yorkshire Police/PA

The father of missing Claudia Lawrence has said it is getting more difficult to believe the university chef is alive after nearly 10 years without her.

Peter Lawrence said the decade since his daughter disappeared from her home in York had been “horrible”.

Miss Lawrence was last seen on March 18 2009, and police believe she has been murdered, although no body has ever been discovered.

Mr Lawrence has said in the past that he believes his daughter, who was 35 when she vanished, is still alive.

But, speaking to the Press Association from his home in York, he said he is now less certain.

Peter Lawrence said he is now less certain his missing daughter Claudia is still alive Credit: Rick Findler/PA

“It’s getting more difficult to believe that as time goes on,” he said. “It’s very difficult now.”

Using just one word to describe the last 10 years, Mr Lawrence said: “Horrible.”

And he said not knowing what had happened to his daughter was the hardest part.

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He said: “It just keeps going on and on, of course, because of not knowing what happened, and it is the not knowing which has always been the worst part about it.

“I’ve always said that and, until such time as we know what happened, that will just go on, unfortunately.”

Mr Lawrence reported his “shy” daughter missing after her friend, Suzy Cooper, told him she could not contact “avid texter” Miss Lawrence.

Recalling how he felt when he realised something had happened to her, he said: “Obviously it was a shock, it’s more than worrying.”

Mr Lawrence went to his daughter’s home in Heworth Road, York, to see if he could find her.

“I went across expecting, I think, to find her lying on the floor in the house, but there was absolutely no sign.

“The house was just as though she had walked out to work,” he said.

“And there was no indication of anything untoward happening in that house.”

But as hours turned into days, it became obvious to him that something untoward must have happened.

“As days went on it seemed quite clear that it wasn’t just a case of her coming back in a few days’ time,” said the 72-year-old.

Peter Lawrence was made an OBE for his work supporting the relatives of missing people Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Mr Lawrence said he was amazed by the initial police response when he reported his daughter missing.

“Within five minutes two police officers were round at the house and within a few hours on that Friday afternoon there were hundreds of officers,” he said.

Nine people have been arrested or interviewed under caution in connection with Miss Lawrence’s disappearance and police submitted files to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in relation to a number of individuals but there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against those arrested.

Mr Lawrence admits to being frustrated with the lack of progress in the case – particularly that the CPS has said it cannot prosecute any of those arrested.

But he said the police still keep in touch when they receive any new information.

“Trouble is, they just need some useful information,” he said.

(L to R) Kevin Hollinrake MP, Peter Lawrence and Baroness Hamwee holding a copy of Claudia’s Law, which is due to come into force in July Credit: Elizabeth Buchan/PA

Mr Lawrence said he has coped through the last 10 years “with the support of close friends and the community”.

He has used his experience to campaign tirelessly for the introduction of what has become known as Claudia’s Law – which will allow families of people missing for more than 90 days to deal with their affairs.

The law received Royal Assent in April 2017 and is due to come into force in July this year.

He said: “We’re nearly there after so long. Claudia’s Law is to help lots of families – about 2,500 of them waiting for it.”

He has also found comfort singing with the Missing People Choir, who got to the final of Britain’s Got Talent in 2017.

He said: “We just meet to be together and sing new songs. A lot of people in the street say ‘Oh, we know how you feel’ but of course they don’t. But the other people in the choir do.”

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And close friends will be there to support him on March 18, which will mark a decade since his daughter’s disappearance, and he has said he will spend “quietly”.

With tears in his eyes as he reflected on the last 10 years, he said: “Sometimes it seems an eternity and other times it just seems as though it wasn’t very long ago at all.

“I can’t understand that at all, but that’s how the feelings go.”