Claudia Lawrence's mother says that searches of gravel pits have left her in 'utter shock'

Claudia Lawrence has been missing since 2009. Credit: Family Photo

Claudia Lawrence's mother has said the latest searches in connection with her daughter’s disappearance and suspected murder have left her in “utter shock”.

Joan Lawrence told reporters she was "very, very churned up" about the latest developments in the investigation, which have seen police searching gravel pits and an area of woodland just outside York.

Mrs Lawrence said that "every single day is a nightmare" since her daughter disappeared from her home in Heworth, York, more than 12 years ago – but she insisted she still has hope.

Police believe Ms Lawrence was murdered, although no body has ever been found.

On Tuesday, detectives confirmed that an operation had begun to search the gravel pits – which are now believed to be used as fishing ponds – at Sand Hutton, to the east of York and around 6.5 miles from Ms Lawrence’s home on Heworth Road.

The missing chef’s mother said: "I haven’t had time to really digest it and get myself together with it all, get together the possibilities, wondering where it’s all come from, wonder if it’s some information.

"Why Sand Hutton? I can’t think of any connection with Sand Hutton that Claudia would have."

Mrs Lawrence added: "At the end of the day, this is very personal and it’s about me and a daughter that I haven’t seen for 12 years, and every single day is a nightmare – this is an added one."

A forensic diving expert has told ITV News that the search could take a "number of days" depending on the quality of the water in the ponds.

Peter Faulding said that the search will have to be done by hand given the amount of time that has passed since Claudia went missing.

He added: "They [police divers] are at the top of their game at what they do, if there is something there, they will find it.

"If the intelligence that they have got has taken them to that quarry and its good intelligence, if she is there the police will find her."

Mr Faulding said that debris could have built up over the years in the ponds which could make the search harder.

A former North Yorkshire Police detective, Bob Bridgestock, said: "They had actually said they would not look at anything else unless the information was compelling.

"So we can take some positive news from there that there must be some compelling information for the resources to this extent to examine a gravel pit.

"The police will keep this close to their chest and rightly so but what the public can take from this is whether it is twelve years or twenty years the police never give up searching for murderers."

Officers search the land at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits near York Credit: Mark Brickerdike/PA

Speaking at the scene on Tuesday, where a road and a large area of woodland had been cordoned off and police could be seen searching the undergrowth with sticks, 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.

“Whilst 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.”

The timeline of the 12-year hunt for missing Claudia Lawrence

March 18 2009

Ms Lawrence was last seen at around 3.05pm walking towards her home.

Ms Lawrence spoke to her mum, Joan, and dad, Peter, that evening over the telephone. They both said she was in good spirits.

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March 19 2009

Ms Lawrence fails to turn up to her 6am shift. In the evening, she also doesn't attend the Nags Head pub, where she had previously agreed to meet her friend.

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March 20 2009

Peter Lawrence reports his daughter missing to North Yorkshire Police.

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April 24 2009

Detectives say that Ms 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.

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May 13 2014

A 59-year-old man is arrested on suspicion of murder. He is released on police bail and eventually released without charge six months later.

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March 19 2014

Five years on from Ms Lawrence’s disappearance, officers searching her home discover the fingerprints of people who have still not come forward to the investigation.

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March 23 2015

A man in his 50s is arrested on suspicion of murdering Ms Lawrence and released on police bail the following day.

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April 22 2015

Three more men, all in their 50s and from the York area, are arrested on suspicion of murder and are released on bail.

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September 17 2015

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. The CPS decides the men won't be charged.

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January 17 2017

Mr Lawrence says he is “hugely depressed and disappointed” as the investigation into his daughter’s disappearance is scaled down.

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July 31 2019

The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill, also known as Claudia’s Law, came into force. This followed years of campaigning by Mr Lawrence and allows relatives to take control of their missing loved ones’ financial matters.

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February 15 2021

The death of Peter Lawrence is announced.

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August 24 2021

A new search operation is announced at the gravel pits at Sand Hutton, about eight miles from York.

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Ms Lawrence was last seen on March 18 2009, and North Yorkshire Police has conducted two investigations and questioned nine people in relation to her disappearance and suspected murder, but no charges have ever been brought.

Speaking after he took over as senior investigating officer in the case earlier this year, Mr Fox repeated the belief that several people know, or have suspicions about, what happened to the 35-year-old.

He said some of the information received by the force “appears extremely interesting and sparks a whole new line of investigation”, and he urged anyone providing this information to get back in touch with as much detail as possible.