Hartlepool man still hoping to find mum's body 30 years after murder

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A man whose father killed his mother 30 years ago has not given up hope of one day finding her remains.

Laura May Al-Shatanawi vanished in 1993, with her husband Hassan Al Shatanawi, claiming she had taken a last-minute holiday.

Shatanawi was later convicted of her murder - despite Laura May’s body never being found.

After serving his minimum term, the Jordanian-born doctor was controversially deported by the Home Office, never revealing what happened to his wife despite repeated pleas from her family.

His son, Rasheed Vaughan, from Hartlepool, says he knows his mum is still out there and he is determined to locate her remains.

Rasheed told ITV Tyne Tees: "I remember it clear as day, the police coming and saying 'we think your mam has been murdered'. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Rasheed Vaughan was just a young boy when his father Hassan murdered his mother. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

"It's going to stay with me until the day I die. My grandad passed away not knowing where his daughter was. My uncle died last year. He's gone to his grave not knowing what happened to his sister. It could happen to me if we don't find a body.

"You just never know if you're going to get a phone call to say 'we've found your mam'. In the past when bodies have been found I've been straight on the phone to the police. When they've told me it's not my mam, I just think 'at least somebody else is getting reunited with a loved one' and hopefully one day we'll get my mam back.

"It is the one biggest thing I want, my mam's remains so I can bury her with my gran and grandad."

Hassan Al Shatanawi served a minimum term for the murder of Laura May before being deported. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees
  • How Hassan Al Shatanawi was caught by police

Hassan and Laura May had married in Egypt and moved to England in 1985.

Laura May had been studying tourism at Hartlepool College of Further Education and had just sat an exam before she disappeared.

Shatanawi told friends and family that the trainee-travel agent may have taken a last-minute holiday.He kept the ruse going, pulling the wool over family members' eyes, before he reported Laura May missing after three weeks.

Reporter Neil Hunter was in his first week at the Hartlepool Mail newspaper when Laura May vanished in 1993. He says Shatanawi spoke to reporters to try and show he had nothing to hide.

Mr Hunter said: "We went to speak to Hassan and he was happy to talk. He said he didn't know where she was. I think he thought by being open he was trying to show he had nothing to hide when in fact he had an awful lot to hide."

Suspicions grew and a week later Shatanawi was arrested.

Detectives uncovered how the businessman had rented an allotment a few miles from his home in Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, and ordered a new garden shed to be put up immediately.

Shortly after the shed was put up, witnesses reported seeing black smoke on the allotment. In a bid to cover his tracks, Shatanawi then paid a workman £10 to dismantle and burn the shed.

But instead, the workman sold the shed - which contained vital evidence - to a friend.

When appealing for help through the media to find Laura, the workman recognised Shatanawi and contacted the police.

An investigation was launched and police conducted extensive searches of the allotment in Seaton Carew in 1993. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

This led to forensic examinations of the shed which revealed Laura May's blood and hair on the partly gouged away floor.

Mr Hunter added: "The police were suspicious from the very start, that he'd waited all that time before reporting Laura May missing. I think Hassan was probably the most shocked.

"He'd had a three-week head start on the police to hide evidence and dispose of whatever he needed to dispose of."

Shatanawi was found guilty by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court and sentenced to life in prison.

It was just over 18 years later that, despite warnings from the Parole Board that he was still a danger, Jordan-born Shatanawi was freed from jail and deported after serving his minimum term.

The manner of his deportation is still a source of frustration for Rasheed and his family today, who weren't informed Shatanawi was being deported. They feel he should never have been deported by the Home Office without first revealing what he'd done with Laura May's remains.

Now, Helen's Law means criminals who do not disclose the location of the remains of their victims cannot be granted parole for their offences.

But this legislation was brought in too late for Laura May's family.

The body of Laura May Al-Shatanawi has never been found. Credit: NCJ MEDIA

In response, the Home Office told ITV News Tyne Tees in a statement: "We are committed to ensuring that the victims or the immediate family members of the victims of Foreign National Offenders receive the information they are entitled to about the deportation of an offender.

"This includes a right to notification if deportation action is being taken and when an offender has been deported, which are part of the Victims Code."

Rasheed, who works as a team leader for Durham County Council, lost touch with his father following his deportation and fears he will never be able to track him down.

He said: "I know everybody can throw the word 'murderer' around but at the end of the day he's still my dad. Growing up he was my dad and we had some good times.

"I am angry with him. He could have saved such a lot of heartache. He's had plenty of time to tell us what happened and he just refused to tell us. Now he's been deported, nowhere to be seen or heard from, and whether it's a control thing or shame, I just don't know."

Rasheed has vowed never to give up hope of one day finding his mother's remains. He knows it is the final piece in a cruel jigsaw that has tormented his family for the past three decades.

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