THE father of Claudia Lawrence has spoken of his renewed hope that a major breakthrough could be made in the long-running murder investigation into his daughter’s disappearance after meeting with North Yorkshire Police’s new chief constable.
A wide-ranging review of the inquiry is set to begin imminently following the official launch next week of a dramatically expanded Major Crime Unit, which will be tasked with assessing the biggest investigation undertaken by the North Yorkshire force in recent years after Miss Lawrence vanished four-and-a-half years ago.
Peter Lawrence had an hour-long meeting on Wednesday with Chief Constable Dave Jones along with Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Mason, North Yorkshire Police’s head of crime, to discuss the case at the force headquarters in Newby Wiske, near Northallerton.
Mr Jones met with Miss Lawrence’s mother, Joan, earlier this year.
Mr Lawrence admitted he voiced frustrations over claims made by former Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway that the missing woman had been involved in relationships of “complexity and mystery”, which sparked lurid allegations about her private life.
Mr Galloway led the murder inquiry before he left North Yorkshire Police in January to set up a consultancy business.
But Mr Lawrence was adamant the meeting had been positive and remained hopefully the review will shed new light on the disappearance of his daughter, who was aged 35 when she was last seen walking near her York home on March 18, 2009. The missing person inquiry was upgraded to a murder investigation the following month.
Mr Lawrence, a solicitor from York, said: “There was a definite commitment from the chief constable that he really wants to get to the bottom of what happened to Claudia. It is without doubt one of the most difficult cases that North Yorkshire Police has dealt with.
“I was assured that there will be a completely new team looking at the case and I am sure that new information will come to light. It is human nature for things to be missed, and there will undoubtedly be a new perspective with a new set of eyes looking at the investigation. However, whether this gives a definitive answer as to what happened to Claudia remains to be seen.”
Speaking outside York Minster yesterday to mark 40,000 hours since his daughter last made contact with anyone, Mr Lawrence admitted the mystery surrounding his daughter’s disappearance still haunts her family and friends.
“It doesn’t get any easier, and it still lives with us every day,” he said. “I do believe that Claudia is still out there somewhere, and will continue to do so until someone can prove otherwise.”
The revamped Major Crime Unit will cost £300,000 to set up and will employ 31 officers and staff specialising in offences including homicide, kidnap and rape. The move is hoped to give fresh impetus to the investigation of long-standing cases, including Miss Lawrence’s disappearance.
Det Chief Supt Mason confirmed yesterday that a review will “assess the evidential and intelligence material” gathered in the murder inquiry.
He added: “As a parent, I can only imagine the anguish that her parents have been going through since her uncharacteristic disappearance in 2009. I hope Claudia’s family and friends will take some comfort from knowing that North Yorkshire Police will never close this case until a definitive conclusion has been reached for them, and we know conclusively what has happened to Claudia.”