Right to presume death of relatives is praised by father of missing Claudia

Peter Lawrence with a poster of missing Claudia
Peter Lawrence with a poster of missing Claudia
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THE father of York chef Claudia Lawrence has welcomed a law change coming into force today allowing the families of missing people to apply for a ‘presumption of death’ certificate for their loved one.

More than 18 months after being passed into law, the Presumption of Death Act was today officially introduced by the Government.

It allows an application to be made for a declaration that a missing person, who is thought to have died or who has not been known to be alive for at least seven years, is presumed dead. The missing person’s property will pass to others as if the missing person has died and been certified dead, and his or her marriage or civil partnership will end.

Its creation follows a campaign by the charity Missing People, and relatives of missing people, including Peter Lawrence, father of missing Claudia, and Rachel Elias, the sister of Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards, who went missing in 1995.

A law on guardianship, allowing families to maintain a missing person’s estate during these years by cancelling direct debits, paying off debts, and providing maintenance for dependants, is still yet to be introduced.

Martin Dales, a spokesman for Mr Lawrence, whose daughter disappeared on March 18, 2009, at the age of 35, said he was “very pleased that we have got to this point”. He said: “It is good that it is now UK-wide law, so anyone in the UK can use that right after seven years if they feel that is the route they want to go down.”

He said Mr Lawrence had not yet decided if he would apply for a certificate for his daughter after seven years. But he said the laws on guardianship should be changed as soon as possible.

North Yorkshire Police’s investigation into the disappearance of Miss Lawrence is being reviewed by the force’s Major Crime Unit. Police have arrested one man on suspicion of murder and another on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. Both men are still on bail.