Obituary: Peter Lawrence, solicitor and campaigner

Peter Lawrence, who has died at 74, devoted the latter part of his life to trying to solve the mystery of his daughter Claudia’s disappearance in York in 2009, and campaigned tirelessly to change the law so that other relatives might not have to suffer in quite the same way.

Claudia Lawrence with her father, Peter.

Peter Lawrence, who has died at 74, devoted the latter part of his life to trying to solve the mystery of his daughter Claudia’s disappearance in York in 2009, and campaigned tirelessly to change the law so that other relatives might not have to suffer in quite the same way.

He received an OBE for his efforts in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2018, but died without knowing what had happened to Claudia, who was 35 when she was last seen walking near her home at Heworth in York. She never turned up for work as a chef the next morning.

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In the early years of the inquiry which followed, her family and friends were unstinting in their belief that she was alive and that they would be reunited with her.

However, in an interview with The Yorkshire Post to mark the 10th anniversary of her disappearance, Mr Lawrence admitted for the first time publicly that he feared she was dead and he would never see her again.

“It is hard to say that, and I have never told anyone that before. But I have to come to terms with it, as it may very well be the truth,” he said.

Mr Lawrence, a retired solicitor, campaigned for the introduction of what has become known as Claudia’s Law, which allows families of people missing for more than 90 days to deal with their legal and financial affairs. Previously, the disappearance of a person did not affect the ownership or control of their property and financial affairs.

He had moved to York nine-and-half years ago from Slingsby, near Malton, partly to keep a check on his daughter’s terraced house, which he refused to sell, and also to pursue a love of singing which he had nurtured since the age of seven.

He was a member of the York Musical Society, and worshipped at the city’s Minster. Mr Lawrence also found comfort singing with the Missing People Choir, who got to the final of the Britain’s Got Talent TV show in 2017.

Originally from Lancashire, he grew up in Darlington and went to the local grammar school. He met his former wife Joan through the church there, and they married in 1970. Their first daughter, Ali, was born in 1971, and Claudia three years later.

He moved to North Yorkshire in 1972 and was a partner at the law firm Ware and Kay, in Peasholme Green, York. He retired in 2018.

More than 2,100 statements were taken in the first six months of the investigation into Claudia’s disappearance, 200 searches conducted and 3,070 lines of inquiry pursued. Nine people were arrested or interviewed under caution, and North Yorkshire Police submitted files to the Crown Prosecution Service in 2015 in relation to four men who were detained. But there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against those arrested and no one has been brought to justice.

In January 2017, police said the inquiry had “scaled back” unless any major leads were forthcoming.