A prayer for Claudia, three years on

Peter Lawrence remains hopeful that his daughter is still alive. He says not knowing is 'the worst'

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The Independent Online

Peter Lawrence is living in limbo. He is no closer to finding out what happened to his daughter, Claudia, than he was when she vanished three years ago today.

The 35-year-old chef was last heard from on 18 March 2009 when she made plans to see family and friends. She has not been seen since. Her disappearance sparked one of the biggest investigations ever carried out by North Yorkshire Police.

One way Claudia's 65-year-old father has dealt with her disappearance is to throw himself into his work. Another was to move to York a few months ago. He now lives a mile from Claudia's house in Heworth, on the city's outskirts.

Today the quietly spoken solicitor will go to York Minister where he will say a prayer for her. If the weather is good he plans to go for a walk, before phoning his other daughter, Ali.

And this week he will visit Claudia's house. "It's something that has to be done. I just stay there long enough to see that everything's secure and that there's no water coming through the roof, that's it."

Mr Lawrence admits that lobbying for guardianship rights for families of missing people has helped him cope with Claudia's disappearance. "I hadn't actually thought about that, but I expect it probably has helped."

Yesterday he spoke at a 10km charity run in London's Regent's Park where he thanked people for supporting the Missing Rights Campaign.

But he is struggling to deal with his own situation. "It doesn't get any easier. It's the not knowing what's happened that's the worst. I've never believed that time is a healer." Claudia is on his mind "every day, walking down the street, driving in the car, I suppose the only time I don't think about her is when I'm working. Work has helped me cope with this."

Although it is "still painful" to talk about her, he is determined to keep his daughter's name from being forgotten. "As long as it's still out in the public mind, one day somebody will say something."

Mr Lawrence is convinced his daughter was abducted: "I think she was picked up and taken by somebody. She left everything behind and she would never be seen out of the house without handbag and jewellery."

He holds on to the hope that "whoever it is out there that knows about it suddenly has a conscience and says something". He does not accept that she may be dead. "I do not want her to be presumed dead in the context of the legislation that we are lobbying for, which is why I am seeking these guardianship provisions for families to be able to use after somebody goes missing until they are ready for them to be presumed dead."

The police investigation into the Claudia's suspected murder has been scaled down, but Mr Lawrence is encouraged that "information is still coming in". Det Supt Ray Galloway pledged on Friday: "We will never give up on the search for Claudia and those responsible for her disappearance."