Fears grow for missing woman

Detectives investigating the disappearance of a woman believed to have gone missing as she walked to work yesterday said they could not rule out the possibility she had been abducted.

Claudia Lawrence, 35, of Heworth Road, York, was last seen on Wednesday afternoon at the University of York's Goodricke College and later spoke to her parents on the phone.

North Yorkshire Police believe Miss Lawrence disappeared at around 5.30am the next morning after she left home with no money, cards or passport to walk three miles to her job as a chef at the college.

Speaking at a news conference at Fulford Road police station in York, Detective Chief Inspector Lucy Pope said she was keeping an open mind about Miss Lawrence's disappearance.

But she added: "It's certainly a possibility that an abduction could be involved but I have got nothing to suggest that."

Ms Pope continued: "She may have decided that she's had enough of living around here and gone away of her own free will but I have to keep an open mind that there might be some criminal activity involved."

The detective described Miss Lawrence as "happy and sociable" and said she was not aware of any problems with depression or relationships.

She said: "She has never been missing before and there is nothing to suggest that she had any concerns or worries that would make her want to leave. Her disappearance is completely out of character."

Miss Lawrence had been walking to work recently after her car broke down but did not arrive on Thursday morning and later failed to keep an arrangement to meet a friend, who contacted her father, Peter.

Mr Lawrence said his daughter did sometimes accept lifts from people she knew but would "run a mile" if approached by a stranger.

Ms Pope said there was a sighting of Miss Lawrence on a CCTV camera on Wednesday afternoon and around 30 to 40 officers were searching the areas around her route to work.

She said: "So far, we have not had any indications about where Claudia may be.

"Claudia's family are extremely distressed by her disappearance and we are anxious to put an end to their anguish."

Mr Lawrence, a solicitor from near Malton, North Yorkshire, made an emotional appeal for his daughter to get in touch.

He said: "As you can imagine, we are distressed and need your help.

"These past few days have been a living nightmare for us, not knowing what has happened, and we are sick with worry."

Mr Lawrence's voice broke with emotion as he described his daughter.

"Claudia is our lovely daughter and sister to Ali. She's very sociable, she's great with her friends and certainly not one who would go off with strangers," he said.

"Claudia, we just love you and we hope you're safe and there's absolutely no reason at all you shouldn't come back, wherever you are."

Miss Lawrence is described as white, around 5ft 6in and of slim build, with brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, blue skinny jeans and white trainers.

Police are appealing for help to find a small blue or green rucksack which Miss Lawrence used to carry her chef's whites to work and was believed to have with her when she disappeared.