Murder suspected in hunt for missing chef

The detective leading the hunt for missing chef Claudia Lawrence today said the investigation had been classified as suspected murder.

Miss Lawrence, 35, was last seen five weeks ago near her home after she finished work at the University of York's Goodricke College.



At a news conference in York, Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway said: "At the moment we have no proof of Claudia's death. However, five weeks on from her disappearance we also have no proof of her life.



"The investigation is now being formally classified as one of suspected murder."











Mr Galloway said he had not given up hope but was "looking at this investigation from a technical perspective".

Miss Lawrence's father, Peter Lawrence, who was at the news conference, said he understood why the police were now treating his daughter's disappearance as murder but said he believed she was still alive.



He said: "It is necessary for their investigation but we believe that Claudia is still alive and that is what keeps us going and motivates us.



"I believe and the family believe very much that Claudia is still alive and we very much hope she is alive, that is what is keeping us going here.



"The sense of hope is clearly there."



Mr Galloway also disclosed new "significant" lines of inquiry after information from members of the public.



He said one person reported seeing a man and a woman walking near the University of York between 6am and 6.30am on 17 March and 19 March.



Another witness also saw a man and a woman at 5.35am on 19 March as he travelled down Melrose Gate, towards Heworth, where Ms Lawrence lives.



Mr Galloway said there was no specific interaction between the couple but said the man was wearing a dark hooded top with the hood up and was smoking a cigarette with his left hand, which was "unusual".







Mr Lawrence made another "direct appeal" to his daughter today.

He said messages had been left on her mobile phone this morning urging her to get in touch.



He said it was "so unusual" for her not to be in contact and, despite many appeals, there was no word from her and the family was "extremely worried".



He said: "Your mum and I have this morning each left a message on your mobile phone just in case you are able still to listen to messages.



"Please, please, listen to these messages and, if you able to, please send just a quick text or make a quick call.



"You may not be able to do this, but we just hope there's a slight possibility that you can.



"There's absolutely nothing for you to worry about in terms of getting in contact.



"You are not in trouble with anybody. We just miss you. We just want to know that you are safe."









The man seen on 19 March on Melrose Gate was also wearing dark combat trousers and was said to be skinny.

The woman was described as having mousy brown hair and wearing a blue jacket.



They were seen on a bridge near an electricity sub station on Miss Lawrence's route to work.



Mr Galloway said: "We don't know it is Claudia but it is a significant sighting at the right time in the right location."



He said the other man seen on University Road was described as aged between 50 and 55, with dark brown hair, greying at the sides and a dark jacket with lighter coloured trousers.



He said the couple may be the same people who were seen by another witness arguing by the side of the road near an open car on 19 March.



Mr Galloway urged both couples to get in touch.



He also appealed for university students returning after their Easter break to come forward if they remembered any information which would help with the investigation.











Crimestoppers is putting up a £10,000 reward in connection with the investigation.

Dave Hunter, Crimestoppers regional manager for the North East and North Yorkshire area, said: "Crimestoppers has put in an enhanced reward of £10,000 for information relating to this case.



"It is quite unusual because, at this moment in time, no crime has been committed. However, it is such a big issue and the public have been captivated by the case.



"From a Crimestoppers point of view, we hope this will generate specific information relating to Claudia, which can help police with their inquiries."



Miss Lawrence, 35, was last seen on 18 March after she finished work at the University of York's Goodricke College and has not been in contact with anybody since around 8.30pm that evening.



She was due to start work at 6am on 19 March but never arrived.



Police have said they fear she may have come to harm after meeting up with someone she knew.



The investigation into Miss Lawrence's disappearance is the biggest the North Yorkshire force has conducted since the search for multiple killer Mark Hobson five years ago.

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why