The search for Claudia Lawrence
Six months after her disappearance, her mother Joan speaks for the first time about the police hunt
Regulars at the Nag's Head in York will be in sombre mood on Friday. It will be six months to the day since the mysterious disappearance of their friend Claudia Lawrence sparked one of the biggest investigations in the history of North Yorkshire Police.
In a desperate effort to find his missing daughter, Claudia's father Peter Lawrence will hold a press conference in the place that has been a focus for police investigations into her relationships. The nondescript pub is just a few doors down from the cottage where Claudia used to live on the outskirts of York, and was a regular haunt for the 35-year-old chef.
Claudia's mother, Joan, will not be there next Friday. She will continue to keep a low profile – struggling to deal with the fact that her daughter has simply vanished without trace.
Speaking at her home in the Yorkshire village of Norton, the 65-year-old broke her silence to give her first national newspaper interview since her daughter's disappearance. "I feel terrible. It seems like a lifetime. I miss her every day. We talked on the phone almost every day and met up every week. It's totally out of character. She'd never do this. She'd never put us through this. It's hell. I can't describe the situation any other way," said Mrs Lawrence.
She has not heard from Claudia since Wednesday 18 March, when the two made plans over the phone to meet up on Mothering Sunday.
Police have spent much of the past few months focusing on her daughter's love life. Yet this has so far failed to bring them any closer to finding her. Her mother is angry with the tabloid press. "Everything gets twisted and all they've done is blacken her name and I'm not happy about that at all. Ninety per cent that has been said about her isn't true."
She claims her daughter could have been abducted and taken abroad. "There was this report about some white slave trade going in York. Someone tried to abduct a student from the university, outside the Minster, and she was rescued. It just makes you think. And there's another 35-year-old girl who went missing about six months before Claudia, and it makes me wonder what's going on."
Clearly frustrated at the lack of progress, she accused the police of taking a one-size-fits-all approach. "Personally I think they've made an awful lot of mistakes. I think the first 72 hours are absolutely crucial," she said. "I've been told [by a woman who used to work for the police] that the way the case is going and way it has been conducted, she's ashamed to have ever been in the police force.
"I just wish the police had been just a bit more tactful and a bit more sensitive. There have been days when they've come here and I've felt I could have been anyone sitting here talking to them, not her mum."
Claudia's disappearance has prompted more than 1,200 calls to police hotlines, searches of hundreds of properties, Crimewatch appeals, a £10,000 reward and pleas for help by Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York. But she remains missing and, by the police at least, presumed dead. And the number of police working on the case has been reduced by more than half.
Not knowing what has happened to her daughter is hard for her mother to cope with. "People say I'm doing brilliantly but I'm not inside. It's just going on too long. I don't know what is going on. Somebody does know something. Something's got to happen. There's got to be a turnaround because I don't think anyone's going to come forward."
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