Police have drained a lake in North Yorkshire as they intensify their search for Claudia Lawrence, the chef who disappeared 12 years ago.
Six specialist officers were seen carrying out a fingertip examination of a lake’s bed in the middle of a Yorkshire woodland.
Ms Lawrence, 35, was last seen on the afternoon of 18 March 2009 as she walked towards her home in Heworth, near York.
That night she called both of her parents, who said she seemed in good spirits, but was never heard from again. The following morning she did not arrive or her 6am shift at the University of York, where she worked as a chef, and her phone was deliberately turned off at about 12.10pm.
Investigators at North Yorkshire Police have this week been searching the Sand Hutton gravel pits near York, and a lake that is around seven miles from where Ms Lawrence was last seen. Officers have drained the smaller of two lakes in the area, a popular angling site.
The search teams are also using ground-penetrating radar equipment and cadaver dogs trained to find human remains.
Ms Lawrence’s mother, Joan, 78, told The Mirror she had been suffering “awful nightmares” as the search intensifies. She begged anyone who could connect the lakes to her daughter’s appearance to come forward.
She said: “As a mum, hearing about a lake being drained and a fingertip search being carried out is just a nightmare.
“No parent should ever have to endure this. I’m left wondering every day what is going on and what might be found.
“Would it be her rucksack, her phone or anything at all? “
She added: “The police must know something to go to all this work. They know something and I don’t - the not knowing is awful. I can’t get on with life while Claudia is missing.
“It affects every minute of my day. I’ve started having really awful nightmares again. This is the reality of living with a missing child and a live investigation.
“I am begging anyone with any information to come forward and end this eternal pain I have to endure constantly.”
Earlier this week Joan Lawrence said that soon after her daughter vanished, a scruffy-looking man with a spade was spotted in the woods half a mile from the current search site.
She said villagers had come to her claiming that they had seen “strange activity” involving a man with a spade acting “very suspiciously”.
Ms Lawrence’s mother has also urged the police to investigate convicted double murderer Christopher Halliwell in relation to her daughter’s disappearance.
The chef disappeared two years to the day before Halliwell killed Sian O’Callaghan, 22, after abducting her in Swindon, Wiltshire.
He was convicted for O’Callaghan’s murder and also for the murder of Becky Godden-Edwards, 20, but he has a secret trophy store of 60 items of women’s clothing suggesting he had many more victims.
However North Yorkshire Police privately downplayed Halliwell’s links to Claudia Lawrence’s disappearance.
A source close to the original investigation told The Sun that police have always thought the person responsible for the chef’s disappearance was known to her.
“It was someone she knew in the local area”, they said. “Some of the people interviewed by police were hiding something, they weren’t being completely truthful, that was clear.
“That view didn’t change for several years, but obviously the breakthrough detectives wanted never came”.
Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox, speaking about the current investigation, said: “The searches which have commenced here today at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits are in relation to the disappearance and suspected murder of Claudia Lawrence more than 12 years ago.
“I cannot say at this stage how long the search will take to complete however I anticipate that specialist officers and staff including underwater search teams and forensic experts are likely to be here for a number of days.”
Last week, police were seen scouring the former gravel pit and the surrounding woodland.
Officers raked trees and the undergrowth in search of clues. They also strimmed a strip of land and dug a 3ft hole.