The mystery of this missing chef has been puzzling experts for 13 years.
Claudia Lawrence, a chef at the University of York, England, was last seen on March 18, 2009. Police believe Lawrence was abducted, and perhaps murdered, while walking the three miles to work. Nobody knows the whereabouts of Claudia Lawrence or if she is dead or still alive.
By 2007, Claudia Lawrence had built the life she had always dreamed of. She was a full-time chef. She was in charge, and was already making a name for herself by the variety of the food she prepared.
As a little girl, Lawrence was raised by a loving family in Malton, Yorkshire. Her father, Peter Lawrence, was a prosperous solicitor and her mother, Joan, was a member of the Town Council and even served a stint as City Mayor.
Peter and Joan worked hard to provide their daughter opportunities that her peers would never get, and Claudia made the most of it. She shone in her classes at the York College for Girls and scored top points in her schooling at a local catering college.
Claudia graduated and was quickly employed at York’s Goodricke College. It was here that she could hone her skills. Her passion for cooking was palpable, and every meal she prepared brought her one step closer to becoming a world renowned chef. Her new position paid well, and she purchased a picturesque cottage home in an attractive and quiet suburb of Heworth, only three miles from her work.
Life for Claudia was exactly how she always pictured it. Nothing could go wrong now.
Tracing Claudia’s steps backwards on the last day was easy for police. England is a prolific user of CCTV and has some of the highest number of surveillance cameras per area in the world.
Claudia Lawrence’s shift ends each day at 2pm, and on March 18, CCTV reordered her leaving on foot.
From here, police learned that a close friend sighted her walking the three miles to her home and offered her a ride. Lawrence accepted, and her friend dropped her off at her home on Heworth Road at 2:50pm. This friend has not been publically named, but is not a person of interest in this case, according to the police.
From here, a neighbor had seen Lawrence dropping off a letter at the mailbox at 3:05pm and then returning to her home.
That evening, Lawrence had made a few phone calls. She was an avid texter and user of her Samsung D900 mobile phone, which is still missing today. Claudia spoke with both her father and mother that evening, her mother even telling police her daughter seemed “normal and relaxed.” Claudia told her father that she was going to relax and turn in early since she had a morning work shift.
She had been walking to work for the last few weeks, a three-mile trek, while her car was being repaired.
The last text message she received was from a friend at 8:23pm. Although police haven’t made the details public, this friend lives on the island of Cyprus. After Claudia’s disappearance, in September 2009, they dispatched a police team to Cyprus to question several individuals. As of today, police have presented no other news to the public about the Cyprus connection. Another text came in at 9:12pm from the same individual, but was never answered.
Claudia’s father had the freighting task of entering his daughter’s home. He said, “I was worried to death quite honestly and was even more so when I went through and found that she wasn’t in the house.”
There were no signs of a struggle in the home. Unwashed dishes lay in the sink, showing that Claudia ate breakfast before walking to work. Her handbag and purse, bank cards, and passport were in the home, but missing was her mobile phone, a set of hair straighteners, and Claudia’s rucksack (backpack). Claudia would carry her rucksack into her work, automobile or not, because inside were her chef whites, which she needed as part of her work uniform.
Police strongly believe that Claudia Lawrence left for work at 5am. What they don’t know is what happened to her on the three-mile walk to work. Her manager called her phone several times soon after she didn’t show up for her shift that morning.
Claudia’s manager called her cellphone several times on the morning of March 19, 2009, but never got through. Records also show that Claudia’s phone was “deliberately turned off” at exactly 12:10 pm that day and that the phone did not leave the local area, although an exact location of the phone was never received.
There were a few reported sightings of Claudia Lawrence on the morning of her disappearance. A cyclist saw a female walking on the Melrosegate bridge at 5:35am, which would match up with her timeline.
30 minutes later, a commuter noticed a “couple outside the university arguing”. Police cannot be positive that either of these sightings are of Claudia, but the arguing man was also caught on CCTV soon after walking away from the university.
This man is around 5’6, skinny, and wearing a dark hoodie.
Police are also attempting to locate a driver of a Ford Focus that was seen outside of Claudia’s cottage with their brake lights on.
Police have also been inquiring about a “rusty white van”, that locals have reported seeing trying to talk to women on the same route that Claudia took to walk to work.
Claudia Lawrence was known as an outgoing socialite. She would frequent The Nag’s Head Pub with a friend, and it was at this pub that she “begun relationships with several men”.
Some of these men that were questioned by police were even married. Police had tried to be discreet in interviewing these men, so that the wives wouldn’t know of their husband’s infidelities.
Claudia’s family did not know about this part of her lifestyle.
Detective Ray Galloway said, “As the investigation has developed, it’s become apparent that some of Claudia’s relationships had an element of complexity and mystery to them. I’m certain that some of those relationships were not known to her family or friends.”
In September 2009, a police team visited Cyprus, hoping to question several of Claudia’s friends living on the island.
The last text Claudia responded to the night before her disappearance came from a man in Cyprus, and the last text she didn’t respond to almost an hour later.
They made no arrest in Cyprus.
Search and Arrest
In March 2010, police searched multiple areas of York, including a child’s play area, to no avail.
In 2013, the Major Crimes Unit (MCU) took over the case. The MCU found additional evidence included DNA and additional fingerprints. They also arrested six men on the suspicion of murdering Claudia Lawrence, but none of them confessed to the crime.
Peter Lawrence, Claudia’s father, died at 74 on February 11, 2021 in St. Leonard’s Hospice in York. He never got a chance to know what actually happened to his daughter before he died.
Claudia’s missing case has recently been revived on March 17th, 2021, when police issued a fresh call for new information.
On August 24, 2021, police resumed searching around woodland’s and fishing lakes in York. The case is currently ongoing and police are optimistic they will soon know what happened to Claudia Lawrence.