Father of missing chef Claudia Lawrence dies at 74

Peter Lawrence, campaigner for families of missing people, has died without learning what happened to his daughter

Peter Lawrence holds photograph of Claudia
Peter Lawrence in 2019, holding a photograph of his daughter Claudia Lawrence. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA
Peter Lawrence in 2019, holding a photograph of his daughter Claudia Lawrence. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Last modified on Sun 14 Feb 2021 19.03 EST

The father of the missing chef Claudia Lawrence has died at 74 without learning what happened to his daughter after she disappeared more than a decade ago.

Peter Lawrence, a retired solicitor and campaigner for the families of missing people, died on Thursday in St Leonard’s Hospice in York after a brief illness, his family said in a statement.

His daughter, a 35-year-old chef at the University of York, was reported missing on 19 March 2009 after she did not show up for her shift that morning. Police believe she was murdered, but her body has never been found.

The Lawrence family said in a statement: “It is sad that nearly 12 years after Claudia’s disappearance from York, Peter never found out what has happened to her. He was a very private person thrust into the full glare of the media, and despite a tireless campaign to find her, he also selflessly devoted himself to helping others with missing relatives through the charity Missing People.”

Lawrence campaigned for Claudia’s Law, which established a new legal status of guardian of the affairs of a missing person, allowing families to act in the best interests of a loved one gone for 90 days or longer. He told the BBC that the legislation, which is officially known as the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017, means there is “one less burden at a time when families are at their emotional lowest ebb”.

The former solicitor described seeing the legislation progress through parliament as an “absolutely marvellous feeling” and received an OBE for his campaigning in 2018.

Claudia Lawrence was last seen on 18 March 2009 and reported missing a day later. Police previously said they “strongly suspect” the case is being hampered by the withholding of “key and vital information”.

Speaking on the 10th anniversary of her disappearance, Det Supt Dai Malyn of North Yorkshire police said: “It remains the case that we strongly suspect key and vital information is being withheld that could provide the breakthrough that we all want to see, not least Claudia’s heartbroken family.

“Unless we get information or intelligence to suggest that Claudia came to harm as a result of an opportunity taken by someone unconnected to her, me and the team still strongly believe the answer lies locally.”

He said police were confident that a breakthrough could come from the public sharing information with the force, as in other cold cases.

The investigation was hindered by a lack of CCTV around Lawrence’s home, as well as the fact that she had neither a smartphone nor a social media profile when she vanished.

Lawrence’s mobile phone did not leave the area before it left the phone network, which police believe lends weight to the theory that her attacker was known to her.

Nine people have been arrested or questioned as part of the investigation, but no charges have been brought. The investigation was scaled down in 2017, leaving her father “hugely disappointed and depressed”.

The Lawrence family statement said: “Despite Peter’s death, the message remains the same – where is Claudia?” They ask that anyone with any information contact North Yorkshire police on 101.