Claudia Lawrence's friend 'abandons hope' of killer giving location

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Someone out there knows what happened’: Claudia Lawrence’s best friend speaks out as police drain lake for clues 12 years after she vanished

  • Jen King says she is suffering from ‘unresolved grief’ at the disappearance of her friend Claudia Lawrence 
  • Detectives are continuing to hunt for missing chef Claudia Lawrence, who was last seen in York in 2009 
  • Specialist officers seen working in drained lake in Sand Hutton, north Yorkshire as police probe intensifies
  • The two smallest of the two fishing ponds was emptied as experts scoured the lake bed for clues and prints 
  • Last week forensic teams began scouring the gravel pits and surrounding area after new lines of inquiry arose
  • Ms King, 36, used to live with Ms Lawrence before they moved out to separate homes opposite each other
  • She says she can’t let go of the idea that Claudia is alive and has instead started a new secret life elsewhere 

One of missing chef Claudia Lawrence’s closest friends says she has abandoned all hope of someone coming forward to give up the secret of where she is – but warned: ‘One day their luck may run out.’ 

Jen King spoke emotionally about her ‘unresolved grief’ at the disappearance of a faithful friend who propped her up when she needed help. 

And the 36-year-old digital marketer says she can’t let go of the possibility Claudia started a secret new life, however unlikely it seems. 

She and Claudia were close friends who lived together before they got homes opposite each other on York’s Heworth Road. 

Jen was also a barmaid at the Nag’s Head in Heworth, the centre of Claudia’s social life which was only a few yards from her front door. 

Claudia failed to arrive for work at the University of York in March 2009 and has not been seen or heard from since. 

Police last month launched a new hunt for Ms Lawrence and are currently searching land in Sand Hutton, north Yorkshire.

Speaking to MailOnline about her friend’s disappearance, Jen said: ‘In all likelihood someone out there knows what happened but I don’t hold out any hope of them coming forward having got away with it for this long. 

Jen King (pictured left with Claudie Lawrence (right) in 2009) spoke emotionally about her ‘unresolved grief’ at the disappearance of a faithful friend who propped her up when she needed help.

North Yorkshire Police search teams continue to search a partially drained lake near York yesterday as part of the investigation to find Claudia Lawrence

Police preform a fingertip search at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits, near York, in the search for Claudia Lawrence

‘Someone has either been incredibly clever or incredibly lucky and I hold onto the hope that one day their luck runs out. 

Chef Claudia Lawrence failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009 and is presumed dead by officers

‘I live constantly in a state of unresolved grief. You wonder ‘is she dead ‘and the next thought is ‘I don’t want her to be dead’ and that’s how it goes on. 

‘You find yourself running through all kinds of scenarios. Did she do it to herself? Was she injured accidentally and not found. 

‘Each one is as unbelievable as the next, but your friend suddenly going missing for 12 years is unbelievable in itself.’ 

A visit from the police just before they began their search of gravel pits at Sand Hutton, east of York, on August 24 dredged up a now-familiar turmoil. 

Jen said: ‘The police came to see me as they started the search of the gravel pits, it was just to forewarn me and tell me what they were planning to do. 

‘I was grateful for that because every time anything happens to do with Claudia it is a shock and it brings up all the feelings and thoughts that are always there below the surface. 

‘They didn’t tell me why they were searching there but I’m glad they’re still actively looking for her after all this time.

‘I can’t think of any link Claudia had with Sand Hutton or the area around it but of course she could have gone walking there or arranged to meet someone there for a walk. 

The disappearance of Claudia Lawrence

2009

March 18 – Miss Lawrence speaks with her parents over the phone and, at 8.23pm, sends her friend a text. She has not been seen or heard from since.

March 20 – Miss Lawrence’s father, Peter, contacts North Yorkshire Police after his daughter fails to keep an arrangement to meet a friend at the Nags Head pub. She also fails to attend work.

March 23 – Mr Lawrence describes his daughter’s disappearance as a ‘living nightmare’ during a news conference in York.

April 24 – Detectives say that Miss Lawrence’s disappearance is being treated as a suspected murder investigation. A £10,000 reward is offered for information that could lead to the conviction of those responsible.

2010

May 6 – Mr Lawrence calls for an urgent independent inquiry into the police investigation of his daughter’s disappearance and suspected murder.

July 29 – Police confirm they are reducing the number of officers dedicated to the inquiry into Miss Lawrence’s disappearance.

2013

October 29 – A new forensic search of Miss Lawrence’s home is announced as police launch a fresh review of the case.

2014

March 19 – Five years on from Miss Lawrence’s disappearance, officers discover at her home the fingerprints of people who have still not come forward to the investigation.

May 13 – A 59-year-old man is arrested on suspicion of murder. He is released on police bail and eventually released without charge on November 17, 2014.

2015

March 23 – A man in his 50s is arrested on suspicion of murdering Miss Lawrence and is released on police bail the following day.

April 22 – Three more men, all in their 50s and from the York area, are arrested on suspicion of murder and are released on bail.

September 17 – A file of evidence on four men arrested on suspicion of murder is sent by North Yorkshire Police to the Crown Prosecution service (CPS) so it can consider whether to bring charges.

2016

March 8 – Police say the CPS has decided the four men will not face charges.

2017

January 17 – Mr Lawrence says he is ‘hugely depressed and disappointed’ as the investigation into his daughter’s disappearance is scaled down.

2019

March – Nearly a decade on from her disappearance, Miss Lawrence has still not been found. Her father says in an interview that ‘it’s very difficult’ to conceive of her still being alive.

July – The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill, also known as Claudia’s Law, came into force. This followed years of campaigning by Mr Lawrence and allows relatives to take control of their missing loved ones’ financial matters.

2021

February 15 – The death of Peter Lawrence in announced.

March 18 – Speaking after taking over the police investigation, Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox said it is not too late for people to come forward and stop the ‘unrelenting anguish’ caused to the chef’s loved ones.

August 24 – A new search operation is announced at the gravel pits at Sand Hutton, about eight miles from York.

‘We were close friends but we didn’t know where each other was 24 hours a day.’ 

She said the search has left her with mixed feeling and a realisation that she doesn’t necessarily want the 12 year mystery to be solved.

Jen said: ‘It’s a very strange feeling, waiting for some kind of resolution to this because you realise when something like this search happens that you don’t necessarily want a resolution if it means my friend is found at the bottom of a pond.

‘There’s no good kind of closure that could come from that, it’s a horrible thought. 

‘I feel – and I know her mother does as well – that there is still some hope that Claudia is out there living her life. It’s a question of faith. 

‘You think, maybe she found someone and that person wanted her all to himself and she’s out there somewhere and she’s OK, maybe happy. 

‘I also live with a lot of guilt because Claudia was always there for me and when I wonder if she needed me to be there for her and I wasn’t. 

‘There were no missed phone calls from her or messages but it’s still something I think about. 

‘She was a wonderful friend and I reached a point in my life when I really needed her and she was there for me.

‘We moved in together and shared a house which was a really happy time. 

‘We then ended up living opposite each other and I still look across the road at the house where she lived. 

‘That house itself doesn’t mean all that much because Claudia actually didn’t like it, she was still searching for her perfect home. 

‘But I have still thought about her every day for the past 12 years. I wonder where she would be now if she hadn’t gone missing. 

‘She would be 46 now. Would she be married? Would she have kids? These things have been taken away from her in all probability. 

‘Claudia was a clever girl but I don’t think she could have managed to get out of the country without her passport, which was left behind and an adult would struggle to start a new life in this country.’ 

The search continued at the gravel pits yesterday. Drone shots show three officers sifting through the mud and gravel at the side of the pits, once the site of excavations for a brickworks which were flooded to make fishing lakes. 

Senior officers believe their search can still solve York’s most enduring missing person mystery. 

Claudia failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009, and was reported missing by her father Peter Lawrence two days later, after her friends said they had not heard from her. 

In the twelve years since her disappearance, nine people have been questioned by officers, but no charges have ever been brought. 

The case – which is being treated as a suspected murder – has never been closed by North Yorkshire Police. 

Her father Mr Lawrence – who campaigned tirelessly for Claudia’s Law, which allows relatives to control of their missing loved ones’ financial matters – died in February aged 74, without finding out what happened to her. 

His friend Martin Dales said earlier this year that there could be one or more people ‘at large’ who knew what happened to her.

Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox said: ‘I thank the public for the positive responses and new information received in support of the current phase of the investigation. 

‘Our focus is on finding Claudia and bringing those responsible for her disappearance and suspected murder to justice.’  

It comes as police continuing the hunt for Claudia Lawrence were yesterday drained a fishing lake in their latest bid for clues.

Six specialist officers were pictured working in Sand Hutton, North Yorkshire – which is eight miles from the missing chef’s York home – after they began searching the area around the gravel pit just days ago. 

Experts used machinery to remove mud, rotten vegetation and rocks from beneath the surface of the water, while officers on land conducted fingertip searches through the leafy woodland as the hunt intensified. 

The owners of the land carried out a study into the terrain and surroundings two years ago and the results, which were recently passed to police, are believed to have triggered the new searches.   


Pumps have been used to drain the lake in Sand Hutton, North Yorkshire to make it easier to hunt for clues into Claudia’s disappearance

Detectives left the smaller of the two lakes empty as Yorkshire Police’s probe escalated on Tuesday, September 1

The police searches started earlier this week with no official announcements made before expert officers arrived at the scene

Detectives left the smaller of the two lakes empty, as Claudia’s mother Joan, 78, reiterated her fear of bad news as the police probe escalates.

She told The Mirror: ‘As a mum, hearing about a lake being drained and a fingertip search being carried 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?’  

Specialist officers and staff, including underwater search teams, and forensic experts have spent recent days at the site.

The fishing spot near York, is being searched by Yorkshire Police officers investigating the suspected murder

Police search woodland and drain a lake at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits, near York, in the search for Claudia Lawrence on August 27

Claudia Lawrence’s route home from work and matched by her now missing mobile phone

Joan revealed she was not informed by police that they were planning to drain Sand Hutton’s gravel lakes, and suspects they are working on a new line of investigation. 

‘The police must know something to go to all this work,’ she told the Mirror.

‘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.’ 

Miss Lawrence, who lived by herself in the Heworth area of York, failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009 and was reported missing by her father Peter Lawrence two days later, after her friends said they had not heard from her. 

In the twelve years since her disappearance, nine people have been questioned by officers, but no charges have ever been brought. 

The case – which is being treated as a suspected murder – has never been closed by North Yorkshire Police. 

Police believe Ms Lawrence – who worked at York University – was murdered, although no body has ever been found.

Her father Mr Lawrence – who campaigned tirelessly for Claudia’s Law, which allows relatives to control of their missing loved ones’ financial matters – died in February aged 74, without finding out what happened to her. His friend Martin Dales said earlier this year that there could be one or more people ‘at large’ who knew what happened to her. 

Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox said: ‘I thank the public for the positive responses and new information received in support of the current phase of the investigation.

‘Our focus is on finding Claudia and bringing those responsible for her disappearance and suspected murder to justice.’

It came as Claudia’s mother Joan Lawrence said she feared the double killer Christopher Halliwell could be connected to the case.

Keen fisherman and cabbie Halliwell, 57, is behind bars for life for murdering Sian O’Callaghan, 22, and Becky Godden, 20, after snatching them from nightclubs.

But many connected to his case believe he has further victims, including Ms Godden’s mother who has previously said she knew of a witness who saw Halliwell talking to Claudia back in 2019 before she disappeared.

Stephen Fulcher – the detective superintendent who caught the killer – has also gone on record to say there were ‘clear indications’ he had other victims, although did not go as far as name them.

The date of the year Claudia disappeared, March 18, 2009, is also the same date years later Halliwell abducted and killed Sian.

It is thought the day is significant because he was dumped on that same day by an ex over a decade ago.

Joan explained: ‘Something always bothered me about Halliwell and leaves me feeling very uneasy.

‘The police may not have proved he had anything to do with my daughter’s disappearance, but they haven’t disproved it either,’ she added to the Mirror.

Earlier this week, Joan Lawrence said she has been doing everything to keep herself busy after police scoured woodland and a fishing lake eight miles from her York home yesterday. 

She explained: ‘It’s been truly awful and every parent’s worst nightmare.

‘I’d rather have no news than bad news, but I do dread there being bad news. I pray for answers every day. I am really thrown by what is happening now.

‘They’ve made me nervous. What are they searching for? The bag, for the phone? For her? I’m worried about my daughter but it’s always been my instinct that she is still alive. I can’t give up hope. That’s what keeps me going.’

She said the constant stress she has lived with for 12 years since Claudia’s disappearance has left her with alopecia and having to wear wigs.  

The police’s sudden interest in the area at Sand Hutton to the east of York could only have been sparked by new information, a friend told MailOnline last week.

Experts explained they expected the specialist divers to dredge the lake to conduct ‘fine fingertip searches’ and use ‘underwater metal detectors’ to scour the area for evidence. 

Peter Faulding of Specialist Group International, a diving forensic team not involved in this search, told MailOnline it appeared as if they were trying to displace silt and debris on the lake floor.

He said: ‘I think what they are doing is using a suction dredge that will remove gravel and leaf mould from the pit by sucking it to the surface where is passes through a mesh to enable the forensic teams to look for any evidence.

‘This suction dredge is controlled by a diver on the bottom in a specific grid pattern so nothing is missed.

‘They will also be conducting fine fingertip searches over the same area and using underwater metal detectors for items of jewelry and other evidence. 

The force said it could not disclose what had led officers to the location eight miles from York

Joan Lawrence said she feared killer Christopher Halliwell could be connected to the case after learning of lake development


Halliwell, 57, is behind bars for life for murdering Sian O’Callaghan, 22, and Becky Godden, 20, in two brutal attacks

Police divers have been searching the waters at a fishing lake at Sand Hutton in an effort to crack the 12-year-old case

Officers used large sticks to rake back swathes of leaves and grass to look for any clues

Claudia Lawrence (right, with her father Peter) was reported missing after she failed to arrive for work at the University of York on March 18, 2009

‘I would imagine they are searching with some very good intelligence.’

Martin Dales, a friend of Miss Lawrence’s late father Peter, told MailOnline: ‘The police did everything they could at the time, searching the river, the waters at the university.

‘You don’t press the button on an operation like this unless there is a good reason for it.

‘There must have been some kind of new information about this area.

‘I can think of a lot of places as far away that have not been searched before.

‘I don’t know where the decision to search here has come from – nobody knew anything about it.’

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