The father of the missing University of York chef, Claudia Lawrence, claimed yesterday that he believed it was possible that his daughter had been another victim of the 52-year-old Swindon taxi driver, Christopher Halliwell.
The disappearance of 35-year-old Claudia Lawrence, who was last seen on the 18th March 2009, shocked York, as it is a city known for having one of the lowest crime rates in the UK. The distress was particularly severe at the University of York, where she had worked as a chef at Goodricke College, and was reported missing by her colleagues when she failed to arrive for work at her early morning shift the following day. Yet, despite significant publicity and a lengthy police hunt, and even though there were several arrests, no one was eventually charged over her disappearance, which North Yorkshire police believe was a murder. Her father, Peter Lawrence, has repeatedly appealed for the truth to come out.
There has been a great deal of publicity about Halliwell’s case recently, after he was sentenced to life in prison last Friday for a series of murders, some of them committed decades ago. In particular, there has been much speculation over whether he fits the definition of a “serial killer” and how many more murders of young women he has committed. Four years ago, Halliwell was found guilty of abducting and murdering Sian O’Callaghan, aged 22, after she left a nightclub in 2011. Last Friday, it was confirmed that he had also killed 20-year-old Becky Godden in 2003.
Speculation that the two cases were linked occurred because Karen Edwards, the mother of Becky Godden, noted that the chef had disappeared on the same date as her daughter’s murder. It was additionally claimed that Halliwell’s father lived in York, so he knew the city well, and that the disappearance fit with Halliwell’s established behavioural patterns of targeting young women walking alone in the early hours.
Mr Lawrence said:
“North Yorkshire police obviously need to take this seriously and see if there is anything to it. We have been through this so many times over the past seven years. Similar things happen and you just want it to be either found to be true and then it can be put to bed, or found not to be true and then we can forget it.”
However, in a statement, North Yorkshire police denied that there was any strong evidence to link the two cases:
“The investigation team is aware of this matter and they will carefully assess the information in line with the on-going review of the Claudia Lawrence case. However, to be clear, the team is not aware of any information that would link this individual to the disappearance and suspected murder of Claudia Lawrence.”