Claudia Lawrence’s mother is ‘shocked’ to learn her chef daughter’s mobile phone was still working four hours after she disappeared 10 years ago – supporting theory she was snatched by someone she knew

  • Chef Claudia Lawrence, 35, did not arrive for work in York in March 2009
  • Her disappearance has been investigated twice, no-one has ever been charged
  • Phone was active near her home at 10am, four hours after her she went missing
  • The evidence supports police’s theory that she was killed by someone she knew and not taken far from her home in Heworth, York 

The mother of missing chef Claudia Lawrence (pictured) is ‘shocked’ after finding out her daughter’s phone was still working hours after she disappeared, which supports the theory she was abducted by someone she knew 

The mother of missing chef Claudia Lawrence is ‘shocked’ after finding out her daughter’s phone was still working hours after she disappeared, which supports the theory she was abducted by someone she knew.

Phone records have only just revealed Ms Lawrence’s phone was on for four hours after she failed to turn up for work in York on March 19 2009.

It was deliberately switched off just after midday.

Her mother Joan, 75, was not aware of the phone records, telling the Mirror: ‘This is new to me. The police have never mentioned this. I’m a bit shocked.

‘It must have been known and I don’t understand why it’s just come out now.’

On the day she disappeared, Ms Lawrence, 35, was due to start work at 6am at Goodricke College on York University grounds, a 45-minute walk from her house in Heworth.

At 10am when she had not arrived her manager called her mobile phone – a basic Samsung D900 model, not a smartphone – which connected to a mast at nearby York University, a North Yorkshire Police source told the Sunday Times.

The source said: ‘Her mobile phone never left the area of York. This is part of the reason why the police believe she fell victim to an attack by somebody that she knew who was familiar with the area.’ 

Yesterday it emerged detectives’ leading theory about what happened to Ms Lawrence is that she was taken by someone she knew close to her home.

Her mother Joan, 75, (pictured on Good Morning Britain earlier this year), said: ‘This is new to me. The police have never mentioned this. I’m a bit shocked. It must have been known and I don’t understand why it’s just come out now.’

Her mother added: ‘I had no idea about the manager’s message. If someone abducted her and then realised Claudia had her phone, it makes sense they’d turn it off.’

She says the idea of someone turning off her daughter’s phone makes her ‘physically sick’.    

A £1million murder inquiry was launched after Ms Lawrence vanished a decade ago.

Nine people including several from her place of work have been arrested or interviewed under caution, but police have never found sufficient evidence to support a charge. 

Claudia Lawrence’s Samsung D900 connected to a mast near her home in York on the day of her disappearance

Her disappearance was investigated at the time and in a 2013 cold case review, but detectives have been frustrated by a lack of evidence unusual in the digital age.

No body has been found, so there is no crime scene from which to extract forensic evidence. 

There was little CCTV in the area around her home, and she had neither a smartphone nor a social media profile to examine for clues. 

However the mobile phone evidence is a major lead for investigators, who have heard Claudia was a prolific user of the device.

The call from her manager placed her handset in a nine-mile area from the university to Tockwith village, including her home in Heworth.  

Two hours after the call, at 12.10pm, mobile phone records indicate that Ms Lawrence’s phone was switched off, though it is not known where it was at the time.

Experts say the records show her phone sent the network a record – known as an ‘explicit detachment’ – that it was being powered down before being switched off. 

Friends said Ms Lawrence was never without her phone and her father, Peter, said the device was ‘always charged up. She used it a great deal for texting.’

The day before her disappearance, Ms Lawrence spoke to her mother, Joan, at around 8pm. Police believed she was at home at the time of the call.

Her shift the next day was a 45-minute walk from her house. 

Mobile phones work by transmitting a signal to the nearest cell site, which has three aerials encompassing a 120-degree arc, called a sector or azimuth. 

Handsets can be placed within the arc of the vector, but not a specific location.

Former detective chief inspector Colin Sutton, who helped investigate the crimes of serial killer Levi Bellfield, said: ‘What may have happened is that the phone rings out at 10am and goes to voicemail simply because there is nobody there. 

‘Then whoever it is, possibly the suspect, looks at the phone at 12.10pm, realises there is a missed call, realises the phone is still switched on and then switches it off.’

However, Mr Sutton said that Ms Lawrence’s phone ringing did not necessarily mean she was anywhere near her phone.

But investigators would treat it as her location until it was ruled out, he added.

He said that rather than the phone being smashed or thrown in the river – which would send the network an implicit detachment record – her killer had the ‘calmness of mind’ to switch off the phone ‘in the normal way’ after seeing the missed call.      

Mr Lawrence said he had been ‘in limbo’ for ten years since his daughter’s disappearance.   

‘We still don’t know any more than we did.

North Yorkshire Police handout CCTV image of a pick-up truck which was seen parked outside the house of chef Claudia Lawrence

‘It’s the not knowing — that’s what eats into you every single day. 

Claudia’s father Peter Lawrence said he had been ‘in limbo’ since her disappearance

‘If anybody knows anything, please, let the police know.’ 

Last year Mr Lawrence received an OBE at Buckingham Palace for services to the families of missing persons.

He said last year: ‘She was relatively young. She was 35 when she went missing. So she would now be a completely different person anyway, so we’ve missed all that time.’

‘Whatever that closure is, you always hope for closure. Good or bad. You need closure.’

The retired solicitor campaigned for the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill, also known as Claudia’s Law, which was passed in April 2017.

The law, which applies to England and Wales, allows families of people missing for more than 90 days to deal with their affairs. 

Timeline of Claudia Lawrence’s disappearance 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2.31pm – 2.36pm: Claudia leaves work and walks through the York University campus. CCTV catches her walking home and she appears to post a letter 

7.27pm–9.12pm – Claudia uses her mobile to speak to her mother and father and exchange texts with friends

9.01pmWhite Vauxhall Astra Van seen parked near Claudia’s home 

Thursday, March 19 

5.35am – A cyclist sees a left-handed man smoking with a woman on Melrosegate bridge

5.42am – Old-style light-coloured Ford Focus seen braking outside Claudia’s home

6.00am – Claudia does not arrive for work

6.10am – Man and woman seen arguing outside York University

6.45am–6.55am – Man seen outside Claudia’s house

10am – Claudia’s manager calls her. HEr phone is in the York area

12.10pm – Claudia’s mobile is switched off

Friday, March 20

2.07pm – Claudia is reported missing by her father, Peter Lawrence

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