Police are looking for two Asian men allegedly trying to open the door of missing University chef Claudia Lawrence’s house a week before her disappearance. Claudia’s father has made an emotional appeal to “whoever is responsible for taking her” as the investigation enters its eighth week.
North Yorkshire Police announced on Wednesday that they were seeking two Asian men seen in the early afternoon March 10 outside Claudia’s home on Heworth Road. The 35-year-old chef was last seen on the evening of March 18 and failed to show up to work the following morning at Goodricke’s Roger Kirk Centre. Her normally “prolific” texting went silent at 8.30pm.
One of the men was seen looking towards the house’s downstairs window while the other was looking at a window on the first floor.
The first man is described as in his 20s or 30s, around 5ft, 6ins tall with a distinctive, long, thin face with a pointy nose and dark circles under his eyes. He had a long, jutting jaw and dark, straight hair with a fringe. He was wearing a heavy coat, despite the heat of the day.
The second man was also Asian, with a heavier build, and around 5ft, 7ins. He was wearing a waist length jacket and jeans that had rivets around the back pockets.
The descriptions were compiled from information received after a public appeal. When the sighting was first announced police believed it may have taken place on March 13, but have since confirmed it was March 10.
Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway, the officer leading the investigation, said: “The dates are obviously at least five days before Claudia was last seen, but we have a situation of a lady passing by Claudia’s home address in very slow moving traffic who has actually seen two men at Claudia’s front door.”
“We would very much like to speak to these two people,” he added.
Claudia’s father, Peter Lawrence, released an appeal directly to “whoever is responsible for taking her” on May 6, the fiftieth day of her disappearance.
“It is now 50 days that Claudia has been away from us. The longer it goes on, the worse it gets for myself, the family and her friends – the strain is intolerable and the sorrow unbearable.”
“I want to make yet another appeal to whoever is responsible for taking her away from her life in York to come forward so that she can be reunited with all of us who love her dearly.”
“You know who you are. Search your conscience. We want Claudia back.”
The appeal is thought to be the first time that Lawrence has publicly acknowledged the likelihood that his daughter was abducted.
Speaking to Nouse, Lawrence said: “The worst thing all the way through this and it doesn’t change from whether it’s one week or six weeks is just not knowing. When there’s no information out there, not knowing is the hardest bit. It just makes you feel dreadful. There’s a little bit of me missing somewhere.”
In an interview last week Lawrence also appealed directly to the campus community, describing Claudia as part of the “University family”. He said: “All we’re doing is asking them to search their memories back to the end of last term. Really we’re just seeking some information to try and get a clue about what has happened to Claudia. It’s six weeks now and it certainly doesn’t get any easier.”
Lawrence also rejected comparisons made in recent weeks between the search for Claudia and the disappearance of British toddler Madeline McCann in Portugal in 2007. He said: “There’s a lot of difference between a young child being obviously abducted because she couldn’t disappear by herself and a grown up disappearing.”
Police are also continuing to focus on a sighting of a man and a woman seen on Melrosegate bridge at 5.35 on March 19, approximately the time that Claudia would have been walking towards the University to start a morning shift.
The man, dressed in a black or dark-coloured hooded top, with the hood up, and dark combat trousers with pockets and buttons on either side, was holding a cigarette in his left hand. The woman was wearing a blue, waist-length jacket with buttons similar to a jacket owned by Claudia.
Police have described the report, made by a passing cyclist, as “a significant sighting, at the right time in the right location”. Lawrence has described the lack of public response to the Melrosegate sighting as “absolutely incredible”.
A third possible sighting of a couple arguing on University Road at around 6.10am on March 19 is also being investigated. A passing motorist said a car had been pulled over to the side of the road and a man and a woman had been engaged in what appeared to be a verbal altercation on the pavement.
Despite thousands of police hours and a £10,000 reward offered by Crimestoppers the search for Claudia has so far made little significant progress. So far nearly 1,100 reports and statements have been taken and around 1,270 properties searched, including hundreds of campus rooms. The investigation is the largest carried out by North Yorkshire Police since the hunt for multiple killer Mark Hobson in 2004.
She wouldn’t say “boo” to a goose
The image emerging of missing University chef Claudia Lawrence is one of a quiet but conscientous woman who enjoyed her work and was well liked by colleagues. Claudia worked at the University for two years, first in Derwent and then moving to Goodricke’s Roger Kirk Centre.
Her father, Peter Lawrence, said: “She’s relatively small but she always seems to be smiling. Quite bubbly. She’s good with people she knows but she’s very shy with people she doesn’t know.
“Coming out from the kitchen and bringing food out and things, no doubt chatter occurs between her and students.” Claudia worked mainly in the kitchen but sometime served food at the front of house and worked on the tills.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, claims to remember Claudia after she served him during the Church of England’s General Synod, which is held on campus each year.
Lawrence added: “When I made the first call to Goodricke on the Friday it was Julia in the kitchen who answered. She said ‘I’m terribly worried, I’m a friend of Claudia’s and she hasn’t shown up and hasn’t said anything and it’s most unlike her’”.
Three colleagues of Claudia’s all described her as “quiet”. One, who did not want to be named, said: “Claudia’s a quiet girl who wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a goose.”
Before her disappearance, Claudia was a regular at the Nag’s Head, a pub near to her home in Heworth and often frequented by students living in the area. She is a close friend of the landlord, Simon Foreman. The pub is planning on holding an event for her in the near future.
Anybody with information should contact North Yorkshire Police on 0845 60 60 247 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111
Retracing Her Steps
1 Heworth Road
Heworth Road Claudia is last seen by a colleague who drops her at her house in the student area on March 18. She is last in contact with a friend by text at 8.30pm. She had arranged to meet another friend at the local pub, the Nag’s Head, the next day but never shows up. Her friend assumes she has fallen asleep and goes home. Police continue to hunt for two Asian men allegedly seen trying the door of her house on March 10.
2 Melrosegate bridge
Melrosegate bridge One of the main lines of inquiry is a sighting of a man and a woman on the bridge at 5.35am on the morning of March 19. The man was seen smoking a cigarette with his left hand while the woman was wearing a similar jacket to one owned by Claudia. Police describe it as “a significant sighting, at the right time in the right location”.
3 Melrosegate CCTV
Melrosegate CCTV Claudia’s usual route to work took her straight up Melrosegate and over Hull Road to the University. She does not appear on Melrosegate CCTV on March 19, leading investigators to think she may have gone missing the previous evening or else been abducted early on her route to work.
4 University Road
University Road A motorist reports seeing a man and a woman engaged in an argument at the side of the road at 6.10am on March 19. It is one of the earliest lines of investigation followed up by North Yorkshire police.
5 Goodricke College CCTV
Goodricke College CCTV Claudia is last captured on the CCTV camera outside Goodricke porter’s lodge as she leaves work at the Roger Kirk Centre on the afternoon of March 18. Hundreds of rooms on campus are searched by police starting on April 3.
6 Roger Kirk Centre
Roger Kirk Centre Claudia fails to show up to work for her morning shift on March 19. Colleagues say her unexplained absence is completely out of character and tell her father they are worried when he contacts them on March 20. The Roger Kirk is used for one of the first publicity events after Claudia’s disappearance is picked up by the media. Police divers go on to search the University’s lake but are fail to uncover any new evidence.