Claudia Lawrence: Police looking for missing university chef begin new search in gravel pits near York

Investigators searching for missing university chef Claudia Lawrence have begun a search operation in gravel pits about eight miles from her home in York.

Ms Lawrence went missing 12 years ago and no body has ever been found, although police believe she was murdered.

North Yorkshire Police confirmed on Tuesday an operation has begun to search the gravel pits at Sand Hutton, to the east of York, involving underwater search teams and forensic experts.

Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox, who took over as senior investigating officer in the case earlier this year, said: “The searches which have commenced here today at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits are in relation to the disappearance and suspected murder of Claudia Lawrence more than 12 years ago.

”While I cannot say at this stage how long the search may take, I do anticipate that a number of specialist officers and staff, including underwater search teams, and forensic experts are likely to be at this location for a number of days.”

He added: “Whilst I am unable to disclose what brought us to this location, I would like to stress that the searches that you will see in coming days are just one of several active lines of inquiry which are currently being investigated and pursued by North Yorkshire Police Major Investigation team in our efforts to establish what happened to Claudia and to identify any person responsible for causing her harm.

”I can confirm Claudia’s family are aware this activity is taking place.“

Ms Lawrence, who lived by herself in the Heworth area of York, was last seen on 18 March 2009.

North Yorkshire Police has conducted two investigations and questioned nine people in relation to her disappearance and suspected murder but no charges have ever been brought.

Earlier this year, Mr Fox repeated that North Yorkshire Police believe that several people know, or have suspicions about, what happened to the 35-year-old.

He said some of the information received by the force ”appears extremely interesting and sparks a whole new line of investigation“, and he urged anyone providing this information to get back in touch with as much detail as possible.

Earlier this year there was a fresh appeal for information relating to her disappearance.

Mr Fox said then that it was not too late for witnesses to come forward and end her loved ones’ “unrelenting anguish”.

He said: “For whatever reason, they have maintained a silence for 12 years. That is an awfully long time to carry such a burden of guilt. The longer you carry it, the greater the anguish you are causing to Claudia’s family and friends.

“Please do the right thing, come forward and speak to me.”