Joan Lawrence believes he has not been properly ruled out as a suspect by North Yorkshire Police since Claudia disappeared 12 years ago. Specialist officers, including divers, continued to search former gravel pits eight miles from Claudia’s home in Heworth, York, yesterday. They were flooded decades ago to create two lakes. The fire service delivered what looked like water pumps. Sniffer dogs also arrived to help search surrounding woods.
Joan, who lives in Norton, 12 miles from the searches at Sand Hutton, said: “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.”
Twisted Halliwell, 57, is serving life for murdering Sian O’Callaghan, 22, and Becky Godden, 20, who were abducted after leaving nightclubs in Swindon. Joan, 78, was speaking after hearing about a new book – The New Millennium Serial Killer by Chris Clark and Bethan Trueman.
The authors claim Halliwell targeted petite women around the UK over a 20-year period – including Claudia.
They believe Halliwell got her into his vehicle on the morning she vanished. Chris, a former police intelligence officer, said: “The pair were spotted by witnesses at the side of the road talking, perhaps arguing.
“We believe Claudia then left with Halliwell in his vehicle.”
Chris and Bethan say the keen fisherman may have dumped other victims’ bodies in or near waterways after taking their clothes as trophies.Claudia, who was 35, went missing when she failed to arrive for work at York University in 2009 on March 19 – the same day of the year that Sian disappeared. It is said to be a trigger day for Halliwell as he was dumped by an ex-girlfriend on that date.
One woman said she had a near-miss when Halliwell tried to get her into his van in York. Joan said: “She recognised his eyes from the publicity. She was terrified but nothing came of it.”
North Yorkshire Police previously dismissed any link, saying: “It can be confirmed on information provided by Wiltshire Police, that there are no known links between Halliwell and the Claudia Lawrence case.”
Joan also recalls witnesses reporting a scruffy man with a spade acting “very suspiciously” in woods half a mile from the current searches. She added: “If anyone knows anything but don’t feel they can go to the police, please tell me.”