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UK police probing the suspected murder of Claudia Lawrence dig up land (27/8)

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Police probing the suspected murder of Claudia Lawrence have today (Fri) been digging up land near gravel pits just miles from where she was last seen 12 years ago. 

Claudia, 35, vanished without a trace in 2009 after she failed to arrive for work at York University and police believe she was murdered despite never finding her body.

North Yorkshire Police have yet to charge anyone for the suspected murder, but revealed this week they had a fresh lead due to 'new information'. 

This morning, two officers marked off a 700-foot stretch of land near the gravel pits in Sand Hutton, a village only eight miles from Claudia's home in York. 

They dug up a single three foot deep hole, while around 40 officers remained in the area searching the ground with sticks. 

A team of underwater divers searched the nearby lakes yesterday and are expected to continue their exhaustive search for answers for a 'number of days'.

The force has refused to explain what sparked the search of the land this week.

Detective Superintendent Wayne Fox said: "I 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.

"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."

No-one has heard from Claudia since she called her mother Joan on the evening of March 17, 2009.

She failed to arrive for work the next day and was reported missing by her father, Peter.

Tragically he died earlier this year aged 74 without finding out what had happened to his daughter.

Mr Lawrence spearheaded a nationwide search for his daughter Claudia which cost police around £1 million over the last decade. 

Nine people have been questioned, but no charges have ever been brought.

Speaking on the 11th anniversary of Claudia's disappearance last year, Mr Lawrence said: "I think about Claudia every day. It never goes away. 

"I never thought this would get to 11 years, I'd have never believed we would be here, but unfortunately we are.

"It's the not knowing that's the worst part, it eats into you, the not knowing what's happened.

"My own thoughts always come back to that she was probably abducted on her way to work."

Sand Hutton Gravel Pits are two private fishing lakes owned by the York and District Amalgamation of Anglers.

Its website described the fishery as "one of YDAA's prettiest waters" which is "sheltered by the surrounding woodland".

A public bridleway runs alongside the angling site and a successful science park is also nearby.

The lakes, covering over an acre, were formed when an old gravel works was closed down after World War I.

They are in the former grounds of Sand Hutton Hall, which was demolished in 1950.

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