York & North Yorkshire

Claudia Lawrence father says relatives 'left in limbo'

Claudia Lawrence
Image caption Claudia Lawrence went missing in March 2009

The father of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence says families like his need more rights.

Peter Lawrence, 63, said they had no simple way to deal with practical issues such as a missing person's property and finances.

Families were "left in limbo" as it was impossible to prove a person was dead or alive, he said.

Mr Lawrence, whose daughter disappeared in March 2009, has backed a charity campaign for a change in the law.

The charity Missing People says the introduction of a "presumption of death act" in England and Wales would allow families to resolve the financial affairs of a missing person.

Currently a person must be missing for at least seven years to be declared presumed dead.

The law change would allow anyone with an interest in a missing person's affairs to apply to the high court for them to be presumed dead.

There would be no minimum time before they could apply, as long as they could show evidence to suggest the person had died.

Scotland already has a presumption of death act which was introduced in the 1970s.

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Mr Lawrence, of Slingsby, North Yorkshire, said: "One of the things I have found over the past 21 months Claudia's been missing is that nobody has any rights.

"It's impossible to deal on a legal basis with the property, or even day-to-day matters like the tax or insurance, if somebody is missing."

The charity also wants banks to introduce standard mortgage arrangements for families of missing people and for insurance companies to freeze or take over a missing relative's policy payments.

Mr Lawrence was joined by the sister of missing Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richie Edwards, Rachel Elias, who called for an "overall change in culture" to ensure missing people and their families were properly supported.

Martin Houghton-Brown, chief executive of Missing People, said: "If your house is burgled you are automatically offered emotional, practical and legal support.

"If your child goes missing you may get nothing."

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