Claudia Lawrence: Missing York chef's dad urges more rights for families

The father of missing chef Claudia Lawrence today backed a campaign calling for more rights for families left in limbo by a disappearance.

Peter Lawrence, 63, said families had no simple way to deal with unresolved practical issues such as property, bank accounts and insurance because it was impossible to prove whether a missing person was dead or alive.

Mr Lawrence, whose daughter went missing from York in March last year, added it was "absolutely necessary" for families to be given more support as he backed the Missing Rights campaign to give families the same rights as victims of crime.

"One of the things I have found over the past 21 months Claudia's been missing is that nobody has any rights," he said.

"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."

Missing People, the charity behind the campaign, called for a "presumption of death" act to be introduced in England and Wales, for 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, from Slingsby, North Yorkshire, added that, as a solicitor, he was lucky in many ways as he knew who to contact and where to find help.

"But not everybody is in that position," he said.

"And it's not the best of times to have to think about it."

He was joined by missing Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richard

Edwards's sister Rachel Elias, who called for an "overall change in culture" to ensure missing people and their families were properly supported.

"More needs to be done," she said.

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

"If your child goes missing you may get nothing.

"Families affected face injustice such as being forced into otherwise avoidable debt, homes being seized, jobs being lost and having to cope

with social stigma.

"This can lead in some cases to family breakdown, depression and suicidal thoughts. The current economic climate will exacerbate these issues."

There were over 330,000 incidents of people going missing last year, the charity said.

It called for a missing persons co-ordinator in each region who would hold local services to account, a named single point of contact in the police for someone dealing with their case and for all unidentified bodies to be checked against missing person reports.

More support for families was also needed, the charity said as it called for a network of specially trained counsellors to be developed to support their needs.

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