A MOTHER tormented by the disappearance of her daughter has issued a stinging criticism of the police's handling of the case, claiming their investigation has been wrong "from day one".

It is nearly four years since chef Claudia Lawrence disappeared when she was on her way to work at York University.

Joan Lawrence, deputy mayor of Malton Town Council, said she did not recognise North Yorkshire Police's portrayal of her daughter during the investigation.

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She says officers' belief that her daughter had a “complex” love life which led to her disappearance has caused other potential theories to be overlooked – a claim which North Yorkshire Police last night refuted.

The former head of the investigation into Claudia’s disappearance, Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway, spoke in the months after her disappearance of relationships of “complexity and mystery” which she kept secret from family and friends.

Her family has always disputed those claims, along with rumours she was involved with married men.

The Northern Echo: Claudia Lawrence, missing since March 18

Mrs Lawrence, 69, said she felt potential information she could have given police was ignored by the investigation, adding: “They missed opportunities at the start and since then they have ignored me when I said I could help establish what Claudia was up to.

“I know she might not have told me everything but we were close and I do know what she was like.

“They have never asked me about Claudia, they have never asked if I knew what was going on in her life.

"They have listened to a few people and decided they know enough, but what harm would it do to check names, dates and places with me? What if they’ve missed something?”

But last night North Yorkshire Police responded to the claims, saying Mrs Lawrence had been consulted and supported throughout the investigation.

A spokesman for the police said: "Mrs Lawrence has been frequently and consistently consulted and updated throughout the investigation into the disappearance and suspected murder of her daughter, Claudia.

“Every question she has raised has been fully addressed and she has received comprehensive support from dedicated Family Liaison Officers.

"Mrs Lawrence has provided two comprehensive statements that have helped to inform the lines of enquiry being pursued by the investigation team. These have been subjected to rigorous external review and fully endorsed.

“Should Mrs Lawrence have further information that she wishes to pass on to the investigation team, we urge her to do so.”

Mrs Lawrence, who lived in Darlington before moving to Malton just before Claudia was born, also called on detectives to give her grieving family some answers in 2013.

She said she was encouraged by a meeting with the new temporary chief constable of North Yorkshire, Tim Madgwick, who promised to put some impetus into the investigation.

Detectives have turned the search for a Claudia Lawrence to a murder hunt, but her mother still clings to the hope her daughter is alive, saying she often sits by the phone in case her daughter needs to call, which she  did on Christmas Day.

The only decorations she put up were Christmas cards on her mantelpiece. They included ones Claudia had sent her in the past to make her feel her daughter was still around.

She said: “I often sit by the phone. Christmas Day was no different.”

• Police say anyone with any information over the disappearance or suspected murder of Claudia Lawrence should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101. Information can also be passed on anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800-555-111.