FAMILY and friends of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence have said the discovery of three women who went missing in the US ten years ago has given them fresh hope.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, and a six-year-old girl apparently born to one of them while in captivity, had been held in a suburban house in Cleveland, Ohio, only a few miles from where they vanished.

Martin Dales, spokesman for Claudia’s father Peter, said the news of their reappearance had given the family and friends some new hope.

He said: “Peter has always held out hope and it shows again that these things are possible. It proves hope can outshine gloom.”

Claudia, then 36, has not been seen since she failed to turn up for work at the University of York more than four years ago. She was last seen on March 18, 2009, near her home in Heworth.

Ms Berry disappeared aged 16 on April 21, 2003, on her way home from work at a burger restaurant. Ms DeJesus went missing aged 14 on her way home from school about a year later. Ms Knight went missing in 2002 and is now 32.

The house owner, Ariel Castro, 52, and two of his brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50, have been arrested on suspicion of abduction.

The women were rescued after Amanda Berry was freed from the house by neighbours who heard her screaming. She made a frantic telephone call to emergency services and told them she had been abducted.