THE father of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence has apologised to students after police looked through their rooms without their knowledge.

The halls of residence accommodation of many University of York students was searched, after 35-year-old Claudia went missing on March 18. Police are now treating the case as suspected murder.

North Yorkshire Police carried out widespread searches on campus, sparking criticism from some students who claimed it breached their “basic human rights to privacy”.

As students returned from the Easter holidays, Claudia’s father, Peter Lawrence, urged anyone with information to come forward, but apologised for any upset caused by the searches of rooms.

In a message on the intranets of both the University of York and York St John University, Mr Lawrence said: “I wish to apologise for the searches which necessarily took place in student accommodation both on and off the campuses in your absence.

“I am sure you will realise that it had to be ascertained that Claudia was not there. Please accept our apologies for any intrusion you may have felt by this. Our concern is for Claudia’s well-being and safe return. Thank you for your forbearance and co-operation.”

Claudia works as a chef at the Roger Kirk Centre in Goodricke College at the Heslington campus. She was seen on CCTV leaving work on March 18, but did not arrive the next day.

In his message, Mr Lawrence said: “Claudia’s disappearance coincided with the end of last term. Indeed, on March 20, many students were already going home for the Easter vacation.

“Most of you are only now returning and the family will be most grateful if you will search your memories from the end of term and consider whether you saw Claudia after she left work after 2pm on Wednesday, March 18, or whether you saw anything at all which you now consider was unusual or suspicious.”

Mr Lawrence also appealed to students and university staff for ideas and help in the campaign to find Claudia, and invited them to contact family friend and spokesman Martin Dales on or 07764 985009.

Anyone with information about the case should phone North Yorkshire Police on 0845 6060247, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.