A MAN who pretended he had buried the body of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence in a field has been jailed for 18 months.

Former York man Richard O’Rourke, 48, sent text messages to a policewoman and a barmaid, giving a precise location where he said the University of York worker could be found.

He told them: “I put her there”.

The messages, sent on the first anniversary of Claudia’s disappearance, sparked a four-day police search, but nothing was found.

O’Rourke, now of Keddington Avenue, in Lincoln, has now been jailed for 18 months after pleading to guilty to a charge of wasting 390 hours of police time, at a cost of £13,500.

On March 18 last year, he texted barmaid Allison Hall, saying: “I know where Claudia Lawrence is buried. YO10 5EF. I’ve just told you where she is. Third field after the sports field. I put her there. The Outgang in Heslington, York.”

The next day he texted PC Jane Pickworth, who was investigating O’Rourke for harassment of a local estate agent.

He wrote: “Why don’t you listen to me. I know where Claudia Lawrence is. The Outgang, Heslington. I put her there. You’re next. I’ve found you on the net.”

Phil Howes, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court: “It was obvious they would be referred to the investigation team in North Yorkshire” and said it became an “investigation priority”. He said: “Two specialist dogs with their handlers were deployed from South Yorkshire in order to search that area.

“It was a very specific area that the defendant was referring to. No body was found.”

Officers linked the texts to a phone owned by O’Rourke and subsequently travelled to Lincoln to see him.

Mr Howes said: “The fact that this caused upset to the parents of the missing person goes without saying.”

O’Rourke also admitted three charges of sending menacing messages and harassment on Lincoln estate agent Jason Sedlan; and possession of three child porn images and one extreme porn image found on his computer when police raided his home in April last year.

Judge Michael Heath told O’Rourke: “You had no ideas where Claudia Lawrence was or is.

“Not only was police time completely wasted, but also every time that some piece of information is given to the police which may lead to the possibility of closure of some sort for the parents it raises their hopes.

“When it turns out to be a false trail those hopes are dashed. That is something that is so serious that the only sentence I can justify is a custodial sentence.”

Gareth Weetman, in mitigation, said O’Rourke suffered from depression and his life spiralled out of control following the deaths of both of his parents. He said his client “had no real concept” of the wider implications of his messages and had since sought help and had cut down his drinking.

Claudia’s father Peter Lawrence said: “I think it is an appropriate sentence that he received.

“It was obviously very distressing for the family at the time as well as a waste of resources and money for the police.”

Claudia Lawrence, who was 35 when she disappeared, was last seen on March 18, 2009, walking from the University of York, where she worked, to her home in Heworth.

Despite one of the biggest investigations in North Yorkshire history, she has never been found.