Belfast Telegraph

Sleaze and lies: Claudia Lawrence, trial by the media

By Frances Burscough

With hysterical headlines such as ‘Claudia’s String of Affairs with Married Men’ and ‘Claudia’s Forty Different Lovers’ appearing in the Press this week, you’d be forgiven for wondering what manner of monster this evil Claudia is.

Could she be some kind of satanic serial killer who’s still at large? Or a vengeful HIV sufferer who’s been knowingly infecting partners with the deadly virus? Or maybe a Myra Hindley-type psychopath who kidnaps and tortures children?

The answer is none of the above.

The woman in question is Claudia Lawrence, the chef who went missing on her way home from work three months ago and has never been seen since.

The pretty, vivacious woman whose sudden disappearance has devastated a family. The daughter of a man who is so distraught he is visibly ageing in full view of the cameras with each heart-rending appeal.

The daughter who was so loving and devoted that the very fact she didn’t send her mum Joan a Mother’s Day card forced them to accept that she must almost certainly be dead.

In short, she is the victim. Of what, no one is yet sure. It could be murder; it could be manslaughter; it could be kidnap; it could even be a tragic accident; but a victim she surely is, nevertheless.

Which is why I find the recent ‘stories’ about her so distasteful that I'm almost ashamed to have read them in the first place.

One newspaper, in particular, has run such a vile and systematic character assassination over the past week that it literally beggars belief.

What amounts to little more than tall tales about her ‘secretive’ sex life have been printed as fact and with such salacious relish that I was half expecting ‘Serves Her Right’ to be the next column heading.

So-called ‘friends’ who claim they “want to help the investigation” have been queuing up to offer insidious insights into her private life, like bitchy teenagers gossiping behind the school bike shed.

One man who, very conveniently, wished to remain nameless but described himself as a “close confidant” said: “She went for married men ... she got a kick out of it and she was always so secretive.”

Excuse me, but since when has being secretive about your sex life become suspicious behaviour?

Heck, with a so-called confidant who is so willing to spread rumours and trade tittle-tattle, who could blame her for wishing to keep her private life just that: private?

It was this same friend who made the rough estimate of 40 lovers that became the story’s sleazy banner headline. But the credence the papers have given to these people is almost as unbelievable as the yarns they’ve spun. The story has simply snowballed beyond all reasonable credibility, making her sound like a modern-day Whore of Babylon or a far-fetched soap-opera villain whose only pleasure is drawn from consuming gallons of alcohol, having indiscriminate sex with a myriad of strangers and intentionally wrecking marriages just for the sheer fun of it.

So whatever next, one wonders? Does she worship the devil and sacrifice newborn babies before an inverted crucifix, too? I, for one, doubt the truth of most of the sordid allegations, as I suspect most right-minded readers would.

But even if they were true, she has done nothing criminal nor particularly out of the ordinary. Pubs are crawling with married men looking for a bit of extra-curricular fun as well as pretty women who are eager and willing to indulge them.

So the question remains; how can publishing such scurrilous sleaze be justified? It is neither in the public’s interest nor will it aid the ongoing investigation. In my view, it is quite simply scandalous sensationalism; insensitive and unnecessary, if not downright irresponsible.

Fortunately, for poor Claudia, she does have one solitary ally who had the balls to speak up, on the record on her behalf. Ex-boyfriend Patrick McGinty said this: “The Claudia in the papers is not the Claudia I knew. She’s a sweet, lovely girl and I know her better than most people.”

So why didn’t that quote make the headlines? Why, because it wouldn’t sell newspapers would it?

Belfast Telegraph


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