The father of missing university chef Claudia Lawrence has spoken of the poignancy of an annual charity running race, as the search for clues surrounding his daughter's disappearance continues.

Peter Lawrence said the Miles for Missing People event, held on Clapham Common in London, offered a chance to unite with those suffering with the uncertainty of a missing loved one, and helped to raise crucial charity funds.

The event, by charity Missing People and now in its fifth year, was also supported by Kate and Gerry McCann - parents of missing British girl Madeleine - and Rachel Elias, sister of former Manic Street Preachers guitarist and lyricist Richey Edwards.

The race came days after North Yorkshire Police questioned and released on bail former lab technician Michael Snelling, 59, on suspicion of murdering Ms Lawrence, who went missing from York in March 2009.

An emotional Mr Lawrence, who sounded the air horn to start the 10km and 3km races, said: " A lot of people are here with a poster of their missing loved one, and it's right to display it, show what the charity is for.

"I think it's always a poignant event coming here because you see all these people with missing shirts on them with posters and you just think this really needs to be out there. We all need to be together, we are all a big family.

"It (Missing People) is an absolute lifeline. Both for people who are missing, but most importantly the families of the thousands of people who are missing. Most people you talk to of course don't know what it's like to have a family member missing.

"I regularly meet other people with missing members of their family, and it's just being able to be together in the knowledge we all talk the same language.

"Even if Claudia is found I will still be here for the sake of other people and the sake of the charity."

Mrs Elias, from south Wales, said the charity also offered vital support for the family, having battled for nearly two decades not knowing what happened to her brother.

She said: "My brother Richard has been missing for 20 years next year, so it is an especially poignant time for us.

"We're in exactly the same position now as we were 19 years ago, and we still have absolutely no information as to his fate. That is such a difficult thing, living with that constant uncertainty.

"We keep going through the support of the charity."

And she said she was unable to listen to the music of her brother, who vanished when the Manics were beginning to attract international airplay in February 1995.

She said: "I don't listen to the Manics records, I do find that too difficult."

Around 500 people took part in today's races, with starters including the McCanns. Children could complete a 1km course.

Jo Youle, Missing People chief executive, said: "We're all here in solidarity with other families facing unimaginable heartache when someone goes missing.

"But also today is a day of hope. It is so important to keep the search alive and know that one day their lovely, special person could be back with them.

"We have some families today who were here last year, and that's hard to think that they've had to face another year without knowing.

"But I think there is some comfort in families being here together in solidarity."

The event is part of May's "forget me not" month campaign. It has just launched a Child Rescue Alert service, encouraging people to sign up to missing children notices from police.

Organisers say the service will be used for only those children suspected of being in serious danger. For more information visit

To support families of missing people, donate £3 by texting HOPE to 70707.