The BBC is to review how TV licence fee payments were chased after the family of Claudia Lawrence revealed she was still getting letters 14 years after her disappearance, The Telegraph understands.
It is understood the corporation will examine the specific circumstances that led to the letters being sent and make changes to its broader policy, if required.
The BBC apologised on Wednesday for causing “untold heartache” to the family of Ms Lawrence after her mother said the broadcaster repeatedly sent demands to her daughter’s cottage including threats of court action and a £1,000 fine.
Detectives believe the 35-year-old, who lived in the Heworth area of York was murdered, although her body has never been found.
The university chef vanished on March 18 2009 as she walked to work for a 6am shift at York University, with her disappearance prompting a murder investigation.
Speaking to The Sun, Ms Lawrence’s mother, Joan said the letters had caused “untold heartache”.
Mrs Lawrence said she regularly finds the letters on visits to her daughter’s cottage, which she has preserved on her own since the death of her ex-husband, Peter, in 2021.
She said: “I’ve written to them to tell them what’s happened, and the police are supposed to be sorting it out, but the letters still come.”
‘One was nasty and horrible’
Ms Lawrence’s mother contacted the BBC in September 2022 but only a temporary pause was put in place and automated letters restarted in February this year.
They were not addressed directly to Ms Lawrence but were standard letters relating to an unlicensed property.
Mrs Lawrence said that the high-profile nature of her daughter’s disappearance made it even more astonishing that she was still being sent letters.
She added: “You’d think they’d know by now, after all the publicity, wouldn’t you?
“They must have sent two or three letters a year in all the time this has been happening.
“One was nasty and horrible. It threatened that not paying could affect her credit score.
“I’m not someone who has ever had any debts, I pay for things straight away, so it was an awful thing to read. It really must stop.”
Mrs Lawrence drives from her home in Malton, North Yorkshire, every fortnight to check on the cottage, and said the visits were always “emotionally draining”.
‘It just gets worse for the BBC’
Almost 1,000 people every week are prosecuted for failing to pay their television licence, making it the most common crime in the country outside motoring offences.
According to the most recent data from the Ministry of Justice, there were 47,622 prosecutions and 44,106 convictions for failing to pay the television licence in the year ending June 2022.
Conservative MP for Torbay, Kevin Foster said: “My heart goes out to Claudia’s mum.
“It just gets worse for the BBC, it is simply impossible to justify these demands. If anything, it only advances the cause of decriminalising paying for a TV service.”
Rebecca Ryan, director of campaign group Defund the BBC, said: “We hear many complaints every week from people who are being wrongly chased and harassed by TV Licensing – the body which outsources the collection of the £157.50 annual levy for the corporation.”
She added: “It is time for the bullying letters to stop, the threat of imprisonment to be lifted and the licence fee to be scrapped, once and for all.”
A BBC spokesman said: “We’re very sorry for the distress caused to Mrs Lawrence and we will be apologising to her directly.
“We have taken steps to ensure no further letters are sent to the address.”