If you just deleted your catalog than your photos are NOT lost because the photos are not IN the library but just referenced in the database although your edits may be lost. What about your backup catalog?
Thank you for your interest.
Shortly after I posted this question I realised it would be far more accurate to say that keywords and edits have been lost.
All of the photographs still exist, but without the keywords which allow me to navigate through them, the library isn't fit for it's purpose.
May edit that now...
To echo Bob… what about your backup catalog?
I had a folder of backup catalogues stored on two separate Lacie Rugged drives.
On both drives however the .lrcat Backup folders were empty, I don't know why this is the case, recovery on these drives has only returned one non-functioning .lrcat.
It's likely that I deleted one drives backup folder and then cloned this drive to the other, deleting its folder also.
I'm aware that this is entirely my fault, Lightroom didn't crash, and no drives failed, I had a demanding week and simply neglected to consider exactly what I was doing.
My backup processes had become so routine I didn't check to see if they were actually effective.
It's frustrating because I have recovered 300+Mb (about the originals size) .ircats which are just unresponsive.
It's not a limitation of the Lightroom software however, just idiocy on my behalf.
Thanks for taking the time.