THE appearance of a lost child at a gypsy camp in Greece has given fresh hope to the dad of a Hartlepool toddler who vanished in Germany more than 30 years ago.
Richie Lee, the dad of Katrice Lee, who vanished from a NAAFI store in Paderborn, Germany, on her second birthday in November 1981, says he is feeling more optimistic following this week’s news of the unidentified blonde blue-eyed girl found living with her alleged abductors in the Greek settlement.
And just days later, police also removed a seven-year-old blonde girl from a Roma family in Dublin.
Richie, 63, who lives off Stockton Road, in Hartlepool, said: “There were gypsies around when Katrice went missing.
“At the time I contacted the Royal Military Police (RMP) and asked what they were doing regarding the investigation of Katrice and the gyspy encampment that was in place.
“The German Police went along and spoke with the head person of the Gyspies and the encampment and they said that had nothing to do with her disappearance.
“But to what extent and depth that investigation took I honestly don’t know.”
This week retired postman Richie contacted the RMP again to ask them to look at any potential links between Katrice’s disappearance and the discovery of the girl at the Greek camp.
Richie described last year how he felt vindicated when RMP chiefs issued an apology after admitting a string of failings in the original investigation into his daughter’s disappearance.
The RMP had also re-investigated the line of inquiry which suggested Katrice may have drowned in a river near the supermarket, by saying it was “highly unlikely” that she had ever gone into the water.
Richie, who was serving as a Sergeant Major with the British Army when Katrice went missing, added: “The only thing people haven’t taken away from me is hope, I have always had belief.
“The sad part is that it has taken such a long time for people to come on my family’s side.
“This cements my belief – 30 years ago we actually said there was a market for children and children were being stolen to order and sold to childless couples.
“Surely now this proves the point – here we are in the 21st century and it’s still going on, I made this accusation in 1981.”
Greek gypsies fear they will be stigmatised as child traffickers following the discoveries.