THE father of a toddler who vanished three decades ago has been given fresh hope after new images of what the youngster may have looked like at various stages of her life were revealed during a national TV appeal.
Millions of people watched BBC’s Crimewatch programme on Wednesday, which featured a new appeal for information on the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Hartlepool girl Katrice Lee, who went missing from a British Army base supermarket in Paderborn, Germany, in 1981.
As part of the segment of the show, which featured interviews with Katrice’s mum Sharon and sister Natasha, forensic artists showed images of what Katrice could have looked like at ages six, 11, 16, 21, 28 and 33 in a bid to stir people’s memories as to whether they may have come into contact with Katrice over the years.
For Katrice’s father Richard, who lives off Stockton Road, in Hartlepool, the release of the images has been a breakthrough.
Richard said: “It’s these images that I think were the most important.
“You mention Katrice and everyone thinks immediately of a two-year-old girl.
“But this has filled in the gaps between Katrice being two and missing to now and turning 33 next week.
“It has filled all those gaps, but it has been a long time coming - we have been fighting and pursuing to get this done for a long time.
“But it has given me fresh hope and opened other avenues.”
Richard, who was serving as a sergeant major when Katrice went missing from a NAAFI store on her second birthday, November 28, 1981, said phone lines for the show were due to close at midnight last night, but people who had already given information in the past had called in.
Richard, a retired postman, added: “It was interesting that the Major that’s running the investigation came out and said on the show that there were three possibilities, that somebody had taken Katrice for sexual gratification and murdered, that someone had taken her as a surrogate child or that she had fallen into the river.
“We always believed she was taken as a surrogate child from the start, but go back 30 years and we were laughed at.
“It was nice to hear an admission on national TV that there was no body found.”
Retired postman Richard appeared in the Hartlepool Mail earlier this month after taking Katrice’s case to Parliament supported by town MP Iain Wright.
Richard’s ex-wife Sharon wants to take up Defence Minister Mark Francois’ offer of a meeting to discuss the handling of the case, while Richard still refuses to meet military personnel due to a distrust of the way the family has been treated.