The father of Katrice Lee who disappeared in Germany on her second birthday has called for a public inquiry into the investigation.
The search for Katrice, who vanished almost 37 years ago from a NAAFI shopping complex in Paderborn, has been led by the Royal Military Police (RMP).
Her father Richie Lee, from Hartlepool, met with Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Defence on Wednesday afternoon, when he urged Mr Williamson to consider holding a public inquiry into the investigation.
Mr Lee, 68, says he has become increasingly frustrated at a lack of engagement by investigators with the family and feels a pattern of mistakes and lack of activity is being repeated.
They include the family not being given access to case files they say they were promised, and Mr Lee learning the results of DNA tests on bone fragments found during a major new dig in Germany in May from a member of the public.
He said: “There have been many times when I have reluctantly given those running the operation an opportunity to treat the family professionally, with dignity and with respect.
“Time after time, the RMP have failed us. I could accept an apology if this was an isolated incident but once again the family has been put at the bottom of the RMP’s priorities, whether deliberate or incompetent a similar pattern emerges yet again and I have therefore advised the RMP that I cannot continue to have a positive dialogue with them.”
Royal Military Police chiefs admitted in 2012 that mistakes were made during the initial investigation and the case was reopened.
Mr Lee said border guards were not informed when Katrice disappeared, statements from shop workers were not taken until weeks later and details about an eye condition Katrice had was not circulated.
In March, Mr Lee met current investigators at Bulford, in Surrey. He described the backroom staff as “unsung heroes of mine” but said during his visit he became aware of a ‘glaring fault’ in communication between the Ministry of Defence and Royal Military Police.
Mr Lee added: “I know the RMP will say that there are ongoing enquiries, but enough is enough.
“They have had 37 years to follow up lines of enquiry, and it is time that someone from outside the realms of the police and Army communities takes an in-depth independent view on what they have been doing.”
An Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “This is an extremely distressing case and our thoughts remain with the family of Katrice Lee.
“The Army’s Family Liaison Officers have regular contact with members of the Lee family and the Defence Secretary met with Mr Lee to discuss the investigation.
“Given this is an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further.“