Hartlepool dad of missing child remains hopeful she will one day be found

Katrice Lee as a toddler
Katrice Lee as a toddler

The dad of Katrice Lee who went missing in Germany more than 36 years ago says he remains hopeful she will be found after a five-week search for clues came to an end.

Royal Military Police investigators carried out a forensic excavation of the bank of the River Alme, near Paderborn, where it was believed her body could have been buried.

An age progressed picture of how Katrice may look today.

An age progressed picture of how Katrice may look today.

A press conference in Germany today heard investigators had found bone fragments but they are not believed to belong to Katrice, who went missing from a NAAFI supermarket on her second birthday on November 28, 1981.

Katrice's father Richie Lee, 68, who lives in Hartlepool, told the media that the result of the excavation confirms the family's conviction that Katrice was abducted to be a surrogate child for another family and that they he will one day learn the truth of what happened to her.

Richie told the Mail: "The Royal Military Police turned round and said they found bone fragments they believe not to be that of Katrice, however, they have to send that for DNA testing and if necessary carbon dating.

"I told the media that I will get Katrice back if the correct information is put out there."

Richie Lee

Richie Lee

Katrice had a condition known as “lazy eye” in her left eye which would have needed surgery to correct when she was a youngster and as a teenager.

The riverbank was highlighted as being of interest as it was where a green saloon car, similar to one that a child matching Katrice’s description was seen getting in, was sighted the day after she went missing.

Richie, who was based in Germany with the British Army when Katrice went missing, said investigators should speak to missing person bureaux in Europe.

He added: "You have got missing peoples bureaux that need to talk to each other across Europe and exchange information on children that are missing and maybe I will get the answers to where Katrice is.

"I get the impression the Royal Military Police are waiting for something to come forward.

"We can't do that because time is marching on."

Richie earlier appeared on the national BBC Breakfast TV programme where he told how the investigation had affected his other daughter Natasha and Katrice's mother Sharon, from whom he is divorced.

He said: "You can't imagine what it is like until you have walked in my shoes."

Richie added the investigation was now at a turning point.

The investigation into Katrice's disappearance is called Operation BUTE. The Ministry of Defence said the excavation did not find anything of significance.

They added people have come forward with information in the last few weeks which is being followed up.

A spokesperson said: “We thank the Royal Military Police and the soldiers that worked tirelessly on this five-week excavation and share the deep disappointment and frustration that the Lee family must feel.

"This is not the end of the investigation and efforts will continue. We continue to urge anyone who was in the Paderborn area at the time of the disappearance to contact the helpline – even the slightest detail could be of great help to the investigation.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the UK Helpline telephone: 0800 616888, Germany Helpline on 0800 184 2222 or via social media at the Operation BUTE Facebook Twitter: @operationbute or email: SIBRMP-OpBUTE-Mailbox@mod.gov.uk