The father of missing Katrice Lee who vanished on her second birthday 36 years ago says his voice has ‘finally been truly heard’ after a meeting with a government minister.
Richie Lee travelled from Hartlepool today, along with the town’s MP, Mike Hill to meet Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who had pledged in the House of Commons to review the case.
Richie was serving as a Sergeant Major with the British Army in Germany when Katrice disappeared on a trip to a shopping complex in 1981.
Richie, 68, said: “I can honestly say that, I feel that for the first time in 36 years, my voice was truly heard.
“The minister appears to be a man of integrity, very honest.
“He listened to what I had to say as well.”
I can honestly say that I feel that, for the first time in 36 years, my voice was truly heardRichie Lee, Katrice’s father
In 2012, the Government apologised to Katrice’s mother Sharon and the Royal Military Police admitted failings in its initial inquiry. A re-investigation, also by the Royal Military Police called Operation BUTE is, currently under way.
Richie said: “The minister asked me if I wanted to go to a meeting with the Royal Military Police. I told him I would be loath to stick my hand out as I have very little trust.
“He said; ‘you misunderstand this – I’m not asking you to stick you hand out – I’m sticking my hand out’.
“I was quite taken aback.”
“He said to me ‘I can’t imagine, Mr Lee, how you have endured the last 36 years. I’m a father of two girls myself and I can’t begin to imagine what you are going through’.
“I’m grateful for that.”
Richie added that he hopes sharing the story on social media will give the case a boost.
He said: “If Katrice is speaking another language, it will get the word out and she will know her roots.
“I’m being realistic. I’m not expecting to take Katrice away from the life that she’s known. I just want to make sure she is safe.
“I will leave no avenue unexplored. I feel that having the Secretary of State in situ is a step in the right direction.”
Mr Hill, who attended the meeting with Richie, said: “It was a very productive, positive meeting. He genuinely listened to what Richard had to say.
“He is a father himself and understood the agony and anxiety Richard has gone through over the years.
“We got a commitment from the minister to have a meeting with the Royal Military Police at their headquarters to speak with the right people.
“We also told him about a couple of leads and gave them a couple of possible suspects in the case.”
A second meeting is set to take place in the near future.