MP for Hartlepool Mike Hill says he hopes the search for missing toddler Katrice Lee will bring much-needed closure for her family.
Mr Hill accompanied Katrice’s father Richie Lee, who lives in the town, to Germany last week as a major dig started close to the spot where she went missing on her second birthday more than 36 years ago.
Royal Military Police have launched a five-week excavation of a river bank where a suspicious car was seen the day after Katrice disappeared in November 1981.
They are working on the theory that if Katrice had been murdered her body could be buried there.
Richie, 68, visited the site and spoke to investigators, and also faced the international media.
Mr Hill said of Richie: “He is one of us. A resident of Hartlepool and I am proud to have come out to Paderborn, Germany, to support him as his MP.
“I cannot begin to imagine the pain and anxiety the family have gone through over the years.
“Harrowing though it is I hope the next five weeks gives them closure on this particular line of enquiry.”
Richie, who was stationed in Germany with the British Army when Katrice went missing, described the day he visited the excavation site as “one of the hardest and most stressful” he has endured.
Now back in Hartlepool, he said on the Facebook page The Search for Katrice Lee: “I was amazed at the press/media and radio coverage Katrice’s story got, this has been achieved by a dogged determination of the family not to take no for an answer.
“Many thanks to all the supporters for without you all it would of been a lonely journey. I live in hope XXX.”
Katrice’s family believe she was taken as a surrogate child and has lived her life not knowing her true identity.
Richie also appeared on the BBC’s Breakfast television show on Saturday when he again raised awareness of the case.