Hartlepool MP Mike Hill urges new Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt to back the search for missing Katrice Lee
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has written to new Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, urging her to keep the search for missing Katrice Lee alive.
The toddler vanished on her second birthday, November 28, 1981, from a NAAFI shopping complex in Paderborn, Germany, where her father Richie, from Hartlepool, was stationed with the British Army.
Her family believe Katrice was abducted to be a surrogate child for another family and have been appealing for information about what happened to her ever since.
The case gained national and international prominence last year, when investigators carried out a large scale dig at a riverbank close to where she disappeared, but without success.
Former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has been a staunch supporter of the family and now Mike Hill is urging his successor to show similar support.
Mr Williamson was sacked by Prime Minister Theresa May after he was accused of leaking fears from the National Security Council about allowing Chinese Tec giant Huawei to build the UK’s 5G mobile network.
"It’s a real shame that Gavin Williamson was sacked by Theresa May as Defense Secretary because I do believe he is a man of integrity and, let’s face it if the Former Defense Secretary did leak concerns about possible security risks, then we should be taking that warning seriously," said Mr Hill.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
The i newsletter cut through the noise
"Since day one of his taking office, he has taken an interest in the case of missing Hartlepool toddler Katrice Lee and has met her father Richard Lee twice.
"I was there at both meetings and so can testify that Mr Williamson not only cared about the case, but made things like the excavation of the riverbank at Padderborn in Germany happen last year.
"One of the senior investigators on the case has written to me recently, informing me that he is retiring from the military and that there is to be a review of the case as it is handed over to his successor.
"My fear is that the investigation, known as Operation Bute, may be wound down. I have, therefore, written to the new Defense Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, to not only make sure the case is well and truly on her agenda, but to hopefully keep the momentum going in the search for Katrice.
"This year marks Katrice’s 40th birthday, making the search for her all the more compelling.
"After all these years and so many leads and questions outstanding we simply cannot allow the investigation to be wound down."