Katrice Lee: Fresh fight over daughter of Hartlepool soldier who vanished in Germany 36 years ago

The family of Katrice Lee who vanished in Germany 36 years ago today have launched a new petition in their fight for answers.

The petition created by Hartlepool MP Mike Hill and Katrice’s dad Richie Lee, seeks the release of details of the Royal Military Police’s original investigation under the Freedom of Information Act.

Richard Lee (68) with a photograph of his daughter Katrice aged 18months. Picture by FRANK REID

Richard Lee (68) with a photograph of his daughter Katrice aged 18months. Picture by FRANK REID

Katrice’s father Richie, from Hartlepool, says he will never give up on the search for Katrice and believes he will one day find her.

Mr Hill has pledged his support and hopes to persuade Prime Minister Theresa May to meet with the family.

Katrice went missing on her second birthday on November 28, 1981 from a NAAFI shopping complex in Paderborn, Germany, where dad Richie was serving as a Sergeant Major in the Army.

Richie told the Hartlepool Mail: “I wouldn’t be talking to you if I didn’t feel she had been taken as a surrogate child.

An aged progression picture of how Katrice may have looked when she was 28

An aged progression picture of how Katrice may have looked when she was 28

“I firmly believe that she is still alive. I could be a grandfather and I don’t know it.

“She may not know she is my daughter and we believe she is living another life unaware of who she is.

“What I wish to know is ‘is she safe, is she well and where is she?’

“Any parent will understand where I’m coming from.

Katrice Lee aged 23 months. Picture by FRANK REID

Katrice Lee aged 23 months. Picture by FRANK REID

“As a father I will never give up.”

Richie, 68, said the family’s turmoil has been made worse by frustrations over military police’s investigations into Katrice’s disappearance.

In 2012 Royal Military Police chiefs admitted that the initial investigation had been flawed.

Richie said border guards were not informed at the time Katrice vanished, statements from shop workers were not taken until six weeks later, and information about an eye condition Katrice had was not circulated.

Katrice Lee aged 18 months. Picture by FRANK REID

Katrice Lee aged 18 months. Picture by FRANK REID

A re-investigation called Operation BUTE is currently ongoing.

Richie added: “I get up every morning increasingly frustrated but I’m also angry and jealous.

“I’m angry that things that should have been done were never done, and jealous because when you read these stories there’s always a happy ending for the majority of them and my happy ending at this point in time hasn’t come.”

Regarding the new petition at 38Degrees, Richie said: “The idea is to pressurise the RMP into releasing the files on Katrice.

“We as a family want to have a look at those files.”

The petition itself states: “It’s time for the information to be shared and the truth to come out.”

Katrice aged 23 months in a poignant family photo

Katrice aged 23 months in a poignant family photo

Richie spoke about the family’s fight on This Morning in May, the same day that his other daughter Natasha Lee appeared on Good Morning Britain.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “This is an extremely distressing case and our thoughts remain with the family of Katrice Lee.

“As this is an active investigation, regular contact is maintained with members of the Lee family by Family Liaison Officers.

“Given this is an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

The petition can be signed at you.38degrees.org.uk

Anyone with any information about Katrice can also contact the investigation on 0800 616888.

MP hopes to take case right up to the Prime Minister Theresa May

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has taken up the case of missing Katrice after meeting with Richie.

Mr Hill said: “The disappearance of Katrice is a well known cold case kept very much alive by the temerity and determination of her father Richard and his family.

“It was a case which was quite rightly highlighted by my predecessor Iain Wright in Parliament and having met with Richard I was naturally inspired to carry on the fight.

“Despite the history of the case and the 36 years that have passed he remains at heart a father who just wants to know what happened to his child pure and simple.

“He is not seeking any kind of revenge on the RMP or the establishment, who look as though they have a lot to answer to, he just wants to know that his child is safe and alive.

“Who wouldn’t want to help a parent get closure in such circumstances?

“As Richard’s MP I realise I might be going over old ground to some extent, but I am also trying new things to help reignite awareness of this case, such as starting a petition.

“I have also written to the relevant ministers to get Katrice’s case back on the agenda and will raise the matter on the floor of the House.

“A request for a meeting was ignored by David Cameron and I am hoping Theresa May will not be so dismissive.

“Ironically the saving grace is that the RMP’s Operation Bute is still live meaning that there is still an ongoing investigation into the matter however belatedly that is, consequently we have at least an updated Photofit to go off and the chance to renew the appeal for any sightings of Katrice.

“Katrice’s mum and sister as well as Richard deserve answers and it’s a privilege and honour to help make that happen.”

Police in Germany released this image of a man they'd like to speak to in connection with the disappearance of Katrice Lee in November 1981.

Police in Germany released this image of a man they'd like to speak to in connection with the disappearance of Katrice Lee in November 1981.