Military police rule out riverbank in missing Hartlepool toddler Katrice Lee probe

Military police examining an area of a German riverbank in connection with the disappearance of Hartlepool toddler Katrice Lee say they have found no evidence during their search.

The Royal Military Police (RMP) began a five-week search earlier this year as they excavated an area in Paderborn.

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

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

Katrice vanished on November 28, 1981, which was her second birthday, from a NAAFI shopping complex while she was with her mother Sharon.

Following the excavation, as part of Operation BUTE, senior investigator Warrant Officer Richard O’Leary, of the RMP, has spoken in a video about the search.

“The excavation found no evidence relating to the disappearance of Katrice,” he said.

“This means we can now rule out this area from the investigation and focus on other lines of inquiry.”

Royal Military Police started a forensic investigation in the case of missing Katrice Lee near the river Alme in Paderborn, Germany, Thursday, May 3, 2018. The little two year old daughter of a based British soldier disappeared in the garrison town in front of a supermarket without a trace in 1981. Pic by PA.

Royal Military Police started a forensic investigation in the case of missing Katrice Lee near the river Alme in Paderborn, Germany, Thursday, May 3, 2018. The little two year old daughter of a based British soldier disappeared in the garrison town in front of a supermarket without a trace in 1981. Pic by PA.

WO1 O’Leary added that the response to the release of a photo-fit of a man who was seen getting into a car outside the NAAFI on the day Katrice went missing had been “extremely encouraging”.

He added: “I would like to thank all of those people who have come forward with information which we are following up on.

“However, we still need your help.

“If you think you know who this man is or if lived in the Paderborn area in 1981 and owned a green car or know someone who did then please contact the investigation team so we can rule you out of our inquiry.”

Katrice’s dad Richie, who was serving as a Sergeant Major in the Army in Paderborn at the time of her disappearance, said he was disappointed that he and Katrice’s family were not told of the latest news before it was released to the public.

“It’s a bone of contention as they should’ve delegated to someone to tell us this,” said Richie, 68, who along with Hartlepool MP Mike Hill is calling for a public inquiry into the response to Katrice’s disappearance.

“Someone has called to apologise though.

“But it doesn’t change what I believe in that I’ve always felt she has been abducted.

“The positive thing is that it reduces the theory that she was killed.”

Anyone with information can contact the investigating team in the following ways:

• UK Helpline telephone: 0800 616888

• Facebook: Operation BUTE

• Twitter: @operationbute

• Email: SIBRMP-OpBUTE-Mailbox@mod.gov.uk