Missing Katrice Lee: Hartlepool dad calls for equal playing field

The father of Katrice Lee who vanished as a toddler in Germany 37 years ago has called for all missing people cases to be treated the same as the Government is to fund the Madeleine McCann investigation for another year.

Friday, 7th June 2019, 18:26 pm
Katrice Lee as she looked around the time she went missing in November 1981 and a computer-generated image of how she may look today.

Katrice’s dad Richie Lee, 69, who lives in Hartlepool, says there is a ‘distinct disparity’ between the McCann case, which has received a reported £11.75m Home Office funding, and other cases, including his own.

Mr Lee says he bears the McCanns no ill will and understands their desire to continue the search for Madeleine, who went missing in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007, when she was three.

Richie Lee. Picture by FRANK REID

But he says it should be a level playing field for all such cases.

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Mr Lee said: “There is no one case more important than another.

“It should be a level playing field for all missing person cases and it is not.

“There is a distinct disparity between Ben Needham (who went missing aged 21 months on the Greek island of Kos) and the high profile case of Madeleine McCann.”

Mr Lee said a search of a river bank in Germany for signs of Katricee a year ago cost £100,000.

“That works out at £52.25 over the 37 years that Katrice has been missing which I think in reality is very, very poor,” he said.

“On a yearly basis there are 140,000 missing cases reported and 20-25% are unsolved. That’s a lot of people.”

He added the charity Missing People has to rely on fundraising, including the families of missing persons.

Mr Lee asked: “Why are they not publically funded?”

In February, Hartlepool MP Mike Hill wrote to Home Secretary Sajid Javid on Mr Lee’s behalf to query missing persons funding.

Mr Javid said in his reply it was not usual for the Home Office to directly fund missing children cases unless the cost of an investigation would put the police force’s budget under significant pressure.

He said: “I appreciate that the Lee family feel the investigation should be given full funding in line with those involving Home Office police forces.”

But he said he was unable to comment on the way in which Ministry of Defence resources investigations carried out by its police forces.