Missing Katrice Lee: Woman charged over 'malicious' Facebook messages to girl's family
A woman who allegedly changed her Facebook profile to that of missing toddler Katrice Lee and sent a friend request to Katrice's family has been charged by police.
Family members of Katrice, who disappeared in Germany on her second birthday in November 1981, were horrified when they received a friend request and messages last year from someone using the name Katrice Lee on the social media platform.
Katrice's father Richie Lee, 69, lives in Hartlepool and was stationed in West Germany with the British Army when Katrice disappeared from a NAAFI supermarket.
One of the requests was received by Katrice's sister Natasha Walker who created the Facebook group The Search for Katrice Lee.
Merseyside Police have now charged Heidi Robinson, 40, from the Wirral over the communications.
She is due to make her first appearance in court in May.
A Merseyside Police spokesman said: "We can confirm that a Wirral woman has been charged with malicious communications in relation to an ongoing investigation. "40-year-old Heidi Robinson from East Way in Moreton was charged with 'Send by public communication network an offensive / indecent / obscene / menacing message / matter'. "Robinson will next appear at Wirral Magistrates Court on Wednesday 1 May."
At the time, Richie said: "Can you imagine your sister has been missing for 37 years and you see a friend request on Facebook, you open it and you see a picture of your sister asking to be your friend?"
He said he would take the matter as far as he could.
Katrice's family have always believed that she is still alive somewhere and was stolen to be a surrogate child for another family.
A large-scale excavation of a river bank in Paderborn, Germany, carried out last year failed to find any evidence of Katrice.
Richie has been critical of the Royal Military Police who are leading the investigation, particularly over their handling of the case immediately following Katrice's disappearance.
In 2012, Royal Military Police chiefs admitted its original investigation was flawed and it is reinvestigating.
Six years ago another woman, Donna Wright, then 33, was handed an 12-week jail sentence suspended for 18 months after she admitted sending offensive messages to Katrice's family.
Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard how Wright had believed she was the missing girl and had made contact with the family.
When DNA test proved she was not Katrice, Wright continued to send messages to a Facebook page dedicated to the search for Katrice.