Police failures highlighted by father of missing Katrice Lee

The father of a toddler who went missing from a Naafi supermarket in Germany 37 years ago has visited the site of a fresh search for her. 

The father of a toddler who went missing from a Naafi supermarket in Germany 37 years ago has visited the site, where a fresh search for her is taking place.

Richard Lee travelled to the site where Katrice Lee went missing with his local MP and described the visit as:

"a return to his nightmare".

The search follows a reanalysis of evidence gathered during the original investigation, which pinpointed the river as an area of interest, the force said.

About 100 soldiers guided by military and German police and local experts are set to conduct a "major forensic search" on the bank of the River Alme at Paderborner Str, Paderborn.

Richard Lee told Forces News that information he supplied in 1981 was not used by police and evidence which decades later was broadcast on Crime Watch were not made known to the public.  

He said: "In 1981 I raised an issue about my daughter's eye. My daughter's eye required corrective surgery, as did her sister's.

"Natasha had two operations and Katrice would have required the same operations - it was hereditary.

"The sad part is, that information is not out there in the public domain."

Katrice Lee

"Katrice who I feel is living a lie somewhere in a family a surrogate child and she doesn’t know who she is but if we get enough information out there but the correct information ie she’s had an eye operation then it may get the message she may pick up if it goes global and then she says hold on I had an eye operation.

"I want her to make contact with us because I’m her father, her mother wants to know where she is. If we find that out then we’re satisfied parents."

Richard also said that information about a girl seen climbing into a green saloon car the day after Katrice disappeared was not used in any public appeal.

He said: "Why was this investigation on the green car not done 37 years ago - the information was available. The information that they produced about this individual on Crime Watch was available 37 years ago. 

"I'm not going to let people say to me 'technology's moved on, that's wonderful'. 37 years ago they didn't have it but that's no excuse as to why this wasn't in the public forum."

Katrice Lee 2017 computer image
An EFIT of what Katrice may look like as a 38 year old.

Heavy equipment is being used in the excavation of a 328ft (100m) area of riverbank and more details will be revealed at a press conference later on.

Katrice Lee went missing on her second birthday on 28 November 1981 from the Schloss Neuhaus NAAFI shopping complex while she was with her mother.

Wide-scale searches of the area were conducted by the RMP, German Police, British troops and volunteers but Katrice was never found.

Richard Lee was a Sergeant Major in the British Army and stationed in West Germany at the time and he says this search should have been done from the very beginning.

The former sergeant major thinks Katrice has been let down by police.

The Royal Military Police (RMP) reopened the investigation in 2012.

They re-analysed evidence gathered during the original investigation, which had identified the bank of the River Alme in Paderborn as being of particular interest.

In a statement, Senior Investigating Officer Warrant Officer Class 1 Richard O'Leary said:

"On this basis, a team of military personnel and civilian forensic experts will be carrying out a detailed excavation of the site, which is expected to last approximately five weeks.

"The aim of the search is to find evidence that could finally shed light on what happened to Katrice."

Katrice would now be 38 and her family remain convinced that she was abducted and brought up by another family, probably with no knowledge of her former life as a British child to forces parents.

Katrice's sister, Natasha Lee says "This is something we've wanted for so long."

"In some token, I'd like her to be there so we've got an answer but then, on the other hand, I don't want her to be there."

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has asked the RMP to reinvestigate the case following new evidence coming to light.

Katrice Lee Man E-Fit
Photo-fit of a man they police wanted to speak to in connection with the case

WO1 O'Leary is appealing to members of the public and military community to come forward if they know anything about Katrice’s disappearance.

“In February 2017 the case featured on BBC Crimewatch,” said WO1 O’Leary. “As part of the feature a photo-fit was released of a man seen at the NAAFI on the day Katrice disappeared, holding a child similar to Katrice and getting into a green saloon car.

"We are keen to hear from anyone who could help to identify this person."

“A green saloon car was also seen on the River Alme Bridge near the NAAFI the day after Katrice disappeared. It may or may not be the same car, but we are very keen to identify this car.”

The investigation team would also like to hear from anyone who was living in the Paderborn area who owned a green saloon car in 1981, so that they can be ruled out of the team’s enquiries.

“Thirty six years have passed and allegiances may have changed,” said WO1 O’Leary.

“We are appealing to members of the public and the military community, including veterans and retired civil servants in both Germany and the UK; do you know what happened to Katrice?”

The search is just one line of enquiry as investigators have not ruled out the possibility that Katrice was abducted and is living her life, not knowing who she really is.

She was born with an unusual eye condition in her left eye and it would take two medical operations to correct it.

The Operation Bute team can be contacted via the following:

  • UK Helpline telephone: 0800 616888
  • Germany Helpline telephone: 0800 184 2222
  • Facebook: Operation BUTE
  • Twitter: @operationbute
  • Email: [email protected]