Military police to excavate site in Germany in bid to solve 36-year-old case of missing British child
Posted On July 24, 2020
Royal Military Police are to excavate a river bank in Germany in the hope of a breakthrough in the unsolved case of a British child who disappeared 36 years ago, it was announced today.
Katrice Lee went missing from a Naafi shop near the German town of Paderborn, where her father was serving with the British army, on her second birthday in 1981. Her family believes she was abducted.
“This search feels like such a double edged sword for us. I don’t want them to find her there, I hope that is not the case. But if they did that would also bring my family closure,” Natasha Lee, Katrice’s 43-year-old sister, said this afternoon.
“We don’t know what is going to happen, I feel like I cannot breathe, I feel anxious, I don’t want them to find a body.”
Forensics experts are to carry out a detailed search of the bank of the river Alme on the outskirts of Paderborn, where investigators believe vital evidence may have been missed.
A witness saw a man holding a child who resembled Katrice get into a green saloon car on the day of her disappearance. A similar car was seen the following day on a bridge near the new search area.
“The aim of the search is to find evidence that could finally shed light on what happened to Katrice,” Warrant Officer Richard O’Leary, who is in charge of the investigation for the RMP, said.
“It may or may not be the same car, but we are very keen to identify this car.”
The decision to excavate the site comes after the original evidence was re-examined following the re-opening of the case six years ago. The search is expected to last five weeks.
Katrice’s father Richard Lee said: "My family have been travelling this road for too long and now we will walk on egg shells for another five weeks.”
The 68-year-old is planning on flying to Germany this week following the latest developments.
“I want to be positive and hope that they find nothing so that this aspect of the investigation can be ruled out, but it’s a difficult time. Right now I need to give those involved in the search the opportunity to follow this trail and I just have to wait," he added.
“I’m trying to be realistic but time has stood still for a long time for us now and for me this search should have been done 37 years ago. At the time she went missing it is clear that mistakes were made and that adds to my anger."
At the time of Katrice’s disappearance, the family was living in Paderborn where Mr Lee was serving as a sergeant with the 15/19 King’s Royal Hussars.
Her parents took her shopping to a nearby British army Naafi store to buy supplies for her birthday party, accompanied by the child’s aunt who was visiting.
Katrice did not want to sit in a shopping trolley, so her mother Sharon carried her around the shop, which was unusually crowded because it was the last pay day before Christmas.
She put Katrice down near the checkout counter and asked the child’s aunt to watch her while she went back for crisps. When she returned Katrice had disappeared.
She was “gone in a matter of seconds,” Ms Lee told journalists. “Although I would like a fairytale ending to our story, I fully appreciate that might not be,” she said.
Katrice’s sister Natasha added: “I think both my parents have a very level head about these things and believe that what will be will be.
“And as much as we don’t want a body to be found, I understand that the investigation has to go where the evidence leads. They can’t ignore it, even though it might give us devastating news.
"The police don’t want to sit and tell my Mum and me that they’re basically digging for my sister, no one wants to do that. If they are family people I’m sure they might be able to understand the pain."