Tees

Katrice Lee mother on 30 years on since disappearance

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Media captionSharon Lee travelled to Germany, to where her daughter went missing 30 years ago

Katrice Lee went missing in Germany on 28 November 1981, on her second birthday.

She was last seen in a shop near her home on a British Military base in Schloss Neuhaus, Paderborn.

But her father, Sgt Maj Richard Lee, from Hartlepool, and his wife Sharon Lee have never given up hope that their daughter is still alive.

To mark 30 years since her disappearance, Mrs Lee travelled from her home in Gosport, Hampshire, to the place where her daughter went missing - the NAAFI shopping complex in Germany - as police agreed to her calls for the case to be reinvestigated.

Image caption Katrice went missing on her second birthday from a shopping complex

"This is the place that 30 years ago we stopped living life as a normal family and our nightmare began," Mrs Lee said from the site.

"On that morning, Wendy, my sister, and I got out the car with Katrice, it was chock-a-block, it was the soldiers' last main pay day before Christmas so everyone was in there getting Christmas goods.

"It was Katrice's birthday, we got to the checkouts, and I remembered I didn't have crisps for Katrice's birthday party. I left her with my sister, walked up the aisle, and got the crisps. When I got back to the checkout, she wasn't there.

'Panic set in'

"My sister said she'd ran after me. I went back up the aisle, then around the NAAFI shouting her.

"There was no sign of her. By this time panic had started to set in."

Mrs Lee said: "One of us went outside to get Richard, my husband, I can't remember which one of us it was. I couldn't understand why we couldn't see her or hear her.

"That was the last time I ever held my daughter in my arms, the last time I ever saw her.

"She's never been seen to this day.

"I can't explain how you feel as a parent when you can't find your child. For a couple of seconds it's OK, you think you'll hear them shout 'Mummy' or something. But when you don't it's the most awful feeling in the world.

"My life is in two periods - my life up until that day, and my life afterwards."

'Huge efforts'

The family had to deal with both the German authorities and the Military Police over the disappearance, and said they felt that they were "ping-ponged" between both.

Maj Clive Robins, from the MoD, said that "huge efforts" were made to find Katrice at the time, including large-scale searches and appeals for information in the German and UK media.

Maj Robins is leading the team of investigators established 30 year on to reinvestigate what happened.

He said: "It is likely that the jurisdictional position may have been a complicating factor - Katrice was, after all, a British child who went missing in Germany.

"However, all the evidence I've seen so far suggests that the German authorities provided every possible assistance at the time.

Image caption A special image has been produced of how Katrice may look now

"It is my hope that by applying modern investigative techniques we may be able to identify new lines of inquiry that may shed some light on Katrice's disappearance."

The German police told the Lee family their daughter must have drown in a nearby river. That would have involved the toddler walking out of the shop, past the shoppers, down a ramp, across a busy car park, through a hedge, and along to the river.

Mrs Lee said the theory was "ridiculous".

"How can a child vanish off the face of the earth?" she said.

"How could she make that journey and throw herself in the river... and no-one saw her?

"It doesn't add up. I don't believe my daughter's life ended here. Not at all."

The case, which was never closed, is now being reinvestigated by the Military Police, with fresh images supplied by the charity Missing People, which shows how Katrice could look now, aged 32.

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