Police searching for missing British toddler Katrice Lee receive name of potential suspect

An informant identified a former RAF colleague from a Royal Military Police photo-fit giving new hope to the family of the girl who vanished in 1981.

Katrice, from Hartlepool, was last seen in a German supermarket with her mum Sharon, aunt Wendy and dad Richard who was a sergeant major at a base in the country.

The suspect was seen putting a child, who disappeared on her second birthday, similar to the British tot into a green car.

After talking to authorities, the informant told the Mirror: “I trained for the RAF with a guy who looks exactly like the picture of the man with the green car.

“We went our separate ways in 1980 and I don’t know where he was posted to but the police seemed interested in what I had to say.”

The photo-fit, based on a witness account, was released last year after a review into the unsolved case.

Based on a witness account, the photo-fit was made after Katrice’s disappearance but only released during a review of the investigation last year.

Last week, the picture was reissued as the Royal Military Police began a five-week search of a river bank near the Paderborn military base in Germany.

The Royal Military Police and German cops worked on the assumption the little girl — wearing red wellies, a turquoise duffle coat and tartan dress — wandered off, fell into another nearby river, the flooded Lippe, and drowned. But a hunt proved fruitless.

Statements from shop staff were not taken for six weeks and details of an eye condition Katrice had were not released.

The case was reopened in 2000 and led to the arrest of a former soldier. But he was released without charge and the case closed again after three years. There were further inquiries in 2012.

Sharon, of Gosport, Hants, now divorced from Richard, is convinced Katrice was abducted.

She said: “It’s my belief she left the NAAFI shop that morning, but she didn’t leave alone.

"I can’t believe — the NAAFI was so busy that morning — that a two-year-old walked out and disappeared off the face of the Earth and no one saw what happened.

“I still have to go out and face the world and go about a daily routine but this situation never leaves you.

“You can’t live with it 24/7. You have to push it to the back of your mind.

"But first thing in the morning and last thing at night, those are the times it gets to you.”

Thanks to the family’s campaigning, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson ordered extra resources for Operation Bute — the cold case probe run by a 28-strong RMP task force.
Dad Richard, now 68, had criticised the RMP handling of the case, but felt his voice had “finally been heard” at a summit with Mr Williamson this year.

He said: “Hopefully, we can resolve issues and find out where my daughter is.”


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