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Fresh pain for Hartlepool dad in search for girl

Original Source: SUNDAY SUN: 26 FEBRUARY 2012
Feb 26 2012 by Kate Proctor, Sunday Sun

TORMENTED dad Richard Lee has revealed a woman has come forward claiming to be his daughter who vanished 30 years ago.


After three decades of pain, the dad believed they were one step closer to solving the mystery of how Katrice Lee vanished on her second birthday from a German supermarket.


But Richard’s hopes were soon dashed after the claim was ruled out as a false alarm.


“Your heart goes in your mouth with anything like that,” said Richard, from his Hartlepool home.


“You think, ‘Could this be it? Could this be Katrice?’”


The shock call came just two weeks ago as cops came to the Sunday Sun to ask for help as they relaunched the probe into the riddle.


The Royal Military Police have announced they are reinvestigating the case on the 30th anniversary of Katrice’s disappearance.


And senior investigators got in touch to ask for a look at our coverage of the case that gripped the globe. 



Richard revealed: “This woman from the South of England said she never felt right in her own family and thought she might be Katrice.


“She contacted my other daughter Natasha by Facebook who called me straight away. When you get a call like that you get a spark and a tingle and you think you’re heading down the right path.


“You think you’re so close,” said Richard, 62, of Belle Vue.


Although their hopes were dashed when the contact proved a false alarm, incidents like that continue to give the family a glimmer of hope that one day Katrice will track them down.


“I’ll always live in hope,” said Richard, who believes the case of Jaycee Dugard – who was found 18 years after she was kidnapped in the USA – proves that miracles can happen.


“When you get things like that happening in America, it gives you a buzz and makes me think that I am going down the right path. If it can happen there, it can happen to us.”


Katrice was born on an Army base near the German town of Paderborn, Dortmund, where Richard was posted as a sergeant in the 15/16th King’s Royal Hussars, along with his wife Sharon and daughter Natasha, who was seven at the time.


On the morning of Katrice’s second birthday on November 28, she went with her mum, dad and aunt Wendy on a shopping trip to the local Naafi store to pick up food for a birthday tea.


Richard waited outside in the car but as the sisters went to the checkout Katrice vanished and the family’s nightmare started.


Early military police investigations concluded she had drowned in a nearby river. A body was never recovered and this theory is something Richard strongly disputes.


“You can’t tell me that a toddler can walk out of a supermarket, over three fences, across a park on her own and threw herself in a river. “We were never treated properly, we weren’t taken seriously at the time. The investigation has been one long catalogue of errors from the start,” he said.


Katrice suffered from a squint in her left eye which would have needed corrective surgery as she got older.


Richard asked police to make all doctors likely to carry out the surgery aware of her disappearance – something he thinks was ignored.


He is now campaigning to have Katrice’s case files handed over by the Royal Military Police after his request was refused this week. Backed by Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, Richard said he will never give up trying to find out the truth about those early investigations.


“I just want to see those files in full without anything blacked out. I was thoroughly disgusted with the way that my family were treated at the time.


“We were laughed at when we said there was a market for children in Europe – that Katrice could have been abducted and now no one would think twice that wasn’t a possibility when you think of cases like Madeleine McCann,” said Richard, who is now separated from Katrice’s mum.


His energy now ploughed into the latest campaign, Richard’s loss is a constant.


“As a family we have had to cope with it. We have got certain levels of coping but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of my other daughter and where she is.”


“I welcome anything that puts my daughter’s case back in the public domain but I don’t think police have got any new leads. It gives my daughter a fighting chance to find us though. At this point in time she is living a lie. We just want her to know who she really is.”


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