Veteran heads to Downing Street over 'botched' investigation into daughter's disappearance

  • Veteran attempts to hand his medals back to the institution he served for 34 years

A veteran has been to Downing Street in an attempt to hand back his military medals, criticising the "botched investigation" into the disappearance of his two-year-old daughter 43 years ago.

Katrice Lee vanished from the army base in Germany where her father Richard was stationed in 1981. She has never been found.

Mr Lee, who served in the army for three decades, travelled from Hartlepool to Whitehall, handed in a petition and a letter to the Prime Minister calling for an inquiry into how the case was handled.

He said: "I'm concerned that the MoD and the Royal Military Police are more concerned about the reputation of their establishment than finding my daughter.

"Metal is metal," he said. "Devaluation of the medals because of the lack of support from the institution I served for 34 years. I would rather have the whereabouts of Katrice than my medals.

"The sad part is the medals were, if you like, the last bullet in my gun and I've used them accordingly. I will continue, and I will hand them back because they mean nothing. I want Katrice."

What has happened in the investigation so far?

Katrice vanished on her second birthday on 28 November 1981 near Paderborn, close to the British military base where her father Richard was stationed. The last known sighting of her was at a supermarket on the base. There has been little progress in finding out what happened to her.

The Royal Military Police (RMP) reopened the investigation to find Katrice in 2012, with re-analysed evidence identifying the bank of the River Alme in Paderborn as being of particular interest. However, officers excavating a section of the riverbank found bone fragments but they were found to be horse bones and the area was ruled out of the investigation.

In June 2014, another woman falsely claimed to be Katrice Lee, via phone calls in December 2013, only seven months into a suspended sentence for the same offence. Donna Wright was jailed after admitting harassment and breaching her previous suspended sentence.

On 24 September 2019, the Royal Military Police (RMP) made an arrest in connection with the disappearance of Katrice, after searching a house in the Moredon area of Swindon, Wiltshire. An ex-serviceman was arrested but was later released without charge.

The Defence Serious Crime Unit took over the investigation in December 2022.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: A Ministry of Defence Spokesperson said: "Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Katrice Lee's family and if anyone has any new information relating to the disappearance of Katrice, they can contact us on 0800 616 888.

“The Defence Serious Crime Unit became operational on 5th December 2022 and assumed primacy of the investigation into the disappearance of Katrice Lee. It would be inappropriate to comment on the investigations made by the Royal Military Police and the German police between 1981 and 2022.”

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