Disappearance of Katrice Lee
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November 28, 1979|
Rinteln, West Germany
|Disappeared||November 28, 1981 (aged 2)|
|Status||Missing for 35 years, 6 months and 24 days|
|Known for||Kidnapping victim|
Katrice Lee was born November 28, 1979, at the British Military Hospital in Rinteln, West Germany. Her father, Richard Lee, was a sergeant in the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars of the British Army stationed in West Germany, along with her mother Sharon and her elder sister Natasha, who lived in the Schloß Neuhaus area of Paderborn.
On November 28, 1981, Katrice's second birthday, the family decided to go to the nearby NAAFI shopping complex in Schloß Neuhaus to buy things for her birthday party. Katrice's elder sister Natasha decided that she did not want to go shopping, while her aunt Wendy and uncle Cliff, who also worked for the British Army, had come over from Bielefeld for the birthday party. Wendy went to the NAAFI complex with Katrice and her parents while Cliff stayed at home with Natasha. Ritchie Lee drove them to the NAAFI and waited for them in the car-park. The day was the last payday before Christmas, so the NAAFI complex was exceptionally busy. Katrice decided she did not want to ride in shopping cart, so she was carried around the supermarket by her mother Sharon, who placed her down at the checkout. Sharon briefly left the checkout before returning to find Katrice was nowhere to be seen. Her aunt Wendy thought Katric had followed her mother down the aisle, but she had vanished.
Katrice had curly light brown hair, brown eyes, a pink birthmark slightly to the right of the base of her spine which looked like a rash, and also had a strabismus in her left eye. At the time of her disappearance she was wearing red Wellington boots, a turquoise duffel coat, a green and blue tartan pinafore dress with frills round the shoulders, a white blouse underneath, and white tights. Despite spending her life in Germany, Katrice could only speak English.
The military police were effectively in charge, but had to negotiate with the German civil police because the NAAFI building was within a German town, not on military premises. Both the military and German police believed Katrice had fallen into the nearby River Lippe and drowned, but no body was ever discovered. The German police refused to go to the press, and it was six weeks before an item appeared in the local newspaper. The investigation produced little result, and despite dredging the river and conducting house-to-house inquiries, no trace of Katrice was found.
Police re-opened the case in 2000, after computer technology helped them to form an image of how she could look now. People came forward who had never been interviewed, including a young man who had been standing behind the Lees at the checkout, and even one of the checkout ladies. One woman also came forward to say that her boyfriend at the time, who was in the same regiment at Katrice's father, had confessed to murdering a child. The man now lived in Northumbria, and the military police interviewd him but he denied it, and the woman who gave the details died soon after, therefore ending the lead. Afterwards the military police told the family they thought he was probably a fantasist.
Three possible sightings of Katrice Lee came after her story appeared on the BBC television show Missing Live, where during the show a digital rendering of the potential appearance of Katrice as a 29-year-old was shown. Natasha Lee, Katrice's elder sister, appeared on Crimewatch to highlight the appeal, after which an anonymous woman phoned and left a message on Richard Lee's answer machine, saying to "look for your daughter in France". The police took the answer machine tape away, but there was nothing more to the investigation. Major Kevin Bell-Walker, who was leading the inquiry, said: "With the advances in crime detection like search techniques, forensic archaeology and DNA profiling, it does suggest the case can be progressed after all this time".
Police believe Katrice was intentionally abducted from the NAAFI complex, and has possibly been raised by another family in Germany, the United Kingdom, or elsewhere in Europe, and is unaware of her true identity.
- Fielding, Nick (24 November 2007), Without a Trace, Telegraph Media Group, retrieved 21 February 2010
- Katrice Lee, Missing People, retrieved 21 February 2010
- James, Fiona (4 March 2001), "Pounds 10,000 Reward in Hunt for Girl Missing 19 Years", Sunday Mirror, retrieved 21 February 2010[dead link]
- "Dad's New Hope of Finding Katrice", Hartlepool Mail, 2 May 2008, retrieved 21 February 2010[dead link]
- "Our Katrice is Still Alive", Hartlepool Mail, 28 November 2006, retrieved 21 February 2010[dead link]