Katrice Lee: Apology over investigation after 1981 disappearance

Katrice Lee Katrice, pictured just before her second birthday, disappeared in 1981

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The mother of a toddler who disappeared 31 years ago from a German military base has received an apology from the government about the investigation.

Katrice Lee disappeared aged two from the British base near Paderborn in 1981 where her father was stationed.

Sharon Lee met on Thursday with Defence Minister Mark Francois and Provost Marshal Brigadier Bill Warren.

The Royal Military Police has admitted failings in its initial inquiry and Mr Francois apologised, Mrs Lee said.

Also at the meeting was Gosport Conservative MP Caroline Dinenage, Mrs Lee's local member of Parliament.

Mrs Lee, from Gosport, Hampshire, said it was a "massive step forward".

The father of Katrice, Richard Lee, from Hartlepool, has called for an independent public inquiry.

'Admitted failings'

The family believe Katrice, who disappeared from a shop in Paderborn, is still alive and was abducted.

They have been fighting since the disappearance to get to the bottom of what happened to their daughter.

Aside from trying to find her themselves, they also claim that the Royal Military Police failed to interview key witnesses quickly enough after Katrice vanished.

Mrs Lee said Mr Francois, the minister for personnel welfare and veterans, had apologised on behalf of the government.

She said: "The minister showed great compassion and understanding to us and actually apologised to us for the treatment that we had received thus far.

Sharon Lee Sharon Lee met with minister Mark Francois

"Also at that meeting, Provost Marshal Brigadier Bill Warren admitted that there had been failings in the 1981 investigation.

"For the minister to say sorry and for the brigadier to say there were failings indicates to me that we are correct with the path we are pursuing that there are great inaccuracies that occurred on that day with the investigation in 1981."

Mr Lee, who did not attend the meeting, said: "What was said yesterday was said behind closed doors and I think it's taken everyone by surprise."

There is currently a re-investigation into Katrice's disappearance by the Royal Military Police.

The MOD declined to comment, but in a previous statement said: "It is normal police practice to review significant unsolved cases and it is hoped that by applying modern investigative techniques the Royal Military Police will be able to identify lines of inquiry that will shed light on Katrice's disappearance."

The Lee family took part in a march in November to try to get the original case files released for an independent review.

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