Forensic excavation in search for missing Katrice Lee

Royal Military Police to excavate area of land in Paderborn as part of investigation. Senior Investigating Officer WO1 Richard O’Leary appeals to members of the public and military community to come forward if they know anything about Katrice’s disappearance from a NAAFI in Paderborn in November 1981.

  • Royal Military Police to excavate area of land in Paderborn as part of investigation
  • Senior Investigating Officer appeals to members of the public and military community to come forward if they know anything about Katrice’s disappearance

Today it is announced that as part of the investigation into the disappearance of two-year-old Katrice Lee 36 years ago, the Royal Military Police (RMP) will conduct a major forensic search on the bank of the River Alme at Paderborner Str, Paderborn, Germany, starting this week.

Katrice went missing from the Schloss Neuhaus NAAFI, near the military base where her father was stationed with the British Army. She disappeared on 28 November 1981, her second birthday, while out shopping with her mother. Wide-scale searches of the area were conducted by the RMP, German Police, British troops and volunteers but Katrice was never found.

The RMP reopened the investigation into Katrice’s disappearance in 2012. As part of this investigation they reanalysed evidence gathered during the original investigation, which has identified the bank of the River Alme at Paderborner Str, as being of particular interest.

Senior Investigating Officer Warrant Officer Class 1 Richard O’Leary of the RMP said: “On this basis, a team of military personnel and civilian forensic experts will be carrying out a detailed excavation of the site, which is expected to last approximately five weeks. The aim of the search is to find evidence that could finally shed light on what happened to Katrice.”

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“In February 2017 the case featured on BBC Crimewatch,” said WO1 O’Leary. “As part of the feature a photo-fit was released of a man seen at the NAAFI on the day Katrice disappeared, holding a child similar to Katrice and getting into a green saloon car. We are keen to hear from anyone who could help to identify this person.

“A green saloon car was also seen on the River Alme Bridge near the NAAFI the day after Katrice disappeared. It may or may not be the same car, but we are very keen to identify this car.”

The investigation team would also like to hear from anyone who was living in the Paderborn area who owned a green saloon car in 1981, so that they can be ruled out of the team’s enquiries.

“Thirty six years have passed and allegiances may have changed,” said WO1 O’Leary. “We are appealing to members of the public and the military community, including veterans and retired civil servants in both Germany and the UK; do you know what happened to Katrice?”

The search is just one line of enquiry. Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that Katrice was abducted and is living her life, not knowing who she really is. She was born with an unusual eye condition in her left eye and it would take two medical operations to correct it.

WO1 O’Leary says: “An age progression image of what Katrice may look like now, aged 38, has been produced. If anyone feels they know someone who looks like this, or believes they could be Katrice, then we would encourage them to come forward.”

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The disappearance of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare and I have been struck by the courage and dignity of the Lee family who have never given up on their search for Katrice.

“As this major dig gets under way, the efforts and expertise of the Royal Military Police are behind the family. I urge anyone who was in the Paderborn area at the time of the disappearance to contact the helpline – even the smallest detail could be the key to solving this heart-wrenching case.”

Please contact the Op BUTE team on the following numbers:

  • UK Helpline telephone: 0800 616888
  • Germany Helpline telephone: 0800 184 2222

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