Army veteran Richard Lee protests at Downing Street seeking justice for daughter missing since 1981

Richard Lee
-Credit: (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)


An army veteran whose daughter went missing more than 40 years ago has attempted to hand back his military medals at Downing Street in a protest against failings in the police investigation.

Richard Lee's daughter Katrice disappeared near a British Army base in Paderborn, Germany, on November 28 1981 – her second birthday. Successive appeals have failed to yield any information about Katrice's whereabouts.

The former warrant officer, who served in the army for 30 years, made a journey from Hartlepool to Downing Street by bus with a group of supporters and fellow veterans. Mr Lee told the PA news agency he was "not going away" until he received answers from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

"I haven't got answers yet," he added. "The MoD and the Royal Military Police know they've failed my daughter's case since 1981.

"With what's going on today, when everybody is aware of the blood contamination scandal, they're aware of the Hillsborough disaster, it's rather sad that all these institutions are more concerned about their reputation than just being open, honest and telling the truth."

Mr Lee attempted to return his Northern Ireland general service medal and another awarded to him for 30 years of service but was told he could not do so as they were classed as "personal belongings". He said the medals were "meaningless" and will now be writing to the master of arms at the Houses of Parliament to hand them back there.

Katrice was on a shopping trip with her family at a supermarket near the military base, where her father was serving, when she disappeared. Mr Lee believes his daughter was abducted and has requested an independent or public inquiry into the handling of his daughter's case.

He said he did not want to "become another Mr Bates, like the Post Office, the common man, and my case is swept under the table and forgotten about". In 2012, the Royal Military Police re-opened its inquiries under the title Operation Bute after apologising for failings in the initial investigation.

A section of a river bank near where Katrice was last seen was excavated in 2018 as part of renewed investigations, but nothing was discovered. Mr Lee said he was hopeful he may see his daughter again but would not want to force her away from her new life.

"I wouldn't turn around and say to the public that I would take her away from the life that she knows," he added. "I would like to hold her and say, 'ey up, pet – I'm your dad'."

In 2019, a woman was handed a suspended jail sentence after setting up a Facebook profile impersonating Katrice. Military police also arrested a man in connection with the disappearance and began searching a terraced house in Swindon, Wiltshire. The man was later released without charge.

Mr Lee said a meeting with then prime minister Boris in 2022 was an "ambush" organised at the last minute in which nothing meaningful was discussed. An MoD 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 December 5 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."

Katrice was last seen wearing a blue duffle coat with a green fur hood, a green and blue pinafore dress, red wellies, and a white blouse with a blue collar and cuffs.