A father who fought for 40 years to meet successive prime ministers over the case of his missing daughter has accused the Conservative Party of using the family tragedy as ‘a political pawn’.
Richard Lee was delighted when Boris Johnson agreed to a ‘father-to-father’ chat last November about the disappearance of two-year-old Katrice while shopping with her mother near a military base in 1981.
The ex-soldier was hoping for a meeting in Downing Street to relaunch his inquiry campaign into the Royal Military Police’s handling of an investigation into what he believes to be a kidnapping.
But instead, Richard, from Hartlepool, was summoned to his local MP’s office for a chat with Mr Johnson who was in the former town of Red Wall ahead of the local election.
“He offered to meet me and he is the only Prime Minister to have kept his word. So I’m delighted,” says Richard, 72. “But the way it was done made me feel aggrieved.
“I received a call saying that I could come to the MP’s office on Monday and bring the file on my daughter’s case. I was ushered into a room.
“They said, ‘You’re going to meet Boris Johnson’. I said, ‘Excuse me, how dare you’. They just threw it at me. I wanted to meet in Downing Street because the profile would have given more publicity to my daughter’s case. Instead, I believe he was turned into a political pawn in the run-up to party elections.
Mr Johnson, who had visited the town’s power station with MP Jill Mortimer, spent 20 minutes with Richard.
“I asked for an independent investigation and told him that I did not believe the Royal Military Police were fit to carry out their role. He said he would help where he could and would keep in touch. We shook hands and he left.
Richard Lee/Sunday Mirror)
Katrice disappeared in November 1981 on her second birthday near Paderborn Base, Germany, where Richard was then stationed with the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars.
She had been with mom Sharon in a Naafi store. The RMP has already apologized for failures in its investigation, including delays in interviewing key witnesses and not releasing a photofit of a suspect for 36 years.
Richard had planned a meeting with Margaret Thatcher in 1982, but it was canceled because of the Falklands War. After that, not every PM met him until Mr Johnson agreed.
Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
“It should have been a pivotal moment, but the elation has been taken away from me. I will wait for a response. Actions speak louder than words. Hope is all I have.
A government spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister had the pleasure of meeting Mr Lee this week to express his thoughts and sympathy to him and his family. He offered his full support.