Missing Katrice Lee's sister makes impassioned plea to secret keepers on 40-year anniversary of disappearance
THE sister of a girl missing for 40 years has said now is the time for anyone with secret knowledge over her disappearance to come forward.
Natasha Walker, 47, from Gosport said the four decades since she last saw her little sister Katrice Lee have been ‘relentless’ and she just wants answers.
Katrice vanished on her second birthday on November 28, 1981, having gone with her mother to the Naafi in Paderborn, West Germany, where her father was stationed with the Army.
This Sunday marks 40 years since she disappeared – four decades that have seen Katrice’s parents and sister fight for answers.
They live in hope they will one day be reunited.
Speaking to The News ahead of the anniversary, Natasha issued an impassioned plea to anyone harbouring secrets.
She said: ‘If somebody knows where she is, just please come forward.
‘Just tell us where she is so we can either lay her to rest, or meet her.
‘I just think it's about time. They've had 40 years of either hiding her body or having a great life with her – it's now our turn.’
She said ‘she didn’t ever think’ she would be without an answer to her sister’s disappearance 40 years on.
Natasha, a HR worker, said her family has had to ‘fight for everything’ every step of the way.
‘I didn't ever think I was going to be sitting here nearly 40 years on with no answers,’ she said.
She added: ‘The not knowing is the worst thing because you're just in limbo the whole time.
‘You never give up hope of finding out what's happened to her. But it’s relentless.
‘Every single morning, you get up and you're thinking “well, okay, today could be the day” and then you go to bed and it’s not been the day.
‘Sometimes I really struggle to put it into words - I didn't ever think that I was still going to be her 40 years on, still not knowing what had happened.’
Natasha said her authorities had been ‘too late’ at every turn in her sister’s case.
A botched military response left the family fighting for authorities to act from the outset.
A military police reinvestigation launched in 2012 led in 2018 - the year Natasha got married - to a forensic search of the River Alme near the Naafi. This led to no new information.
Military investigators arrested a man in Swindon in 2019 but he was released without charge.
A photofit of a man seen putting a girl in a green car on the day Katrice went missing was not released for 36 years.
But Natasha remains hopeful Katrice is alive somewhere living her ‘best life’.
She said: ‘The not knowing for my mum is just horrific - the no answers.
‘Katrice is out there somewhere.’
Natasha remembers key moments on the day her sister vanished. She stayed at her aunt’s home playing with Playmobil.
Then her dad returned, opened the front door and said Katrice was vanished
Moments later Natasha heard a sound that has stayed with her forever.
‘I've seen my mum screaming by the car,’ she said. ‘It was blood-curdling. I've never ever heard my mum scream or cry like that again, ever.
‘That was horrific for me as a seven-year-old child hearing that.
‘I think it was that moment that I knew that something really bad’s happened.’
She remembers looking in an underground car park for her sister, and then not seeing much of her parents for a week.
Despite their own trauma, Natasha’s parents did their best to protect her.
She said: ‘I do remember laying in bed at night sometimes and crying and saying to my dad “I do miss her” and dad saying “what do you want for Christmas?”. And I said “I want Katrice back.”
‘I didn't realise till quite a few years later in my teens when dad and I started talking about it properly that he used to cry.
‘I said to him I’ve never seen him cry. And he said “that's because I used to wait till you've gone to bed and then get up and go into the bathroom and cry”.’
But a meeting was promised by his two predecessors and never happened. If it does, Natasha wants to be there with her dad.
She wants a civilian police force to take over and investigate her sister’s case - and will raise this with Mr Johnson.
‘Everything is late, everything is too late,’ she said. ‘And I've tried to give the military police the benefit of the doubt. But I can't do that anymore.’
She said: ‘I just feel we're always fighting against the military.
‘We're not working in collaboration with each other, we're not working together. It just feels there's this pushing and pulling.
‘I've reached the point which my parents reached many, many years ago where I'm done with them.’
An MoD spokeswoman said: ‘Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Katrice Lee's family as we approach 40 years since her disappearance.
‘A review of the investigation in 2019 did not identify any new lines of enquiry.
‘The Lee family were briefed in person on the outcome of the review and the decision to end active investigations on December 11, 2020.’
On Sunday, Natasha will be running to raise money for the charity Hampshire Search and Rescue.
‘I wanted to mark it with something positive,’ she said. I've found running is great for my mental health.
‘Running helps my mind on the day - and I'm also raising money for a really great charity.
‘It's going to be pretty emotional, but for a good cause.’