It happened in the late fall of 1981, in the West German town of Paderborn. The British officer's family was quietly shopping in the supermarket: Richard and Sharon Lee were preparing to celebrate the birthday of their daughter Catherine, who was two years old. Their eldest daughter, Natasha, was waiting for them at home. Wendy, Sharon's sister, helped them with the shopping for the birthday dinner; she had come to Paderborn for her niece's birthday. Richard waited for the women in the car in the parking lot.

Mother and aunt took turns holding the baby in their arms so they wouldn't lose her in the crowd. And now the goal was near: they were standing in line at the cash register. At one point, Sharon remembered she had forgotten to buy chips. She ran to get them. Little Katrice ran after her mother - Aunt Wendy didn't have time to stop her. A minute later, Sharon, out of breath, returned to the register. Her daughter wasn't with her.

Remains of family memories. Source:

It happens - a girl just got lost in a big store. But hours went by and hours went by, and Katrice was nowhere to be found: neither the help of security guards nor announcements on the loudspeaker helped. They searched not only the supermarket, but also the surrounding area. The girl was nowhere to be found.

Katrice was put on the wanted list. She might have been kidnapped for ransom. Maybe if the police had released her description right away, someone would have been able to help find her, witnesses would have come forward. But they kept it under wraps, waiting for the kidnappers to call and make their demands. They waited six weeks. Only then were the names and photos of the girl released to newspapers and television.

Defenseless child. Source:

Many years have passed. In 2018, German police officers admitted something they had not said before: back in 1981, they made it mandatory for all eye clinics in Germany to notify the police if a girl with a squinting eye was brought in, the exact defect that Katrice had. And for many years, the clinics faithfully reported similar cases to the law enforcement authorities.

More than 40 years had passed since that day. The police concluded that it was more likely that Katrice had left the supermarket on her own, walked to a nearby river, fallen into it, and drowned. Yet the case was still open in 2020, when police said they would keep looking until they found some evidence or trace. Katrice's parents and older sister are still hopeful that the girl ended up with kind people who raised her as their own. They are still waiting for their daughter to come forward one day.


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