EVERY day in Britain 590 children and young people are reported missing in the UK – that’s one every two minutes.
Thankfully, eight out of ten are found within 24 hours and only two per cent will be missing for longer than a week.
But, for more than 3,700 desperate families, their child has been missing for over a year, like the McCanns, who await news from cops currently searching a lake in Portugal for any trace of Madeleine McCann.
Marking International Missing Children’s Day today, The Sun asks if YOU can help end their nightmare with a scrap of information that might find their missing children.
Here the sister of a missing child shares her heartbreak after her younger sibling disappeared without a trace on November 28, 1981.
Tasha Walker is still haunted by the question of why two-year-old Katrice Lee disappeared without her mum even hearing a cry in a busy supermarket…
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THE gown Tasha Walker wore on her wedding day in 2018 had a tiny button sewn inside, close to her heart.
The pink plastic button came from a cardigan that belonged to Tasha’s little sister, Katrice Lee, who vanished without trace from a supermarket on her second birthday.
Their dad Richard, a Sergeant Major in the King’s Royal Hussars regiment, had been posted to Paderborn, West Germany.
On November 28, 1981 – the year King Charles and Princess Diana married – the family were preparing to mark Katrice’s birthday.
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Tasha was seven and did not want to go with her mum Sharon, aunt Wendy and her dad to the NAAFI supermarket.
So she stayed at home with her uncle Cliff on a military housing estate outside the Army base.
In the busy supermarket, Katrice refused to sit in the trolley and had to be carried.
At the checkout, Sharon set her daughter down while she reached for some crisps.
When she turned back around, Katrice was missing.
Tasha, now 48, of Gosport, Hants, says: “I remember Dad coming through the door and telling me they couldn’t find Katrice.
“I didn’t really understand. To my seven-year-old mind, you lost toys and they turned up.
“Dad told me to go with him. As we walked up the road to where he had parked the car. To this day I can hear the scream from my Mum as we approached. She was hysterical.
“I don’t remember too much about the early weeks, but I know there was disagreement between the police and military police over who had jurisdiction. No one took ownership of Katrice’s case.
“Mum was very poorly in the days afterwards. I was sent to live with family and friends nearby. I remember visiting home and Dad opening the door. The whole house was in darkness with all the curtains closed.”
In the absence of thorough police searches, Richard mobilised his own soldiers to look for Katrice, who police claimed had wandered off, crossed a car park and a road and fallen into the nearby River Lippe.
Tasha says: “It didn’t make sense. The NAAFI was packed, anyone who saw a two year old wandering on their own would know she was lost.”
While no trace of Katrice has ever been found, for Tasha there is an increasing desperation to know what happened.
She says: “Katrice has missed everything in my life and I’ve missed everything in hers.
“The fairy-tale is that she was taken and raised by a loving family and that she’s safe and happy and adored.
“But the nightmare is that she’s been raped and murdered and buried somewhere. It’s the wondering and the constant scenarios that are so hard to deal with. There’s no peace from the theories.
“Mum always said you know your child’s cry no matter how loud a place is and she never heard Katrice cry.
“Does that mean someone she knew took her? Was it someone in a uniform? She wasn’t scared of uniforms because her daddy wore one.”
Tasha’s mental health has suffered as a result of Katrice’s disappearance and three years ago she had counselling.
She says: “Mum and dad were amazing at letting me have freedom when I was younger. But as I got older I got more anxious about travelling alone and getting lost. If someone was walking behind me, I’d get scared.
“It goes back to being seven and thinking someone took Katrice so were they going to come and take me too?”
Tasha has an active Facebook Page for Katrice, The Search For Katrice Lee, but the devoted sister still feels like she could do more.
She says: “I feel like I don’t do enough to try and find her. Someone out there knows what happened to her.
“Katrice is constantly on my mind and I need to find her. I just have to know. I’m prepared for whatever happened to her, but I need to find my little sister.
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“I loved my wedding day but – like every day since she went missing – it wasn’t the same without Katrice there beside me as my bridesmaid.”
Please visit missingpeople.org.uk/donate to donate to Missing People and support the thousands of families affected by a disappearance.
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