A woman has been given a suspended sentence after posing online as missing toddler Katrice Lee.
Wirral Magistrates’ Court heard Heidi Robinson, 40, set up a Facebook profile under the name of Katrice, who vanished on her second birthday on November 28 1981, on the outskirts of Paderborn in Germany, near the British military base where her father Richard Lee was stationed.
At the sentencing on Wednesday, District Judge Nicholas Sanders said it was clear Robinson had been suffering from a mental illness when she committed the act of “unimaginable cruelty”.
He gave her an 18-week prison sentence suspended for two years with a mental health treatment requirement for 12 months and ordered her to carry out rehabilitation activity for 40 days.
Speaking outside court, Lee said he thought Robinson had “got away very lightly” and called her an “evil and wicked troll”.
At the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, the court heard Robinson sent a Facebook friend request in August last year to Katrice’s sister Natasha Walker.
Andrew Downie, prosecuting, said Walker messaged the profile, which included photos of Katrice and her family, and asked for it to be removed before later contacting military police, who are investigating Katrice’s disappearance.
Robinson, of East Way in Moreton, gave a DNA sample to police which confirmed she was not Katrice, the court heard.
Downie said: “Despite that result and Natasha, on a number of occasions, asking Heidi Robinson to take the profile down the defendant continued to message Natasha up to November 3 2018, still purporting to be Katrice and now stating that she thought the result of the DNA test was a cover up and that Natasha Walker herself should be investigated.”
In a statement, Walker said she “felt sick to the pit of my stomach” when she saw the profile.
She said: “We are going through a living hell and we don’t need anything else adding in.”
She said on her wedding day she had a photo of Katrice, who would have been 40 this year, and a button from her cardigan sewn into her dress.
Downie said: “Her wedding felt like the only thing she had done in her life which was for her own happiness as everything else she had done was about finding Katrice and even that, her wedding, was ruined by Robinson.”
In a statement Lee, who was in court for the hearing, said: “For you this saga may end here.
“My family do not have that luxury.
“Our nightmare continues, you cannot see the wounds that you have inflicted, but the scars you have left run deep.”
Ember-Jade Wong, defending, said: “She had no understanding as to what her offending was, given her condition at the time, believing up until very recently, when she became fitter, that she was Katrice Lee.”
District Judge Sanders said: “I’m satisfied, based on reports, that you had developed an honestly held belief which I have to accept is hard to understand to people not suffering from it, that you were Katrice Lee.”
Robinson, who wore a black top and trousers with gold hoop earrings, pleaded guilty earlier this month using a public communications network to send a message that was grossly offensive, indecent or menacing on November 3 last year.
She was also ordered to pay £500 compensation to Mrs Walker, given a restraining order to stop her contacting the Lee family and issued with a nighttime curfew.