A woman who posed online as a toddler who went missing nearly 40 years ago has been spared jail.
Heidi Robinson, 40, set up a Facebook profile under the name of Katrice Lee, who vanished on her second birthday in Germany on November 28, 1981.
She then sent a friend request in August last year to Katrice’s sister Natasha Walker, Wirral Magistrates’ Court heard.
Andrew Downie, prosecuting, said Mrs 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 her sister’s disappearance.
Robinson, from Moreton, gave a DNA sample to police which confirmed she was not Katrice, the court heard on Wednesday.
The toddler disappeared on the outskirts of Paderborn in Germany, near the British military base where her father Richard Lee was stationed.
At the sentencing, District Judge Nicholas Sanders said it was clear Robinson had been suffering from a mental illness when she committed the act of “unimaginable cruelty”.
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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, Mr Lee called Robinson an “evil and wicked troll” and said she had “got away very lightly”.
“For you this saga may end here,” he said in an earlier statement in court.
He added: “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.”
In a statement, Mrs Walker said she “felt sick to the pit of my stomach” when she saw the profile posing as her sister.
She said: “We are going through a living hell and we don’t need anything else adding in.”
Ember-Jade Wong, defending, claimed Robinson had no understanding as to what her offending was, given her condition at the time.
District Judge Sanders added: “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 pleaded guilty earlier this month to 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 from contacting the Lee family and issued with a nighttime curfew.