Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Ben Needham: Kos search for missing boy's remains

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Media captionAbout 40 officers and search and rescue volunteers are taking part in the operation

Police are searching land on the Greek island of Kos for the remains of a Sheffield toddler who went missing 21 years ago.

Ben Needham vanished on the island in July 1991, when he was 21 months old.

Experts from police forces across the UK have flown out to help Greek authorities search land surrounding the family's former farmhouse.

South Yorkshire Police officers with sniffer dogs are among those inspecting a rubble mound and fields.

The now overgrown mound is next to the farmhouse which Ben's grandparents were renovating in 1991 and where the toddler was last seen.

'Provide closure'

One theory is that it is building material which was dumped at the time Ben went missing and he could have been accidentally buried beneath it.

Image caption Ben was playing outside the farmhouse when he went missing

Two large diggers have been brought to the site.

Det Supt Matt Fenwick, of South Yorkshire Police, said: "We are looking for the remains of Ben Needham.

"If Ben in any way has come to misadventure within the immediate vicinity where we are searching then I would hope we would find him and provide closure for the Needham family."

Ben was playing outside the farmhouse when he disappeared.

Despite a number of possible sightings, no trace of the boy has been found.

Previous theories on Ben's disappearance have included murder or abduction. It was felt possible he might have been sold on to a family who could not have a child.

'True commitment'

It is understood that Ben's mother Kerry Needham, supported by a police family liaison officer, will arrive on Kos during the search.

Mrs Needham has always said that she believes her son is alive.

In a statement, she said: "I am so pleased that this investigation is now moving forward and that the Greek authorities are showing a true commitment to investigate Ben's disappearance.

"I understand that all possibilities have to be considered and the search of the area around the building work where Ben disappeared is part of that."

The operation, expected to last a week to 10 days, follows a Greek police request for specialist support to follow through a line of inquiry they have developed.

The British team, led by Mr Fenwick, is about 18-strong and includes dog teams and a forensic archaeologist.

South Yorkshire Police, which has reviewed all material held by Greek police in relation to the case, has obtained Ben's DNA from Sheffield Children's Hospital.

The force said experts would examine the ground using the geophysical equipment to determine whether any areas should be dug up.

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