Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Girl's discovery gives Ben Needham family 'great hope'

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Media captionBen Needham's sister Leighanna says that her family have never given up hope that her brother is alive

The discovery of a girl found living on a Roma settlement in Greece has given the family of a missing Sheffield boy "great hope", his sister has said.

Ben Needham, from Sheffield, was 21 months old when he went missing while on a family holiday in Kos in 1991.

Ben's sister, Leighanna, said the girl's discovery, in a camp near Farsala, central Greece, was "very significant to Ben's case".

"It gives us great hope that one day this will be Ben," she said.

DNA tests revealed the child, called Maria and aged about four, was not related to the couple she lived with.

'Too, too long'

Officials believe she may have been a victim of abduction or child trafficking.

Image caption Police in Greece found the blonde girl living at a Roma camp

Ms Needham said this case was very similar to her family's and the Greek police's original thoughts about what had happened to Ben.

"Child trafficking and illegal adoption in Greece has been pretty high and that's exactly what they thought had happened to Ben - that he was taken for a childless family and passed through Gypsy camps."

A spokesman for Kate and Gerry McCann, whose daughter Madeleine went missing in Portugal in 2007, said the case also gave them hope that she would one day be found alive.

In October last year, police began a major new search for Ben's remains near the family's former farmhouse on Kos but nothing was found.

His mother has always maintained her son is alive and was probably abducted.

The Needham family was "delighted" at the discovery of the girl and hoped she could soon be reunited with her parents, said Ms Needham.

"Hopefully, this will allow the Greek authorities to trace what happened to Ben.

"It's now nearly Ben's 24th birthday and it's too, too long," she said.

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