Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Ben Needham: Kos search team focuses on 'newly planted tree'

Tree search in Kos
Image caption The search of the tree comes after analysis of a photograph showed it may not have been there at the time

Police searching for missing toddler Ben Needham on the Greek island of Kos are excavating an area around a tree, apparently planted since he vanished.

The 21-month-old from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, went missing during a family holiday in July 1991.

A fresh excavation of farmland began on Monday, following new evidence that he may have been killed and buried there.

A replica of the sandals Ben was wearing when he vanished is being made to see if they match any found items.

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Image copyright HelpFindBen
Image caption The last picture taken of Ben. A replica pair of Ben's sandals is being made in Kos to see if they match items found in the search
Image caption A forensic anthropologist said more than 100 bones had been found in the search, but all are from animals
Image copyright AP
Image caption Police are searching an area around a tree close to where Ben was last seen

Ben was last seen playing on the land and it is close to where he vanished while his grandfather was renovating a property 25 years ago.

His family believe he was abducted but police are now investigating whether he was accidentally run over and killed by a bulldozer.

A 19-strong team of South Yorkshire Police officers, forensic specialists and an archaeologist have been scouring the arid stretch of olive grove, which has been used for farming for generations.

Det Insp Jon Cousins from South Yorkshire Police said earlier that part of Ben's shoes, which were bought on the island, may have been found in the search on Kos in 2012.

He said: "There is quite a bit of work to be done. The [fragments] have been tested for DNA and they are negative, we have no DNA from the items we have.

"But you can imagine, 25 years in the ground, the condition they're in.

"They're very broken and I want them compared to make sure we have not missed any opportunity."

Image caption To date, police said they found "a vast number" of animal bones and small pieces of fabric which were "of slight interest"

BBC reporter Kevin Larkin in Kos

The replica of the sandal Ben Needham was wearing back in 1991 may not seem like a big deal but it could assist the team here in Kos in their search for answers.

The sandals Ben was wearing when he vanished are believed to have been bought on the island, and a local cobbler is making one especially for the investigation.

Having a replica means the search team can immediately compare its size, material and curvature to anything they may find buried here in the ground.

It'll take a few days to create but is set to be helping detectives by the end of the week.

Image caption The search is expected to last about a week

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