The heartbroken Sheffield mum whose son vanished 23 years ago today has flown abroad 1,000 times looking for her son.
Kerry Needham, aged 42, last went overseas only last month, to Turkey, after a holidaymaker sent her a picture of a hotel worker similar in looks to the way experts believe Ben would look today.
She also visited Turkey in January following up another lead.
Kerry, from Ecclesfield, said she has spent ‘hundreds of thousands’ of pounds searching for her beloved son, who vanished from outside a remote farmhouse his grandparents were renovating on the Greek holiday island of Kos in July 1991.
She claims it can take months for leads to be followed up by the police and Greek authorities.
“Any leads we get through our website or other means I pass to South Yorkshire Police, but they have to go through the proper channels and contact the Greek authorities, which is a process which can take months, so it is often quicker for me just to jump on a plane,” she said.
“If I am sent a picture of somebody who works in a place I can visit I prefer to resolve the issue myself rather than having to wait for the authorities.
“It has certainly drawn on our finances over the years, which is one of the reasons I brought out a book about Ben’s disappearance - to help pay for the flights. I just can’t sit and wait for six months if we get a good lead, knowing I can be on a plane the following day to look at somebody myself to see if it could be Ben.”
Kerry, who became a grandmother to Hermione - her daughter Leighanna’s baby - five months ago, is convinced Ben is still alive.
She said she will spend today thinking of her son, who was 21 months old when he vanished.
Kerry said her theory is that Ben was snatched to be sold on by gypsies, but that there was so much publicity surrounding her son’s disappearance he ended up staying with his captors.
“I absolutely believe Ben is still alive and that because of the life gypsies lead - travelling and living in camps - he won’t have ever seen all the publicity about himself,” she said.
Kerry said she feels ‘angry’ and ‘abandoned’ by the British Government, pointing out that while the family of missing British girl Madeleine McCann has a team of dedicated police officers looking for the youngster, the South Yorkshire officers helping search for Ben ‘all have other jobs’.