Digging begins in hunt for Sheffield’s Ben Needham

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A SPECIALIST search team is to start digging on the Greek island of Kos today - to look for the possible remains of missing Ben Needham.

Experts led by South Yorkshire Police Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick have flown to the holiday isle to help Greek police try to establish what happened to Ben 21 years ago in 1991.

The team is to examine a mound of earth and rubble close to where the toddler, from Parson Cross in Sheffield, vanished while visiting his grandparents.

For more than two decades Ben’s fate has been a mystery.

But recent investigations have revealed that, on the day he disappeared, a Kos builder was excavating earth for a property to be built in the field next to a farmhouse his grandparents were renovating.

One theory is Ben may have been buried accidentally while playing.

The mound of earth has never been searched before.

Ben’s mother Kerry, aged 41, who has travelled to Kos while the search is carried out, is convinced her son is still alive and that the blond-haired blue-eyed toddler was abducted.

She said she regarded the digging up of the mound as a chance to rule out once and for all the possibility that Ben had died.

“This is an elimination process and that’s how I’m dealing with it,” said.

“It’s one of the most important things to happen in 21 years.

“I really feel South Yorkshire Police are determined to help me find out what exactly has happened to Ben.”

She described the last two decades as ‘a 21-year nightmare you don’t wake up from’.

Experts will use sonar and three-dimensional scanning equipment to search the ground for bones, along with cadaver dogs trained to unearth human remains.

A forensic anthropologist and an archaeologist will also be involved.

Police have a sample of Ben’s DNA, from the heel prick blood-test done at his birth, to check against any remains which may be found.

The examination of the sealed-off area could take up to 10 days.

A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “We are leading a team of specialist search advisers who have travelled to Kos to support Greek authorities as they search for missing Sheffield toddler Ben Needham.

“Greek police are pursuing a line of inquiry centred on the grounds of the property from which Ben disappeared in 1991, aged 21 months.

“Work will begin to examine the ground, including using geophysical ground examination equipment, to determine whether any area should be dug.

“Other specialist resources include a forensic archaeologist and search dogs.

“The operation follows a Greek police request for specialist support to follow through a line of inquiry they have developed.

“During the past 18 months, South Yorkshire Police has also reviewed all the material held by the Greek police in relation to Ben’s disappearance in order to support the Greek inquiry.

“South Yorkshire Police has for a number of years supported Ben’s mum Kerry and other members of the family.”

Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith added: “Hopefully they won’t find Ben in that rubble and it closes another line of inquiry and narrows down the possibilities.

“I know Mrs Needham will be very keen for this work to be undertaken and rock solid confident, I’m sure, that they won’t find Ben there.”