The mum of Sheffield’s Ben Needham has criticised the decision by the parents of Madeleine McCann to shut their Twitter account because of vicious online abuse.
Tension has been building between the two missing persons campaigns in recent weeks, after Kerry Needham, whose son Ben vanished 24 years ago in Greece, questioned the huge sum of police money spent on the search for missing Madeleine.
The official Find Madeleine Campaign group, endorsed by Kate and Gerry McCann, said it has experienced a spike in abuse over the past few weeks and reportedly moved to block Twitter accounts supported by the Ben Needham Campaign.
Ms Needham, of Ecclesfield, is reported to have said: “It feels like a personal attack on me. It is deeply, deeply hurtful.
“I have myself had massive amounts of slanderous abuse from supporters of the McCann campaign in the past but I have never taken that personally.”
She added: “I have never criticised the McCann family. I have only ever criticised the authorities for the way the two cases have been handled so differently.”
The Official Find Madeleine Campaign Facebook page said the decision had been taken by parents Mr and Mrs McCann following incessant online abuse which is hampering the search effort.
A statement said: “After talking with Kate and Gerry yesterday, we have decided to delete our Twitter account and focus on Facebook.
“They agree it’s time to remove ourselves from a place that allows so much toxic content to be directed at us and does not permit us the ability to protect ourselves from people who want to damage the search for Madeleine.
“I have been dismayed, however, at some of the hatred and sheer viciousness directed at Kate and Gerry through our social media accounts for no logical reason at all.
“At times, it has had me in tears. It is hard to accept that some people can be so cruel to a family that has already experienced the worst pain imaginable.”
Three-year-old Madeleine disappeared during a family holiday in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007 and Ms Needham’s 21-month-old son Ben vanished from the Greek island of Kos in July 1991.
Both families believe their children are still alive.
McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: “Kate and Gerry McCann have always supported the Find Ben Needham campaign, indeed they have promoted it on their own Find Madeleine social media platforms.
“There is no spat between the two campaigns.
“Because of continued and ill-informed abusive comments by some social media users a decision has been taken to close down the Find Madeleine Twitter account.
“Kate and Gerry continue to wish Kerry Needham the best for the future and hope she will one day be reunited with Ben, as they too hope similarly to be reunited with Madeleine.”