New images have been released showing what missing Ben Needham from Sheffield might look like.
The images have been produced by researchers at the University of Bradford, who have developed a new method of ageing facial images which it is hoped could help in searches for long-term missing people worldwide.
Professor Hassan Ugail, of Bradford’s Centre for Visual Computing, said: “Each year around 300,000 missing person cases are recorded in the UK alone. This has been part of our motivation in endeavouring to improve current techniques of searching for missing people, particularly those who have been missing for some considerable time.”
As a test case, researchers worked on the case of Ben Needham, who disappeared on the Greek island of Kos on July 24, 1991, when he was 21 months old.
Several images have been produced by investigators over the years showing how Ben might have looked.
Researchers used their new method to progress an image of Ben Needham to the ages of six, 14 and 22 years old. They believe their images are more realistic.
Professor Ugail added: “No criticism is implied of existing age progression work.
"Instead we are presenting our work as a development and improvement that could make a contribution to this important area of police work. We are currently working with the relevant parties to further test our method.
"We are also developing further research plans in order to develop this method so it can be incorporated as a biometric feature, in face recognition systems, for example.”
South Yorkshire detectives believe Ben died as a result of an accident close to the farmhouse where he was last seen alive.
He was playing outside a property his grandfather was renovating when he disappeared.
A digger was being used to clear an area of land close to the farmhouse on the same day.
Last year, Detective Inspector Jon Cousins said: “My team and I know that machinery, including a large digger, was used to clear an area of land on July 24, 1991, behind the farmhouse that was being renovated.
“It is my professional belief that Ben Needham died as a result of an accident near the farmhouse where he was last seen playing."