More than 30 people have made direct contact with South Yorkshire Police since detectives joined Ben Needham’s family on Greek television last night.
Two South Yorkshire police detectives sat alongside the Needham family on the hugely popular Light at the end of the Tunnel show, a show about missing people which is watched by around 50 per cent of the Greek audience.
During the three hour show, which focused almost entirely on the disappearance of Ben, many calls were received by call handlers at the show.
At the same time, the Operation Ben team – a team of highly trained and specialist detectives who work solely on the case – were on hand at their base in Sheffield to take calls from the Greek public. A Greek officer based within the team took calls and contact was made by more than 30 people by phone and by email.
Police believe there are around seven potentially interesting lines of enquiry, which will now be explored further, in partnership with the Greek authorities.
Ben was just 21 months old when he disappeared from the village of Iraklise, Kos, on 24 July 1991. Despite hundreds of reported sightings over the years, he has not been found.
In January this year, the Home Office granted funding for South Yorkshire Police to assist the Greek authorities in continuing the search to find him.
A dedicated team of nine officers, including two Greek-speaking officers, was established to explore existing lines of enquiry.
As part of this, some of the team travelled to Athens with Ben’s mum Kerry, his sister Leighanna and his grandmother Chritine, to appeal to people all over Greece to come forward with information, and also to anyone who they believe could be Ben.
Kerry said: “I have been completely overwhelmed by the amount of public support we had from last night’s show and extremely impressed with the investigation team - they did us proud.
“They appealed on national television at our side and I was incredibly encouraged by the response we have received. The information received by the show will now be passed to the police tor them to progress. It’s fantastic to know that the Greek public are taking Ben’s disappearance seriously and want to help us.”
Det Supt Matt Fenwick added: “We have received lots of information over the last 24 hours – some new information and some which correlates to information we already have in our possession. We will now work with the Greek police to review that information to move the inquiry forward.”
A press conference was also held with key Greek media in Athens today to ensure the message reached as many people as possible.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Ben can call the Operation Ben team on 0114 296 3022 or email them on email@example.com.
Independent charity Crimestoppers are also offering a reward of up to £10,000 to anyone who provides information which leads to the discovery of Ben. Call them on 0800 555 111 with information.