Toy car helps solve mystery surrounding disappearance of Ben Needham

Ben Needham

Ben Needham

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A toy car found during a police search for the remains of Ben Needham helped solve the 25-year mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Sheffield toddler.

The car, which Ben was playing with when he disappeared, was found at a spot where land was dumped on the day the 21-month-old vanished.

Detectives believe Ben was crushed by a digger clearing a building plot close to where he was last seen playing.

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The toddler was outside a farmhouse his grandfather was renovating when he went missing on the Greek island of Kos on July 24, 1991.

His family always believed he had been abducted but in June a man came forward and told the police his friend could have accidentally crushed Ben while he was clearing a building plot.

The digger driver died last year.

Police officers from South Yorkshire spent three weeks excavating the area around the farmhouse and the site where the digger driver dumped land.

It us understood that a yellow toy car was found at the spot where the digger driver dumped material from the building plot he was working on.

Ben's grandmother Christine told the Daily Mirror she remembered buying him two toy cars in Kos town centre.

The 64-year-old said: "I was shaken by it and both me and Kerry (Ben's mother) cried. I just felt sick really. It was a shock.

"I expected it to have no paint on but I was 90 per cent sure it was Ben's. When I saw it I felt disbelief."

Detective Inspector Jon Cousins, who led the search for Ben, said: "My team and I know that machinery, including a large digger, was used to clear an area of land on 24 July 1991, behind the farmhouse that was being renovated by the Needhams.

"It is my professional belief that Ben Needham died as a result of an accident near to the farmhouse in Iraklis where he was last seen playing.

"The events leading up to and following that incident have been explored by my team of experts to great lengths. The fact that we have not had a direct result during this visit to Kos does not preclude the facts that we know to be true.

"An item found on Saturday, which I have shown personally to some of Ben's family, was found in one of the targeted areas at the second site, very close to a dated item from 1991.

"It is our initial understanding that this item was in Ben's possession around the time he went missing."

Despite this stage of the investigation coming to an end, the officer pledged to continue searching for answers, and paid tribute to Ben's family.

Mr Cousins added: "We remain committed to the investigation and it will not simply close; myself and Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick will retain ownership of it and if new information comes to light, we will investigate it thoroughly.

"We will not stop in our quest to find further answers for Ben's family."

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