VIDEO: Ben Needham operation draws to close as missing Sheffield toddler mystery remains

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Police have formally closed Kos physical search for the South Yorkshire tot who disappeared a quarter of a century ago.

But Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Jon Cousins pledged at today's lunchtime press conference "we will not stop in our quest to find further answers for Ben’s family.”

Ben Needham: mystery remains

Ben Needham: mystery remains

And he revealed 3,600 hours of excavations and 1,200 tonnes of material sifted had unearthed at the weekend key discovery in form of what Ben's family have confirmed as one of his possessions.

Investigating officers, involved with volunteers in 21 days of excavation at two key sites on the Greek Island, will soon return to the UK with this and other items recovered during the search.

The Iraklis area farmhouse where the 21-month-old was last seen was scene for DI Cousins and colleagues to conclude latest stage of "worldwide and very complex investigation". Digs marked latest phase of 19 month Home Office funded probe that has seen dedicated team tasked with trying to find answers to Ben’s disappearance.

DI Cousins said: “During the course of inquiries we have made over the last 19 months, we have closed off a large number of theories about what happened to Ben, many of which have been open for over 20 years.

DI Jon Cousins: lead officer on site

DI Jon Cousins: lead officer on site

“However, based on the information that I have now, as a result of an extensive and thorough investigation, it is without doubt the current line of inquiry is the most probable cause for Ben’s disappearance.

“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 Needham’s. 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".

The lead officer revealed: "“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.

Operation Ben: sites excavated

Operation Ben: sites excavated

“It is our initial understanding that this item was in Ben’s possession around the time he went missing. The recovery of this item, and its location, further adds to my belief that material was removed from the farmhouse on or shortly after the day that Ben disappeared.

“Ben’s family have been provided with a full and thorough account of the events which we know to have taken place and also the speculations that we have been able to discount. Our thoughts are with the family as they are given time to digest this and they have our full and continued support".

DI Cousins concluded: “Our drive has always been the family, and their welfare. Ben's family have never given up on the team and I am incredibly thankful for their constant inspiration.

“We are also grateful to the current Greek authorities for their assistance, and the help received from the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been vital in allowing the team to continue getting answers for a family in need.

Search flashback: officers scour for clues

Search flashback: officers scour for clues

“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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