The family of missing Sheffield toddler Ben Needham said today they believe ‘this is the year’ they will find the answers to his disappearance.
Kerry Needham said ‘it was a new start’ for everyone involved in the search for the tot, who went missing in Greece nearly 24 years ago.
It comes as South Yorkshire Police received 85 calls with potential information following an appeal on Greek television.
Kerry, her mother Christine and daughter Leighanna appeared alongside detectives on the hugely popular Light at the End of the Tunnel show, a programme about missing people which is watched by around 50 per cent of the Greek audience.
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.
Earlier this year, South Yorkshire Police received £700,000 from the Home Office to fund a dedicated team of nine officers to focus on the investigation and help the Greek authorities continue the search for him.
Independent charity Crimestoppers has also offered a reward of up to £10,000 to anyone who provides information which leads to the discovery of Ben.
Kerry, from Parson Cross, said today she believes this is the best chance she has ever had of being reunited with her son.
She said: “The trip to Greece went very, very well. We had a massive, massive response, not only from the programme but also from the Greek press conference as well.
“All in all, up to now, we have had 85 contacts with information. We have never ever had that response.”
She said the family has been on a ‘rollercoaster of emotions’ since Ben disappeared, but now feels that being ‘united’ with a dedicated team of police officers she will find the answers she is desperately searching for.
Kerry maintains Ben was abducted in Kos, in a random or planned abduction.
She said: “It seems that now everything is coming together at last. It has taken a long time, it has taken a lot of heartache suffered by myself and the rest of my family but it’s positive now and that has given us strength.
“This is a new start. We are putting the past behind us. Whatever went wrong in the past it’s gone.
“This is a new start for my family and this is a new start for South Yorkshire Police and together we will crack it.”
Ben’s grandmother Christine said the family had been left devastated in the past when new leads have turned out to be false, but believes this is ‘our year’ to find Ben.
She said: “It’s sort of like we have been carrying the weight of it alone for so long.
“It feels like we have got a little lighter burden. Although it felt strange to hand it over to someone else because we have done it for so long and it’s not that we don’t trust them to do it, we absolutely do but in the past we had to do it ourselves.
“No-one would give up their life to do what we have done, but it’s our family. We couldn’t just sit back and wait.
“This is absolutely the best time, we are very confident that something will give on this.”
Det Supt Matt Fenwick said: “We have had an excellent response. It was about appealing to the Greek communities. It has been really good and really positive.”
He said officers want to find out what happened to Ben to bring ‘potential closure’ for Kerry and her family, and ‘potentially reunite Kerry with Ben’.
n 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. To contract Crimestoppers anonymously call 0800 555 111 with information.