Ben Needham: Thwarted hopes from 25 years of potential sightings of missing toddler

benbl, they are pix sent to a private invesitgator who thinks they could be to Ben Needham
benbl, they are pix sent to a private invesitgator who thinks they could be to Ben Needham
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The search for Ben Needham took his family around the world as his mum, dad, grandparents and sister followed up some of the hundreds of possible sightings of him over the years.

The first sighting came two days after Ben disappeared, when a boy matching his description was said to have been seen in a local airport.

The youngster was never traced.


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It was an incident which came to be repeated time and time again, with well meaning members of the public coming forward with details of possible sightings of the youngster.

Some were followed up by the police and Greek authorities, others were chased up by Ben’s family - all to no avail.

In the early years, holidaymakers were responsible for most of the sightings of Ben.

One sighting which raised hopes came 12 months after Ben disappeared, when five holidaymakers from Cheshire and Scotland took photographs of a boy they believed resembled the toddler on the island of Lesbos.

They said they saw a tot with gypsies in a taverna.

Thousands of posters of the missing child were displayed at airports and around Greece, with tourists urged to be on the lookout.

In May 1992 a Wincobank couple returned from Kefalonia and reported seeing a blond-haired boy resembling Ben.

The sighting was the second from the Greek island at that time and Ben’s parents, Kerry Needham and Simon Ward, travelled there to meet a young girl who was convinced she had played with Ben.

That same year a woman from Lancashire took a picture of a boy she spotted while on holiday in Corfu, convinced it was missing Ben.

In the first 18 months more than 100 tourists reported possible sightings.

In 1993, Ben’s grandfather Eddie travelled to Malta to search for the youngster after an alleged sighting.

And that same year Ben’s mum travelled to Rhodes after a Grimsby couple took a picture of a boy they thought could have been Ben.

In 1994, Ben’s family returned to Kos after an appeal for information on the third anniversary of his disappearance led to reports of 30 more possible sightings, most on Greek islands but one also on Cyprus.

In 1995 police removed a blond-haired boy from the home of a gypsy, who was suspected of being Ben, but the theory was later disproved.

The following year there was a sighting of a child matching Ben’s description in Turkey.

Ben’s relatives made scores of trips abroad to follow up leads, including one to Larissa in Northern Greece after convicts claimed to have information on the disappearance.

Two years ago Ben’s mum went to Turkey after a holidaymaker sent her a picture of a hotel worker similar in looks to the way experts believe Ben would look today.

Kerry said it had cost hundreds of thousands of pounds searching for her son.

She said at that time it used to take months for leads to be followed up by the police and Greek authorities.

“Any leads we get through our website or other means I pass to South Yorkshire Police, but they have to go through the proper channels and contact the Greek authorities, which is a process which can take months, so it is often quicker for me just to jump on a plane,” she said then.

“If I am sent a picture of somebody who works in a place I can visit I prefer to resolve the issue myself rather than having to wait for the authorities.

“I just can’t sit and wait for six months if we get a good lead, knowing I can be on a plane the following day to look at somebody myself to see if it could be Ben.”

Last year Kerry, her mum Christine and daughter Leighanna travelled to Greece to meet a man who contacted Greek authorities believing he could be Ben.

They were provided photographs of the man who resembled members of the Needham family and spent time with him but a DNA test ruled him out as being Kerry’s son.