Madeleine McCann anniversary puts spotlight on missing South Yorkshire children Ben Needham and Andrew Gosden

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

By Darren Burke
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 2:22 pm

It was on May 3, 2007 that the three-year-old disappeared during a family holiday in Portugal and she has never been found.

The case is one of a number of unsolved missing persons cases involving UK children, including two high profile South Yorkshire cases, those of Andrew Gosden and Ben Needham.

All three youngsters have been the subject of repeated appeals, theories and suggestions over the years – but the heartbreak for all the families goes on.

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Andrew Gosden, Madeleine McCann and Ben Needham are some of the UK's highest profile missing persons cases.

Here’s a look at the trio have dominated the headlines as the search to find them goes on.

MADELEINE McCANN

Later that same year, her parents Kate and Gerry McCann are made "arguidos" - formal suspects - in their daughter's disappearance

The following year, Portuguese police halt their investigation and lift the "arguido" status of the McCanns

In 2013, Scotland Yard says it has "new evidence and new witnesses" in the case and opens a formal investigation while in the same year, detectives in Portugal reopen the investigation, citing "new lines of inquiry"

June 2020 sees police reveal that a 43-year-old German prisoner - named as Christian Brueckner - has been identified as a suspect in Madeleine's disappearance.

Earlier this year he was declared an official suspect.

Brueckner is currently serving a prison sentence for drug offences in Germany and was also given a seven-year term for raping a 72-year-old woman.

The 45-year-old has not been charged and strongly denies any involvement in Madeleine's disappearance.

She would be due to turn 19 later in May.

BEN NEEDHAM

Sheffield tot Ben went missing on the island of Kos on July 24, 1991.

He was staying at the farmhouse on the Greek island when he vanished but mum Kerry Needham believes her son is still alive.

She told the Daily Mirror: 'I still have that hope that South Yorkshire Police are wrong.

'And while there is no evidence to show me, I have to believe he is still alive. There's not a single thread of evidence to say otherwise.'

She added she feels 'stuck' in 1991 and has devoted three decades to the search of her son. She said: 'I've never had any dreams or goals apart from finding Ben.'

Ms Needham had moved from Sheffield to start a new life with her family in Greece when she went to work and left her son with his grandparents. She never saw him again.

South Yorkshire Police twice sent a team to Kos, the last time after a witness came forward to say that, before his death, digger driver Konstantinos 'Dino' Barkas confessed to killing Ben.

Forensic scientists said in 2018 chemical traces which indicate the presence of decomposing human blood were found on a toy car and a sandal which they believe belonged to Ben.

Police digs on land at the farmhouse failed to uncover remains and tests on a toy car and scrap of leather sandal did not find a DNA match with Ben.

It was this that made Ms Needham doubt the digger theory, adding that 'things don't add up'.

Detectives from South Yorkshire Police carried out a three-week search of Kos in 2016.

Speaking at the time, then Detective Inspector Jon Cousins 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.

ANDREW GOSDEN

Andrew has been missing for 15 years, like Madeleine McCann.

The teenager, who was 14 at the time of his disappearance, was last seen leaving King's Cross station in London in September 2007.

After taking £200 out of his bank account, he bought a one way rail ticket to the capital where he was captured on CCTV exiting the station.

He left his home in Balby and there have been no confirmed sightings of him since. He would be 28 by now.

Assisted by officers from the Metropolitan Police, South Yorkshire Police detained two London men on Wednesday 8 December.

A 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of kidnap, human trafficking and the possession of indecent images of children, and a 38-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of kidnap and human trafficking. Both have now been released under investigation while enquiries continue.

Senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Andy Knowles said: “Our priority at this time is supporting Andrew’s family while we work through this new line of enquiry in the investigation. We are in close contact with them and they ask that their privacy is respected as our investigation continues.

“We have made numerous appeals over the years to find out where Andrew is and what happened to him when he disappeared. I would encourage anyone with any information they have not yet reported to come forward.”