Ben Needham was just 21-months-old when he vanished on the Greek island of Kos on 24 July 1991. Playing outside his grandparent’s farmhouse in the village of Iraklis on a sunny summer afternoon while his mother was at work at a local hotel, Ben simply disappeared without a trace. Searches around the land where he was playing and across the island continued for two weeks but this little boy could not be found. Theories that he may have wandered off and got lost or had an accident were soon discounted leaving his family with the horrifying possibility that Ben Needham had been kidnapped.
Since his disappearance, his family has worked hard to keep his name in the media and in people’s minds desperate for any information about what happened to him. “There’s only so much hurt and pain a person can suffer. I have spent all these years desperately hoping for that fairytale ending and for Ben to walk through that door.” said Ben’s mother, Kerry Needham in 2016, three years after she released a book on her ongoing search for her son entitled ‘Ben’.
For 26 years they have tirelessly campaigned to keep his profile alive and push for further investigation into his disappearance. As a result there have been over 300 reported sightings of Ben within Greece. Twice DNA comparison testing was carried out on identified individuals to establish if they were, in fact, Ben Needham and twice these tests proved negative.
It was feared Ben had been kidnapped with the intention of either being adopted by a couple in Greece to raise as their own child or taken by child traffickers and trafficked out of Greece. Age progression photographs were produced by South Yorkshire police in September 1992 to try and show what Ben most likely looked like aged 3 years old. Something that has been repeated four times over the years to produce images of Ben at different ages as he would have looked like growing up.
Excavations of the areas where Ben was playing were carried out in 2012 which discovered a sandal which may have belonged to Ben in the earth next to the farmhouse where he was last seen. In January 2015 the British Home Office announced they would fund a full team of UK detectives to reopen the case into Ben Needham’s disappearance and carry out extensive excavations of the grounds in the area that he disappeared.
In September 2016 police received information that a digger, working in the field next to Ben’s grandparent’s farmhouse on the day Ben vanished, may have accidentally killed the toddler. Determined that if any evidence was there it would be found a three-week search at two different locations next to the farmhouse were carried out. These searches unearthed a toy car believed to have belonged to Ben and been with him at the time he disappeared.
In July 2017, 26 years after Ben’s disappearance, it was announced that blood had been detected on both the sandal and toy car believed to have belonged to him. This finding, along with the information received by police have provided the devastating conclusion that Ben Needham was killed on the day he disappeared in July 1991.
“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.”
It is now believed that the toddler was killed by accident by a digger operated by Konstantinos “Dino” Barkas, who died in 2015 of stomach cancer. A witness came forward highlighting he ‘took secrets to his grave’ in relation to the Ben Needham case. It is thought Barkas panicked after hitting Ben and moved his body to another site in order to cover up the accident. His actions, if indeed true, have left the Needham family in a constant state of torment for 26 years over the loss of Ben and not knowing what happened to him that day. The family has always held hope that Ben was still alive, that maybe he had been abducted from the site and brought up by another family on the Greek island.
This latest information and conclusions from the police investigators point to the dreaded conclusion that little Ben died on the day he disappeared. “This confirms what the police have been saying all along. My Ben was killed in an accident. But it also suggests that not only did they kill my boy and bury him where the toy car was found, they then moved him before police got to the site last October.” Kerry Needham told the Daily Mirror. “What kind of human being does that? It just infuriates me. How can they do such a thing?” she continued.
The Needham family now face the incredibly painful process of dealing with the very real prospect that Ben Needham is no longer alive and while they now have a better understanding of what happened to him, his body has not yet been found. Furthermore, people who knew what had happened to Ben on the island of Kos chose to remain silent. “I feel sick thinking someone has held on to information for 25 years and watched a family get torn apart. They watched as we begged and pleaded on the TV year after year after year,” said Kerry Needham. “We’ve had 25 years of misery to find out this end. This nightmare could have been ended 25 years ago.”