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Ben Needham search receives funding boost from Home Office

Published 16/03/2016

Ben Needham vanished in Greece on July 24 1991
Ben Needham vanished in Greece on July 24 1991

A British police force has been given extra funding from the Home Office to help in the search for Ben Needham who went missing in Greece nearly 25 years ago.

Ben, from Sheffield, was 21 months old when he vanished on July 24 1991 after travelling to the Greek island of Kos with his mother and grandparents.

Over the years there have been a number of possible sightings and a range of theories about what happened to the youngster, who would now be 26.

In January last year, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Alan Billings secured £700,000 of special funding from the Home Office to allow South Yorkshire Police to commit further resources to the investigation into Ben's disappearance until the end of this month.

A further £450,000 has now been approved by the Home Secretary, allowing work to continue until October, Dr Billings confirmed.

Dr Billings said: "Ben's mum, Kerry, has spent almost 25 years searching for her son.

"I fully support South Yorkshire Police in their ongoing pursuit of the facts. They have worked hard in facilitating the Greek authorities' investigation into Ben's disappearance. They have unearthed many new witnesses and have been able to rule out other lines of inquiry. Along with the Chief Constable, I remain committed to finding Ben.

"The extra funding allows the team to be strengthened with experienced detectives who will follow up the new leads.

"We remain hopeful that this will lead to a resolution one way or another."

The Home Office backed a South Yorkshire Police operation in 2012 when land was excavated on Kos, near the farmhouse from where Ben went missing. No trace of the little boy was found.

In 2014, South Yorkshire Police asked the Home Office for the Special Grant Funding to follow up information the family - led by Ben's mother Kerry and sister Leighanna - believed had never been properly investigated.

Ben's family engaged human rights barrister Ian Brownhill, who spotted their plight on their campaigning Twitter feed and offered his services for free.

In May last year, Ben's mother, sister and grandmother Christine Needham travelled to Greece with South Yorkshire Police detectives to make a direct appeal on a Greek television show about missing people.

Police have investigated a number of new lines of inquiry as a result of the programme and the ongoing investigation into the toddler's disappearance.

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