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Fabric found in Kos search for missing Ben Needham

Published 27/09/2016

South Yorkshire Police officers search an olive grove on the Greek island of Kos, close to where toddler Ben Needham went missing 25 years ago
South Yorkshire Police officers search an olive grove on the Greek island of Kos, close to where toddler Ben Needham went missing 25 years ago

Police searching for missing toddler Ben Needham on the holiday island of Kos have found information of "slight interest" - including fabric - following an initial excavation of a site close to where he was last seen.

A 19-strong team of South Yorkshire Police officers, forensic specialists and an archaeologist have been scouring an arid stretch of farmland where 21-month-old Ben was playing a quarter of a century ago.

Digger teams were brought in on Monday afternoon to break up the clay-like ground.

It was the first day of a fresh excavation at the site following new evidence that the Sheffield toddler may have been killed and buried there, yards from where he vanished while his grandfather was renovating a property.

Detective Inspector Jon Cousins, from South Yorkshire Police, said the team - joined by local search and rescue volunteers - had made good progress in recovering potential evidence.

He said: "We found, as expected, a vast number of bones yesterday. Each one was examined immediately, and each one was discounted there and then as being an animal bone.

"There are some other items that are of slight interest - the odd piece of fabric. That is being analysed and looked at, but there is slight interest.

"Everything is being carefully looked at."

He added: "We want to make sure: do they or do they not relate to any of the items Ben was wearing on that day?"

The toddler was wearing a white and green shirt and a pair of leather sandals on the day he went missing, July 24 1991.

The items have been forensically collected and photographs sent to colleagues back in the UK before a decision is made on whether they require further examination and testing.

Mr Cousins, the senior investigating officer, said: "We got ahead of time which meant we got digging a little bit earlier than I expected.

"So far it is going better than to plan, which I'm pleased about."

Searches of the site, around two miles (3.2km) east of the Greek island's historic town centre, are expected to last for at least a week.

Ben's mother, Kerry Needham, who is not on the island, had been warned to "prepare for the worst" following new evidence that her son may have been killed by a digger driver working on the 2.5-acre site.

Konstantinos Barkas, also known as Dino, was clearing land with an excavator close to where Ben was playing on the day he vanished and may be responsible for his death, a friend of the builder reportedly told police following a TV appeal in May.

The driver reportedly died of stomach cancer last year, months before detectives from South Yorkshire Police arrived on the island for a renewed investigation.

A variety of theories on Ben's fate and reported sightings have arisen since his disappearance and Ms Needham had been holding out hope that she would one day be reunited with her son.

Mr Barkas's widow, Varvara, strongly dismissed any suggestions that her late husband had killed Ben in an accident.

Greek national Pete Dedes, a Northumbria Police inspector on secondment to help with the operation, said the search for clues was "painstaking" but necessary.

Speaking from the scene, he said: "There are a lot of people helping us out from the volunteer services - the Greek search and rescue.

"It is painstaking work, we are going down to fragments as small as 1cm that we're looking at so it takes time.

"It's laborious, it's not exciting by any sense of the word, but it has to be done, it has to be done methodically, and it has to be analysed to the very last grain of sand, basically."

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