Needham's hope after girl discovery
Published 20/10/2013 | 12:01
Missing Ben Needham's mother said she is "delighted" at the news that a blonde girl with blue eyes has been recovered from in a gypsy camp in Greece, the country where her own son was last seen.
The four-year-old girl, known only as Maria, was thought to have been abducted after she was found in squalid conditions with a couple and 13 other children at a camp near Farsala in the centre of the country.
Kerry Needham, whose son was just 21 months old when he vanished on the island of Kos in 1991, told ITV: "My family and I are extremely delighted at the news that a four-year-old girl has been found in a gypsy camp in Larissa, Greece.
"We have always believed that Ben's abduction was gypsy-related and have had a long ongoing inquiry in Larissa. We hope that the investigation into Ben's disappearance will now be looked at again."
The youngster, from Sheffield, vanished after travelling to Kos with his mother and grandparents Eddie and Christine, who were renovating a farmhouse in the village of Iraklise.
Eddie Needham also told ITV's Calendar News: "We've always been told over the years it's impossible for gypsies to hide a European child, well this proves that it's not.
"What I want now is for the British police to contact Larissa police and have those people questioned regarding Ben."
Ben's sister Leighanna Needham, 20, said the discovery of Maria in the gypsy camp was welcome news for her family's fight for answers.
"It's given us great hope," she told Sky News yesterday.
"Obviously, it's been a strong belief of myself and all my family that Ben was taken by gypsies for child trafficking or illegal adoptions and this case just shows that they can be found."
Maria was found after a police officer attending the camp noticed she bore no likeness to her supposed family and investigated further.
DNA tests confirmed his suspicions.
Ms Needham said the same technology could help find her long-lost brother.
"I think that would be a brilliant thing to get our DNA out there, even if it's not actually Ben but any siblings or any children maybe of Ben (that are found) then that could hopefully lead us to him," she said.
A couple Maria was living with at the camp, a 39-year-old man and 40-year-old woman, have been taken into custody and charged with child abduction and a worldwide search is under way for her real family.
The discovery has also buoyed the hopes of Madeleine McCann's parents.
The Leicestershire girl, then aged three, vanished from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007, as her parents dined with friends in a nearby tapas restaurant.
Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for her parents Kate and Gerry McCann, said Maria had renewed their hope that Madeleine would also be found.
"They have always maintained that until there is evidence to prove otherwise missing children can still be out there waiting to be found," he told the Daily Mirror.
Maria's discovery comes days after renewed interest in Madeleine's case across the UK and Europe following a BBC Crimewatch episode that aired on Monday night showing two new e-fits of a suspect.
Detectives investigating the case have since received more than 2,400 calls and emails since the programme aired.