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Police optimistic they will find missing Ben Needham

By Ryan Hooper

Published 27/09/2016

A South Yorkshire Police search team sifts through piles of earth taken from an olive grove near the scene where toddler Ben Needham went missing in Kos, Greece, in 1991
A South Yorkshire Police search team sifts through piles of earth taken from an olive grove near the scene where toddler Ben Needham went missing in Kos, Greece, in 1991
Ben’s mother Kerry Needham
Ben Needham

Police teams searching for missing toddler Ben Needham on the Greek island of Kos say they are "optimistic" a new excavation will provide answers, a quarter of a century after the British boy was last seen alive.

Digging began after a fresh line of inquiry suggested 21-month-old Ben may have been accidentally crushed to death by a digger near a farmhouse his grandparents were renovating in July 1991.

Senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Jon Cousins from South Yorkshire Police, said the 19-strong team expected to find "hundreds" of bones, all of which will be analysed in laboratories once they are recovered.

But he also refused to rule out that Ben may still be alive: "I am continuously keeping an open mind, and still do, as to what happened to Ben in 1991. There are still some other live lines of inquiry of what might have happened to Ben. All of this has resulted in a lot of myth and legend that has gathered over 25 years as to what has happened to Ben. It has allowed us to pare back and find out the truth and fact. That is why we're here today."

He added: "There are many lines of inquiry. I am keeping an open mind, but what I know at the moment with all the information we have, I've made the decision that it is necessary to do the work that we are going to be doing over the next week or so."

Asked if he expected to find answers, Mr Cousins said: "I am optimistic about the search taking place."

It is understood this latest search was triggered when a friend of a builder contacted police, in response to a fresh TV appeal for information in May. He reportedly told officers that Konstantinos Barkas was clearing land with an excavator close to where Ben was playing on the day he vanished, and may be responsible for his death.

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

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

Ben's mother Kerry Needham has led an exhaustive campaign since his disappearance to establish what happened to her son.

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