Belfast Telegraph

Torment of Co Down man mistaken for missing Ben Needham

By David Young

A bizarre case of mistaken identity has pitched a man from Northern Ireland into a bureaucratic nightmare.

While living in Canada 10 years ago, a neighbour told police that Co Down man Ben Gleave was in fact missing English schoolboy Ben Needham, who disappeared from a Greek island in 1991. The little boy was just 21 months old when he went missing.

Mr Gleave gave the Mounties DNA samples and documents to prove he was not the missing boy - and heard nothing more.

Now, a decade later, thanks to police emails leaked to the media and a story in a national newspaper, Mr Gleave, who is now 28, is once again being forced to prove he is not the missing child.

Unknown to Mr Gleave, the Canadian police sent his DNA to a private investigator working for Ben Needham's grief-stricken parents, and not to South Yorkshire police who were investigating the boy's disappearance.

It's understood the private investigator lost the DNA samples - and Canadian police have not explained why the materials were not sent to South Yorkshire Police.

Mr Gleave was horrified to learn that his DNA samples had gone missing. He has offered to take another DNA test to again prove beyond doubt who he really is - but no-one from the authorities has been in contact with him.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, the Bangor slimming consultant's voice trembled with emotion.

"This is turning into the worst day of my life. This whole thing is making my life hell. It's a disaster. I want my name ruled out - I am not Ben Needham," he said.

"I have my birth certificate: I know who I am. The Canadian police told me that if no-one got in touch with me, I had nothing to worry about.

"And no-one got in touch with me for 10 years," Mr Gleave added.

He declined to share his feelings about the neighbour in Canada who first contacted the police.

But he said he felt it was wrong that the hopes of the parents of the missing boy should be raised by the mix-up.

"I just don't know what I have to do to clear this up. I thought all this was behind me."

A clearly upset Mr Gleave said: "What can I do? Who do I contact? The business is having a terrible effect on my life: it's affecting my business, and it's affecting my family."

The Belfast Telegraph tried to contact South Yorkshire Police last night in order to put them in touch with Mr Gleave, but the force could not be reached.

Ben, from Sheffield, vanished on July 24, 1991, after travelling to the island of Kos with his mother and his grandparents. The youngster would now be 25.

Belfast Telegraph

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