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Be prepared for worst, police tell mum of little Ben, missing since 1991

By Dave Higgens, PA

The mother of missing toddler Ben Needham has been told to "prepare for the worst" by detectives who suspect he may have died 25 years ago.

A team of British police officers is preparing to return to the Greek island of Kos to follow up "new lines of enquiry", reported to be fresh information that the 21-month-old may have been crushed to death by a digger.

The potential breakthrough came after a friend of digger driver Konstantinos Barkas, also known as Dino, said he believes the workman may have been responsible, according to the Daily Mirror.

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

It is understood the friend said the death was accidental, the newspaper reported.

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

However, her worst fears appeared to be confirmed during a recent visit by officers.

She told the newspaper: "What they had to tell me was the last thing they would have ever wanted to. They think my Ben could be dead and buried.

"They are no longer looking for a missing person. How do I cope with that? My mother's instinct has always told me he was alive. What if I've been wrong all this time?"

She told ITV News: "It could have been ended 25 years ago. I could have probably forgiven that person back then, but now? No. Twenty-five years of misery to find out this ending. It's going to be difficult."

Ben, from Sheffield, disappeared from outside Ms Needham's parents' home on the island on July 24, 1991. Mr Barkas had reportedly been helping to clear land for a local builder, a friend of her father and brother, near the property.

After spending 25 years tirelessly searching for her son, Ms Needham said she fears dying of "shock and heartbreak" if Ben's remains are found.

She said: "In one respect I hope to God they don't find anything and I'll still have that hope that Ben is out there, but then can I live with that for the rest of my life?

"This rollercoaster of emotions, the ups and downs, the devastation of thinking we've found him and then, after DNA tests, it's not him. I just don't know what the better outcome is."

Detectives are said to have carried out initial enquiries at the site, with experts testing soil and surveying the area with drones.

South Yorkshire Police confirmed officers would be travelling back to Kos in the coming weeks "to follow up new lines of enquiry" which emerged following a direct appeal made through the Greek media in May.

Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, who is leading the investigation, explained: "There will be planned operational activity at two locations on the island that have been identified as areas of interest to the investigation."

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