Home Office funds for Needham probe
The Home Office has agreed to fund a team of British detectives to help search for toddler Ben Needham who went missing in Greece more than 20 years ago.
Ben, from Sheffield, vanished on July 24 1991 after travelling to the Greek island of Kos with his mother and grandparents.
Over the years there have been a number of possible sightings and a range of theories about what happened to the youngster, who would now be 25.
South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Alan Billings today said his force had secured special funding from the Home Office to allow British detectives to "continue to support the Greek authorities in the search for Ben Needham".
Ben's family have said they want South Yorkshire Police to investigate leads, including a file they have handed in that lists eight separate sightings from unconnected people of a boy who could potentially be Ben with the same Greek family.
The Home Office backed a South Yorkshire Police operation in 2012 when land was excavated on Kos, near the farmhouse from where Ben went missing. No trace of the little boy was found.
Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, who led the 2012 investigation, said: "Ben was a very young child when he went missing.
"His family has endured untold pain and anguish in the years that followed and have never given up in trying to find him.
"South Yorkshire Police has provided support to the Greek authorities wherever requested in assisting with the investigation.
"We hope that by continuing to work with them, we can assist in providing the answers Ben's family so desperately want.
"We will now take time to establish the right investigation team, with a view to the inquiry commencing in April."
Last year, South Yorkshire Police asked the Home Office for Special Grant Funding to follow up information the family - led by Ben's mother Kerry, 42, and sister Leighanna, 20 - believe has never been properly investigated.
Ben's family engaged a human rights barrister Ian Brownhill who spotted their plight on their campaigning Twitter feed and offered his services for free.
Some commentators have contrasted Ben's family's position with the extensive Metropolitan Police resources devoted to investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal in 2007.
Dr Billings said he had received a letter from the Home Office confirming the special funding.
He said: "Ben's mum, Kerry, has spent more than 23 years searching for her son. I fully support South Yorkshire Police in their ongoing pursuit of the facts.
"They have worked hard in facilitating the Greek authorities' investigation into Ben's disappearance but there is still more work to do. This will be made easier with this additional funding, which will allow further lines of inquiry to be explored.
"Along with the chief constable, I remain committed to finding Ben. I'm pleased that the Home Office saw fit to support us in this commitment and have agreed to provide additional funding which will allow South Yorkshire Police to further their investigations into the disappearance of Ben."
The funding is for the financial year from April 2015 and is for up to £700,000.