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Sunday 11 December 2016

Fabric found in Kos search for missing Ben Needham

Ryan Hooper

Published 27/09/2016 | 09:06

A view of the scene in Kos, Greece, as officers from South Yorkshire police start excavations in relation to the missing toddler Ben Needham
A view of the scene in Kos, Greece, as officers from South Yorkshire police start excavations in relation to the missing toddler Ben Needham

Police searching for missing toddler Ben Needham on the holiday island of Kos have found information of "slight interest" - including fabric - following an initial excavation of a site close to where he was last seen.

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A 19-strong team of South Yorkshire Police officers, forensic specialists and an archaeologist have been scouring an arid stretch of farmland where 21-month-old Ben was playing a quarter of a century ago.

File photo dated 18/05/15 of Kerry Needham, the mother of Ben Needham
File photo dated 18/05/15 of Kerry Needham, the mother of Ben Needham

Digger teams were brought in on Monday afternoon to break up the clay-like ground.

It was the first day of a fresh excavation at the site following new evidence that the Sheffield toddler may have been killed and buried there, yards from where he vanished while his grandfather was renovating a property.

Detective Inspector Jon Cousins, from South Yorkshire Police, said the team - joined by local search and rescue volunteers - had made good progress in recovering potential evidence.

He said: "We found, as expected, a vast number of bones yesterday. Each one was examined immediately, and each one was discounted there and then as being an animal bone.

Undated handout file photo of Ben Needham as police investigating the disappearance of the missing toddler will begin excavation work on the Greek island of Kos on Monday in the search for possible remains
Undated handout file photo of Ben Needham as police investigating the disappearance of the missing toddler will begin excavation work on the Greek island of Kos on Monday in the search for possible remains

"There are some other items that are of slight interest - the odd piece of fabric. That is being analysed and looked at, but there is slight interest.

"Everything is being carefully looked at."

He added: "We want to make sure: do they or do they not relate to any of the items Ben was wearing on that day?"

The toddler was wearing a white and green shirt and a pair of leather sandals on the day he went missing, July 24 1991.

The items have been forensically collected and photographs sent to colleagues back in the UK before a decision is made on whether they require further examination and testing.

Mr Cousins, the senior investigating officer, said: "We got ahead of time which meant we got digging a little bit earlier than I expected.

"So far it is going better than to plan, which I'm pleased about."

Searches of the site, around two miles (3.2km) east of the Greek island's historic town centre, are expected to last for at least a week.

Ben's mother, Kerry Needham, who is not on the island, had been warned to "prepare for the worst" following new evidence that her son may have been killed by a digger driver working on the 2.5-acre site.

Konstantinos Barkas, also known as Dino, was clearing land with an excavator close to where Ben was playing on the day he vanished and may be responsible for his death, a friend of the builder reportedly told police following a TV appeal in May.

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

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

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

Press Association

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