Police searching for clues about disappearance of British toddler Ben Needham keen to find two toy cars he was playing with
Police searching for clues as to what happened to the missing toddler Ben Needham on the Greek island of Kos are looking for a pair of toy Matchbox cars that the little boy was playing with on the day he disappeared.
Officers from South Yorkshire Police, who have spent a week scouring land around an old farmhouse, are also keen to find a pair of green shorts that the 21-month-old was wearing that day. Ben, who was being potty-trained, wet himself and his grandmother, Christine Needham, washed the shorts and hung them out to dry in the sun.
“The little cars were some of his favourite toys and he used to like to bang them together,” a police official said. For the seventh consecutive day, officers and Greek volunteers spent Sunday raking huge mounds of dirt that have been excavated from a field and an olive grove located either side of the farmhouse.
They are looking for bones and fragments of bone, after a tip-off from an islander in May that Ben may have been accidentally crushed by a digger that was working on the site, operated by a local builder, Konstantinos ‘Dino’ Barkas. Mr Barkas died last year but his widow and son have strenuously denied that he had anything to do with the toddler’s disappearance.
“We’re searching for bone fragments, toys, bits of clothing – anything that could be of interest to the British police,” said Alex Pantelidis, a local man who is helping with the search. “For us it is very important, we have spent the last 25 years seeking answers as to what happened to Ben.”
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Ben’s grandfather, Eddie, was helping a local Greek family restore the property, which lies in the village of Iraklis, about a mile from the sea. The child’s mother, Kerry, who was 19 at the time, had gone to work in a nearby hotel, on the day he vanished in July 1991.
Over the weekend police started excavating a new area at the site – the remains of a farm building that Mr Barkas dismantled. “The earth removed from that area is still being raked out,” said Detective Inspector Jon Cousins, who is leading the British operation. “We’ve been hard at it since this morning.”
The Needham family, from Sheffield, issued a statement in which they thanked police and volunteers from the Greek Red Cross and an emergency organisation called the Hellenic Rescue Team.
“We are so incredibly thankful for the help and support of the volunteer search teams working with officers in Iraklis.
“To know that people are giving up their own time and are as desperate as we are to find answers about what happened to Ben is something we will be eternally grateful for,” the statement said. The Greek volunteers include soldiers, doctors, lifeguards and ambulance paramedics, who have taken time off from their jobs to help with the search.
“We’ve been told that volunteers are coming to the site on their days off, or straight from work, and we honestly can’t thank them enough for that and for their dedication.”
The search operation was temporarily suspended on Friday over a dispute with the owner of the land over the discovery of four ancient tombs, believed to be at least 1,500 years old. The dispute was resolved after the owner was given assurances that his land would not be sequestered and declared an archaeological site.