independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Gypsy girl find brings fresh hope for family of missing Ben

Four-year-old 'Maria' was found at a gypsy camp in Greece last week

THE mother of a missing British boy said she is "delighted" at the news that a blonde girl with blue eyes has been recovered from a gypsy camp in Greece, the country where her own son was last seen.

The four-year-old girl, known only as Maria, was thought to have been abducted after she was found in squalid conditions with a couple and 13 other children at a camp near Farsala in the centre of the country.

Kerry Needham, whose son Ben was just 21 months old when he vanished on the island of Kos in 1991 said: "My family and I are extremely delighted at the news that a four-year-old girl has been found in a gypsy camp in Larissa, Greece.

"We have always believed that Ben's abduction was gypsy-related and have had a long ongoing inquiry in Larissa. We hope that the investigation into Ben's disappearance will now be looked at again."

The youngster, from Sheffield, vanished after travelling to Kos with his mother and grandparents Eddie and Christine, who were renovating a farmhouse in the village of Iraklise.

Eddie Needham said: "We've always been told over the years it's impossible for gypsies to hide a European child, well this proves that it's not.

"What I want now is for the British police to contact Larissa police and have those people questioned regarding Ben."

Ben's sister Leighanna Needham (20) said the discovery of Maria in the gypsy camp was welcome news for her family's fight for answers. "It's given us great hope," she said yesterday.

Maria was found after a police officer attending the camp noticed she bore no likeness to her supposed family and investigated further. DNA tests confirmed his suspicions.

Ms Needham said the same technology could help find her long-lost brother.

ABDUCTION

The couple that Maria was living with at the camp, a 39-year-old man and 40-year-old woman, have been taken into custody and charged with child abduction and a worldwide search is under way for the girl's real family.

The discovery has also buoyed the hopes of Madeleine McCann's parents. Maddie vanished from a holiday apartment in Portugal in 2007.

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for her parents Kate and Gerry McCann, said Maria had renewed their hope that Maddie would also be found.

"They have always maintained that until there is evidence to prove otherwise, missing children can still be out there waiting to be found," he said.

Irish Independent

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