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'Handpicked team' to investigate Ben Needham leads

The mother of missing Ben Needham says new Home Office funding will allow South Yorkshire Police to send a "handpicked team" of officers to investigate his disappearance.

Kerry Needham told Good Morning Britain that she hoped the money, thought to be around £600,000, would help resolve "unanswered questions" and follow leads given to officers by the Needham family:

Ben Needham funding will help police investigate new leads

The Home Office has announced that funding is to be made available to investigate leads in the case of Ben Needham, who disappeared from a Greek island 24 years ago. The funding, thought to be around £600,000, will help South Yorkshire Police form a team to follow up witnesses and sightings which the family claims have never been fully investigated. The initial request for financial help was made last February - Ben's mother Kerry has been campaigning for years to get Government backing she feels has been denied to her son's case. Mark Witty reports.

Ben Needham: Background to the 24-year search

Kerry Needham's battle to find her son has stretched over two decades since his disappearance in July 1991 from the island of Kos.

He vanished while his grandfather Eddie Needham was renovating a farmhouse.

There has been no sight of him since - but there have been witnesses who have placed a blonde blue-eyed boy matching his description in the care of a Greek family.

All eight of them were named in a dossier handed to South Yorkshire Police by the Needham family last year.

Kerry and her family want leads like this investigated, with co-operation from the Greek authorities.

Kerry Needham. Credit: ITV News

The case of Madeleine McCann, who disappeared from Portugal in 2007, has drawn comparisons to Ben's case.

But the Needhams have always thought there was a disparity in the Government support for them.

The Home Office has funded the search for Madeleine to the tune of about £8 million after the personal intervention of Prime Minister David Cameron.

In 2012, a Home Office grant allowed the excavation of the farmhouse from where Ben went missing.

Teams including sniffer dog handlers, ground-penetrating radar operators and volunteers from Greek search and rescue failed to find any trace of Ben, whose 25th birthday was last October.

There has been a vociferous social media campaign to back the family's plea for Government help

The police team, headed by Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, who was in charge of the operation in Kos, is due to start work in April.

For Ben's mother, the knowledge her son's case no longer has to be financed and supported solely by her family comes as a relief - but there is still anger it has taken so long to get Government support.

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Five-year-old joins search effort for Ben Needham

Five-year-old Calleigh completed the ride in under two-and-a-half hours

A little girl has taken part in a bike ride to raise money to fund the search for Ben Needham.

She cycled 10 miles

Five-year-old Calleigh took on the 10-mile challenge from Howdon to Whitley in the North East to highlight the ongoing search for Ben, whose 25th birthday was this week.

It took Calleigh two hours and twenty minutes to complete her challenge and she has raised more than £260.

Calleigh at the coast
Calleigh's efforts have raised more than £260

Kerry Needham appeals for more funding for missing Ben investigation

Kerry Needham is continuing her campaign to find her son Ben, who disappeared from the Greek island of Kos in 1991.

Next week Ben will be 25-years-old. 23 of those years he's been apart from his mum, grandparents and all his family including his sister Leighanna.

In recent years Kerry has stepped up efforts to secure funding for South Yorkshire Police to investigate leads which the family believes have never been investigated fully.

In 2012 South Yorkshire officers joined a team to excavate the farmhouse from where Ben disappeared, but found nothing. Kerry joined Gaynor and Duncan in the studio with her daughter Leighanna and the new addition to the family, Ben's niece Hermione.

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