Mother launches fresh appeal 31 years after Sheffield toddler Ben Needham disappeared

Ben Needham was 21 months old when he vanished Credit: Family picture

The mother of missing Sheffield toddler Ben Needham has made a fresh appeal on the 31st anniversary of his disappearance from the Greek island of Kos.

Kerry Needham, writing on the Facebook page dedicated to the search for her son, said "As today marks 31 years since Ben disappeared my family and I would like to thank everyone for your continued support. Bens case now has a new SIO and she is a DCI. We are delighted to still have the help and support of South Yorkshire police and any information will be followed up to the best of our ability, anyone with any information can contact us or the police directly, we are still hopeful that we will find the answers to exactly what happened to Ben."

The 21-month old vanished from outside a farmhouse which his grandad Eddie was helping to renovate on the afternoon of July 24 1991.

The farm house where Ben Needham went missing in Kos Credit: ITV Calendar

Last year ITV Calendar reported that three people had seen a young child at a campsite in Corfu - 600 miles from Kos , in the year Ben went missing . Greek Police made inquiries but nothing has come of these sightings, and the trail has yet again gone cold.

The entire Needham family had moved to Greece earlier in 1991 for a new start and were enjoying life on the holiday island. On the day Ben went missing he'd been pushed in his buggy to the farmhouse by his grandmother Christine. The youngster was happily playing outside the building when it became apparent he wasn't there. There was no immediate panic, as it was thought Ben was with one of Eddie and Christine's sons, who'd earlier visited the farmhouse. 

Ben with his mum Kerry

To their horror they discovered later in the afternoon this was not the case - and police were called. As in many cases the family came under suspicion - while they were just desperately trying to find the youngster. The island's airport and ferry terminals were not closed in the vital hours after he was reported missing.

Over the years the family travelled all over Europe following up leads, believing Ben had been taken from the island by a Greek family, after a prisoner in a Greek jail claimed to know where Ben was, and, more importantly, WHO had taken him. But the prisoner's story was a lie - and the theory about kidnapping was finally quashed by South Yorkshire Police, who had secured a Home Office grant to try to solve the case.

The search for Ben

Government intervention allowed two excavations of the farmhouse, in 2012 and 2016, but no physical trace of Ben was found. A scrap of leather sandal and a toy car, thought to belong to Ben, were discovered, but his DNA was not present.

Toy car found in search for missing Ben Needham

South Yorkshire Police said in 2016 that it was their professional belief that Ben had died on the day he went missing - killed in an accident with a digger driven by a local man close to the farmhouse, which lies beside a narrow single-lane track in remote part of Kos.

The family of the man, Konstantinos Barkas, who died in 2015, vehemently refute the allegation that he was involved. Without physical evidence the family is still desperate for information about Ben - and believe there are people on the island who have still not come forward. 

What Ben Needham may look like now as an adult.

ITV Calendar Producer Mark Witty, who has covered the story since Ben's disappearance, said "Whatever happened to Ben there is no doubt that the answer to this case lies on the island of Kos. The theory that Ben died on the day he went missing is entirely plausible - but without any physical evidence of remains after two excavations - and I witnessed the unstinting efforts of South Yorkshire Police and Greek volunteers - there is always the possibility that Ben did not perish in a tragic accident."

The search for the truth will never stop for the Needham family. The Facebook page 'Help Find Ben' continues to receive information even after three decades - all of which is followed up by the small but dedicated  admin team which runs the group.