Ben Needham: Mother's 'trauma' at mistaken claims over son who vanished on Kos in 1991

The mother of missing Ben Needham has spoken of the emotional rollercoaster she endures every time someone comes forward claiming to be her son.

Ben, from Sheffield, was 21 months old when he vanished from outside a farmhouse his grandfather was helping to renovate on the Greek island of Kos 32 years ago.

On the anniversary of his disappearance (Monday 24 July) Ben's mother, Kerry, revealed how a man recently contacted her believing he was Ben.

DNA tests were carried out, proving the claim to be mistaken, but Kerry said the wait for confirmation was "traumatic".

She said: "He had absolutely convinced himself that he was Ben. There were a lot of things that had happened in his life to make him think he didn't belong to the parents that had brought him up. It's an ordeal.

"After speaking with the guy over a matter of weeks I started to convince myself that he was Ben and I've been through this many, many times. It's traumatic.

"You kind of try to keep an open mind, but it's is so difficult when you are talking to somebody who looks very similar to Ben when he was small. It's very hard not to get involved with somebody like that.

"I try my best not to have personal contact with somebody, but then my guilty conscience eats away at me and I think, if he is Ben, then by me not talking to him I am rejecting him and I can't do that. But at the end of the day when it turns out not to Ben it's soul destroying."

What happened to Ben Needham?

Ben was last seen outside a farmhouse his grandfather was renovating in Kos

The Needham family moved to Greece in 1991 for a new start and were enjoying life on Kos.

On the day Ben went missing his grandmother Christine had pushed him in his buggy to a farmhouse being renovated by his grandfather, Eddie.

The youngster had been happily playing outside the building before his family noticed he had gone.

There was no immediate panic, as it was thought Ben was with one of Eddie and Christine's sons, who had earlier visited the farmhouse. 

But they discovered later in the afternoon he had disappeared and police were called. As in many cases the family came under suspicion while they were desperately trying to find the youngster. 

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

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 who had taken him.

But the prisoner's story was a hoax 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.

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.

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 refuted 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. 

Kerry said: "Every day is a continuous fight for us, a fight to stay alive, to keep the investigation going, a fight to find the truth."

"In our minds Ben is still a missing person. Even though South Yorkshire Police came to their conclusion in 2016, we as a family have still not got any evidence to say that's what happened.

She and her family say they have never given up hope that Ben may be found alive.

In a bid to widen the search, supporters have set up a TikTok account and members of Kerry's family have uploaded their DNA to an ancestry website to allow people to test their own DNA to establish if there is a familial match.

"We are always working really, really hard to find the truth," she said.

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