Ben Needham: Police 'looking into' discovery of body found in River Danube in Germany

A bust of a body pulled from a German river and Ben Needham
Interpol have produced a bust showing what the boy pulled from a German river may have looked like, prompting speculation it could be Ben Needham. Credit: Interpol

Police investigating the disappearance of British toddler Ben Needham 32 years ago have confirmed they are "looking into" the discovery of a child's body in a river in Germany.

Ben, from Sheffield, was 21 months old when he went missing while playing outside a farmhouse on the Greek island of Kos in July 1991.

Despite one of the biggest missing person investigations in the history of South Yorkshire Police and numerous leads, he has never been found.

Ben’s mother Kerry, 51, said she alerted the force to a possible new lead after international police organisation Interpol issued an appeal to identify a child’s body found in the River Danube.

  • Ben's mother Kerry Needham speaks to ITV News

The body was found in May last year weighed down with a flagstone slab and wrapped in foil. It is not known how long he had been in the water.

Interpol DNA experts said they do not believe the boy is German.

Kerry said: "We just try to keep a very open mind, every lead has to be investigated. We're still looking at other leads that people send in - we get information near enough on a daily basis, people saying that they think they've seen Ben as a child or a grown-up, so we are constantly busy in the background."

Ben's family were on holiday when he disappeared on 24 July 1991.

The farmhouse where Ben Needham went missing in Kos.

In the following years, his family travelled all over Europe following up leads, including claims he had been taken from the island by a Greek family.

The theory he had been kidnapped was eventually 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 on Kos, 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 police found no trace of his DNA.

In 2016 detectives said it was their professional belief 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.

Ben Needham was last seen playing at his grandparents’ farmhouse on the Greek island of Kos on July 24 1991.

The family of the man, Konstantinos Barkas, who died in 2015, vehemently refuted the allegation that he was involved.

Kerry said she would never give up hope of finding her son or discovering what happened to him, but every new lead brings with it fresh trauma.

She said: "My anxiety is through the roof at the minute, and I suppose there are a lot of families out there who are going through the same as us. I try not to let my hopes get built up because it's just so traumatic.

"It is still raw, even just talking about it, it is still very raw. People think it tends to get easier as the years go on but it doesn't, it actually gets more difficult because you're struggling to follow up information. We get emails every day from people thinking that they saw Ben when he was a child and 32 years later, how do you follow that up?

"It doesn't matter what it takes how, much it takes out of me, I will continue to do what I have to do until I find the truth of what happened, or I find Ben himself."

Kerry Needham has alerted South Yorkshire Police to a new appeal by Interpol, to identify a child’s body found in Germany. Credit: INTERPOL | The International Criminal Police Organisation.

As part of their appeal, Interpol have produced an image of what the boy found dead in Germany may have looked like.

South Yorkshire Police confirmed they were aware of the reports from Germany.

In a statement, the force said: “We are aware of reports of a body being found in Germany. We are looking into the reports and at this time, we do not have any further update to provide.”

A statement from Interpol said: “The boy is thought to be aged between five and six. He was approximately 110 cm tall and 15kg, with brown hair and blood type 0.

“The results of investigations indicate that he likely spent time outside of Germany.”

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