Disappearance of Ben Needham
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The disappearance of Ben Needham occurred on 24 July 1991, when the twenty-one-month-old boy went missing on the Greek island of Kos. Ben Needham (born 29 October 1989 in Sheffield, United Kingdom) is the son of Kerry Needham (born 1971) and her boyfriend Simon. Ben has a strawberry-like birthmark in the nape of his neck.
Ben Needham had been holidaying with his parents on Kos (where his maternal grandparents had emigrated) in the village of Iraklise when he went missing on 24 July 1991. His mother Kerry Needham also planned to move permanently to Kos with Ben to be near her parents, Eddie and Christine Needham, and brothers, Stephen and Danny, then aged seventeen and eleven respectively.
On the day of his disappearance, Ben had been left in the care of his grandparents while his mother went to work at a local hotel. He had been playing near the doorway of the family's farmhouse whilst the adults were having lunch. His grandmother had taken her eyes off him for just a few minutes when it was discovered he was gone. This was sometime around half past two in the afternoon.
The family first searched the area for Ben, assuming he had wandered off, or that their teenage son, Stephen, had taken him out on his moped. When no trace of the boy was found, the police were notified. However, the police extensively questioned the Needhams, holding them as prime suspects, and delayed in informing airports and docks. Eventually they widened their search for the child. A shop assistant had seen Ben on the evening of his disappearance with an older boy, but this lead was not followed up until it was too late to trace the boys.
It is the belief of the Needham family that Ben was kidnapped with the intention of either being sold for adoption or taken by child traffickers. However, there is no evidence to support this theory and some observers consider an accident to be a legitimate alternative scenario.
There have been over three hundred sightings of boys matching Ben's description reported, both on the Greek mainland and on Greek islands. Most were called in shortly after his disappearance during the period of 1991 to 1992. There were also a number of instances where it looked as if the mystery had been solved. In late 1995, private investigator Stratos Bakirtzis found a blond boy, aged around six years old, to be living with a Gypsy family in a camp located in Salonika, Greece. The child claimed he had been given to the Gypsies after being abandoned by his biological parents and his adoptive mother claimed to have bought the boy from another Gypsy. But there was no evidence found to suggest this was Ben.
In 1998, British holidaymaker John Cookson saw a blond boy of about ten playing on a beach in Rhodes. Cookson said that the child was known as 'the blond one' by his friends and was the only fair-haired child in the mix of dark-haired Greek children. Suspicious, he took photographs of the children and pretended to tousle the boy's head to acquire a hair sample for DNA analysis. However, DNA testing proved the boy was not Ben, and the Greek boy's family also provided infant photographs to prove he was their child.
In 2003, shortly before the twelfth anniversary of Ben's abduction, Private Investigator Ian Crosby contacted the Metropolitan Police Facial Imaging Team and suggested they could consider creating an updated photograph of Ben. They did and used age progression techniques to alter a toddler photograph of Ben to how it would look when he was thirteen years old. Another age-updated photograph was constructed in 2007. The case remains open.
Kerry Needham moved back to Britain in September 1991, unable to settle in the island that saw her losing her baby son. She briefly reunited with Ben's father Simon and they had a second child Leighanna (born 1994). In 2003, private investigator Ian Crosby volunteered his help, and created the first Ben Needham website. He also made a visit to Kos with Ben's uncle Danny, and further visits to meet with Greece police. Mr Crosby has also investigated a photograph, sent to him by a holidaymaker who visited Turkey in 1999, which depicts a number of Turkish village children, including a blond boy who resembles the age-progression photo of what Ben might look like aged thirteen. Crosby said "I get many hundreds of reports every year from people on holiday who think they have seen Ben. It is impossible to investigate many of these claims. It is very sad to realise how little is actually done to find missing children like Ben and Madeleine McCann. Many British people who I have discussed Ben's case with are amazed when I tell them that no British police officer has ever travelled to Kos or Greece in connection with Ben's case. I even offered to pay for police officers to go, my offer was turned down. Sadly it remains therefore highly unlikely that the majority of children in these types of cases will ever be found." Despite having spent £20,000 flying over the world chasing leads in her son's disappearance, Kerry is certain that she will one day be reunited with Ben.
In November 2010, Ben's mother, Kerry Needham-Grist, was contacted by Scott Morrison, a 34-year-old man from Peterhead on the North East Coast of Scotland. This man offered his help voluntarily in doing what he could do help find Ben. Scott designed posters and graphics and shortly afterwards created the first official campaign website for finding Ben at http://www.helpfindben.co.uk. The website was also backed up with a campaign on Facebook (this can be found by searching "Help Find Ben Needham" and bears "Official Facebook" in the profile graphic). A petition is also currently online calling on the government to take action. Part of Mr Morrison's campaign has seen letters sent to the Prime Ministers of the UK and Greece as well as Her Majesty the Queen. Replies were received from UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Buckingham Palace. As yet no response has been received from the Greek Prime Minister. The campaign continues and Mr Morrison states on the Official Facebook group that he is determined to locate Ben and that he will not give up.
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