Ben Needham family dismayed after TV interview cancelled

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The family of missing Ben Needham were left “very upset” today after a planned television interview with his mother Kerry was cancelled.

Mrs Needham, whose son disappeared on the Greek island of Kos in 1991, was contacted last night by ITV’s This Morning and asked to come down to London for an interview to discuss the latest in the case.

Ben Needham's mother Kerry and grandmother Christine at a press conference in Sheffield following their appeal on Greek television.

Ben Needham's mother Kerry and grandmother Christine at a press conference in Sheffield following their appeal on Greek television.

It is understood that after getting out of bed and packing her bags to await a car to pick her up from Sheffield, she was then called again to say the interview had been cancelled. It was late re-scheduled for tomorrow.

In a message on Twitter, her daughter Leigh-Anna revealed she was “very upset” after the interview was dropped from the show’s schedule.

She wrote to a This Morning member of staff to say: “I’m sure you’re well aware of the situation, but I’m after a bit of an explanation as to why my mum was dropped last minute to come on the show last night?

“I’m sure you’re aware she got out of bed to come down to London for yourselves last night. I’m actually really upset that this could be done to her after the week she has been through out in Greece and the press conference.

Ben Needham, as police are scouring a wealth of potential new leads in the case of the toddler who vanished 24 years ago

Ben Needham, as police are scouring a wealth of potential new leads in the case of the toddler who vanished 24 years ago

“While I’m aware this might not directly be your fault, I would like someone to give either myself or my mum an explanation as to why this happened. Especially after This Morning have been wanting her on the show for a while, to just be dropped.

“And at the very least a phone call from one of your editors apologising for what happened, as I’m sure you can understand she is very upset about this, my mum works tirelessly and takes great care, drops everything for a media appearance to keep Ben’s name in the public eye.”

A spokeswoman for This Morning said today: “For any live daily topical show, guests and the running order of items are always subject to change late into the evening or overnight. We hadn’t confirmed Kerry Needham for today’s programme. She will be appearing on This Morning tomorrow.”

Mrs Needham said yesterday that she felt the family had made a breakthrough in their 24-year search after appearing on Greek television.

She said the programme, which was screened on Friday night, was a “huge success”, resulting in more than 100 contacts from Greek people.

Ben, from Sheffield, vanished on July 24 1991 after travelling to the island of Kos with his mother and his grandparents. He was 21 months old.

Mrs Needham, speaking at South Yorkshire Police headquarters in Sheffield, said: “I feel we have made a breakthrough. We have definitely made a breakthrough.

“It doesn’t matter how many times we cry, we’ll always find the strength, build that back up and continue. But I think this time we have made a big, big impression out there.

“The information is coming in now, I think they did a fantastic job.”

Mrs Needham took part in the three-hour TV show with Ben’s grandmother Christine Needham, her daughter Leighanna and detectives from South Yorkshire Police.

The Nikolouli programme, the English translation of which is Light At The End Of The Tunnel, broadcasts to around 50% of the Greek TV audience and is about missing people.

“It was a huge success,” Mrs Needham said. “We had a massive, massive response with now maybe over 100 contacts from Greek people that the police are now working to prioritise that information and investigate the information that’s been given.”

Last month, Mrs Needham travelled to Greece to meet a man who believed he could have been Ben. But DNA tests proved he was not her son, who would now be 25.

Another DNA test on a man in Cyprus proved negative in 2013.

Mrs Needham said it was hard not to be hopeful in those circumstances and said her latest trip was “heartbreaking”.

She said: “We try not to build our hopes up too much to protect ourselves but sometimes you just can’t help get excited and hopeful that at last this nightmare’s going to be over.

“But we’re going to have to protect ourselves a little bit better from now because the last trip we had was heartbreaking and we’re not over that one yet.”

Christine Needham said the family had been “overwhelmed” by the response to the show so far.

She said: “Something’s got to give and we are very hopeful with the information that’s come in.

“We’re confident this time it’s going to be our year.”

Ben’s grandmother added: “We can’t change what’s happened, we can’t bring back all those years now. But we need to tell him that we looked for him.”

Detective Inspector Jon Cousins, who appeared on the programme for South Yorkshire Police, said the force had received a “fantastic” response.

He said: “The information that’s come in over the weekend has been great. We’ve had a lot of information around lines of inquiry that we are already pursuing, some of which dates back a long period of time.

“We have had a vast number of new lines that we need to look at, research properly, consider what we’re going to do with it, and that’s what we’re going to be doing over the forthcoming months.”

The detective added: “This has been a great opportunity for the first time for the British police to engage with the Greek public on such a scale in relation to this investigation and there’s only going to be some good come out of that.”

Mr Cousins said he was “optimistic” he would find out what had happened to Ben.

He said: “Nobody can say the truth about what has happened to Ben until we know the truth about what has happened to Ben.

“I’ve got a number of avenues and lines of inquiry that myself and the team are looking at. Each of them are of equal importance and I will be looking at all of those until I know what’s happened to him.”

In January, South Yorkshire Police were granted £700,000 of Home Office funding to support the Greek authorities in continuing inquiries to find Ben.

The force asked for the financial help to follow up information the family believes has never been properly investigated.

The Home Office backed a South Yorkshire Police operation in 2012 when land was excavated on Kos, near the farmhouse from where Ben went missing. No trace of him was found.

Today, the independent charity Crimestoppers offered a reward of up to £10,000 for information about what happened to Ben.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or www.crimestoppers-uk.org.