The mother of missing Sheffield toddler Ben Needham has reiterated her support for the latest police operation to find out what happened to her son as officers prepare to start digging again on the Greek island where he disappeared 25 years ago.
Kerry Needham has been told to “prepare for the worst” by detectives who suspect he may have died in an accident in 1991.
A team of British police officers is returning to the Greek island of Kos to follow up “new lines of inquiry”, reported to be information that the 21-month-old may have been crushed to death by a digger.
On Friday, Ms Needham wrote on her campaign Facebook page: “South Yorkshire Police have my full support during this very painful time.
“These officers have worked tirelessly over the last five years, it’s an honour to have such dedicated officers by my side, helping me get through this.”
Konstantinos Barkas, also known as Dino, was clearing land with an excavator close to where Ben was playing on the day he vanished in 1991 and may be responsible for his death, a friend of the builder has reportedly told police.
The driver is said to have died of stomach cancer last year, months before detectives from South Yorkshire Police arrived on the island for a renewed investigation.
But Mr Barkas’s widow Varvara has strongly dismissed any suggestions her late husband had killed Ben in an accident.
She said: “My husband was a good man and I know he had nothing to do with Ben’s disappearance.”
Ben disappeared from outside Ms Needham’s parents’ home on the island on July 24 1991.
A variety of theories on his fate and reported sightings have arisen since his disappearance and Ms Needham has been holding out in hope that she would one day be reunited with her son.
South Yorkshire Police have confirmed that their team, led by Det Supt Matt Fenwick, will begin searching a specific site on Kos, starting on Monday. But they warned progress could be painstaking and slow.
Detectives are said to have carried out initial inquiries at the site, with experts testing soil and surveying the area with drones.
Earlier this week, Mr Fenwick said: “There will be planned operational activity at two locations on the island that have been identified as areas of interest to the investigation.
“We continue to keep an open mind and have updated Ben’s family about certain lines of inquiry we’re currently exploring.”
Earlier this year, South Yorkshire Police received extra funding from the Home Office to help in the search for Ben.
Ms Needham has been forthright in her support of Mr Fenwick’s investigation.
In May, she jumped to the defence of the investigation team when they were pictured on the front page of a national newspaper drinking in the sunshine during a visit to Kos.
Mr Fenwick was called back from the island but a lawyer for Ms Needham wrote to the chief constable saying: “Ms Needham trusts the officers involved, believes they are working to the highest standards operationally and professionally and wishes there to be no disruption.”