THE grandfather of Sheffield toddler Ben Needham, who went missing 21 years ago on a Greek holiday island, said tonight he is heading to the place his grandson was last seen to help with the new police operation.
A team of British and Greek police and other experts began a search today of land close to the farmhouse on Kos where Ben went missing in 1991.
Ben, from Sheffield, vanished after he travelled to the island with his mother and grandparents, Eddie and Christine, who were renovating the building in the village of Iraklise.
Despite a number of possible sightings and a range of theories about what happened to him, no trace of the youngster has been found.
The new police operation is focusing on a mound of earth and rubble close to where Ben was last seen.
Tonight Ben’s grandfather, Eddie Needham, told ITV Calendar News: “It’s a massive operation.
“The least I can do is what the police ask me to do and come and show them where we did initially search the area and to point out where this mound was.”
Mr Needham said he has been back to the location over the years. He said: “It was a very traumatic experience but I’m sure this time it is for an absolute reason.”
Ben’s mother, Kerry Needham, has consistently said she believes her son is still alive but she has supported the new search.
Her father said: “She’s with her mum and her brother. She’s been bearing up. She’s trying to be as strong as she can but yesterday, as the time was getting closer for her to come here, she had an upset tummy. She was feeling sick with nerves obviously, anxiety I suppose.”
Mr Needham said: “Hopefully the authorities will carry on looking for Ben. Hopefully, it can become a world-wide investigation.”
The British team, led by Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, of South Yorkshire Police, is understood to be about 18-strong and includes dog teams and a forensic archaeologist.
Their search will focus on the grassed mound which is near a farmhouse next to the one Ben’s grandparents were renovating in 1991 and where the youngster was last seen.
One theory is that it is building material which was dumped at the time the toddler went missing and the youngster could have been accidentally buried beneath it.
Mrs Needham has said in previous interviews she believes the large mound was already there when Ben disappeared.
Earlier this year, she said: “I find it very, very unlikely that Ben is there, unless he buried himself.”
Now Mrs Needham has said she is supporting the search, despite her belief her son is not buried under the mound.
In a statement, she said: “I am so pleased that this investigation is now moving forward and that the Greek authorities are showing a true commitment to investigate Ben’s disappearance.
“My family have been updated and supported throughout this time by officers from South Yorkshire Police and as a family, we are so pleased that the Greek authorities have allowed the team of experts led by Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick to assist them with the search.
“Today is just a start. I understand that all possibilities have to be considered and the search of the area around the building work where Ben disappeared is part of that.”
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Mrs Needham said: “I know in my heart of hearts they will not find Ben there because he is still alive somewhere. But I have to admit for the first time ever this search has put doubts into my head.”
Today, officers began searching a large area around the farmhouse, dividing it up into sections.