Exclusive: Pressure grows for decision on new probe into missing Ben Needham

Ben Needham, who went missing in 1991
Ben Needham, who went missing in 1991
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A Yorkshire police commissioner will lobby the Home Secretary over possible funding for a new investigation into the disappearance of missing Ben Needham on the Greek Island of Kos more than two decades ago.

The family of Ben, from Sheffield, who went missing in 1991 at the age of two, say South Yorkshire Police made a request for funding from the Home Office in February but not had a response.

Ben's mother Kerry Needham

Ben's mother Kerry Needham

The money would pay for detectives from the county’s force to travel to Kos to look into several lines of inquiry relating to his disappearance from outside a remote farmhouse his grandparents were renovating.

The family of Ben, whose 25th birthday was last month, say it is “outrageous” no extra funding has been given to pay for further investigative work.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, who was elected this month, said his staff had been “liaising with the Home Office since July to find out what progress has been made on their decision around the application for funding we made earlier this year”.

He said: “I understand that Home Office officials have sought a meeting with the Senior Investigating Officer to better understand what is proposed in investigation terms, before a final funding decision is made. I intend to press the Home Secretary for a resolution to this matter as expeditiously as possible.” He added: “I fully appreciate the anguish that the family of Ben Needham must feel on a daily basis. I recognise how difficult it must be not knowing whether the investigations into his disappearance will yield results.”

Police and crime commissioner Alan Billings

Police and crime commissioner Alan Billings

Ben had been holidaying with his mother Kerry and his father Simon in the village of Iraklise on the island of Kos when he went missing on 24 July 1991.

His grandmother Christine, who still lives in Sheffield, said it was “unfair” that no funding had been given for South Yorkshire Police to assist with the Greek investigation when £7 million had been spent on the search for Madeleine McCann.

She said: “It is not that we don’t want them to have it, they are desperate to find their child as well. We are asking for a massive amount less than that. We don’t want it for us. We want it for South Yorkshire Police. Someone has got to step up and do something about it. No-one is listening.

“It is outrageous we can’t have any help. It was things that weren’t cleared up at the time and information we were given over the years, about the same people, from lots of quarters. They are potential suspects.

“[South Yorkshire Police’s senior investigating officer] Matt Fenwick is willing to go out there with a team and then go back and see how they are getting on but without the money they can’t. He is as frustrated as us. He is aware of how angry we are.

“It is not the police’s fault, we are upset and angry that we haven’t got any help. The Home Office should not need to be pressured for ten months.”

Sheffield MP and former Home Secretary David Blunkett said: “My heart goes out to the Needham family who have been coping with this terrible loss for such a long period of time”.

He said South Yorkshire Police needed financial support as its resources were “currently being substantially diverted to historic incidents such as the Hillsborough inquest, Orgreave and of course the child exploitation investigation”.

South Yorkshire Police said in a statement: “This is not our investigation however should funding be made available we would seek to work with the Greek Authorities in pursuit of progressing their investigation.”

Crime Prevention Minister Mike Penning said: “In autumn 2012 the Home Office agreed to give South Yorkshire Police a Special Grant to assist their investigation into the disappearance of Ben Needham. We can confirm South Yorkshire Police have made a further Special Grant request in relation to this investigation and this is currently under consideration by the Home Office.”