Ben Needham: Police believe toddler died in accident near farmhouse on Greek island of Kos

Excavation work as part of the three week search for the toddler ended on Sunday 

Click to follow

British police who have been investigating the disappearance of toddler Ben Needham on the Greek island of Kos believe he died in an accident near a farmhouse.

Detective Inspector Jon Cousins, Chief Investigator at South Yorkshire police, said in a statement he believes the 21-month-old child from Sheffield, who went missing on the island on in 1991, died “as a result of an accident” near to the farmhouse where he was last seen playing.

During a press conference police revealed they had discovered an item thought to have been with the child at the time of his disappearance.

Det Insp Cousins said: “My team and I know that machinery, including a large digger, was used to clear an area of land on 24 July 1991 behind the farmhouse that was being renovated by the Needhams.

“It is my professional belief that Ben Needham died as a result of an accident near the farmhouse here in Iraklis where he was last seen playing,” he added.

The three-week search of the island for the missing boy formally ended on Saturday. It had been prompted by information that the driver of a digger may have been responsible for the death of the toddler. The driver was understood to have been clearing land with an excavator near where the toddler was playing when he disappeared.

"The events leading up to and following that incident have been explored by my team of experts to great lengths. The fact that we have not had a direct result during this visit to Kos does not preclude the facts that we know to be true," Det Insp Cousins said during the press conference. 

"An item found on Saturday, which I have shown personally to some of Ben's family, was found in one of the targeted areas at the second site, very close to a dated item from 1991.

Ben Needham's mother speaks after new evidence arises

"It is our initial understanding that this item was in Ben's possession around the time he went missing."

More than 70 items were found that police described as being of mild interest during the excavation work, in which hundreds of tonnes of soil were removed from two sites on the island. 

Ben's mother Kerry said when the search ended that she wanted to "tear up" the whole island. 

She told the Daily Mirror: "They know he's dead but just can't find him. Police said it's time we ended our 25-year search. They are right but I can't say goodbye knowing he's still on that island somewhere. I feel physically sick. I can't feel any worse than I do.

"He didn't leave Kos, he didn't walk away ... Somebody didn't take him, so he's here somewhere. They believe he is there but they can't dig in everyone's gardens or homes that have been built over the years. I want to tear up the whole island to find him."

Additional reporting by agencies