Family of missing toddler Ben Needham seek DNA tests on mystery Greek girl Maria

After blonde-haired four-year-old Maria was found to be unrelated to the family raising her, the Needham family now hope more missing children will be traced who might lead them to Ben

The family of a missing British toddler has called for DNA tests to be carried out on children found at Roma settlements - starting with the allegedly abducted little girl discovered earlier this week in Greece.

The sister of Ben Needham, a 21-month-old toddler who was abducted from his grandparents’ home on the island of Kos in 1991, said she wanted police to carry out an investigation based on her own DNA – beginning at the encampment near Farsala.

The settlement is at the centre of an international appeal to find the parents of a four-year-old girl, known only as Maria, who police believe may have been abducted.

An officer looked into Maria’s case when he saw the blonde-haired and blue-eyed child living in squalid conditions with a Roma couple and 13 other children whom she looked nothing like.

DNA tests confirmed that she was not related to the 39-year-old man and 40-year-old woman with whom she lived, and the couple have now been arrested on abduction charges.

The case has sparked new hope for the Needhams, who say they were told at the time by police that there was no way their toddler could have been abducted by Roma groups.

Ben’s mother Kerry told ITV: “My family and I are extremely delighted at the news that a four-year-old girl has been found in a gypsy camp in Larissa, Greece.

“We have always believed that Ben's abduction was gypsy-related and have had a long ongoing inquiry in Larissa. We hope that the investigation into Ben's disappearance will now be looked at again.”

Ben's sister Leighanna Needham, who at 20 had not been born when he went missing, said the discovery of Maria in the gypsy camp was welcome news and said DNA tests could be used to find Ben – or perhaps even his children.

“It's given us great hope,” she told Sky News yesterday.

“Obviously, it's been a strong belief of myself and all my family that Ben was taken by gypsies for child trafficking or illegal adoptions and this case just shows that they can be found.”

“I think that would be a brilliant thing to get our DNA out there, even if it's not actually Ben but any siblings or any children maybe of Ben (that are found) then that could hopefully lead us to him,” she said.

The Roma couple from Farsala insist that Maria’s is not a case of abduction, however. A lawyer representing the pair has said that the child was given to the family in 2009 by a woman who was unable to raise the child herself – claims repeated by their extended Roma family back at the settlement.

Nonetheless, the case has also given renewed hope to the McCann family in their search for missing daughter Madeleine.

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for her parents Kate and Gerry, said Maria had renewed their hope that Madeleine would also be found.

“They have always maintained that until there is evidence to prove otherwise missing children can still be out there waiting to be found,” he told the Daily Mirror.

Maria's discovery comes days after renewed interest in Madeleine's case across the UK and Europe following a BBC Crimewatch episode that aired on Monday night showing two new e-fits of a suspect.

Detectives investigating the case have since received more than 2,400 calls and emails since the programme aired.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing