Ben Needham: discovery of ancient tombs may halt dig in search of missing toddler

Landowner reportedly fears the discovery of ancient tombs at the site may lead to it being declared of archaeological interest and ruined as farmland   

Adam Lusher
Friday 30 September 2016 12:14 BST
Officers from South Yorkshire Police continue excavations on the island of Kos in relation to missing toddler Ben Needham
Officers from South Yorkshire Police continue excavations on the island of Kos in relation to missing toddler Ben Needham (Gareth Fuller / PA Wire/Press Association Images)

The discovery of ancient tombs may stop police digging in search of the missing toddler Ben Needham on the Greek island of Kos.

South Yorkshire police flew out to search a 2.5 acre site after new information emerged that the 21-month-old toddler, who went missing while holidaying on Kos in 1991, may have been accidentally crushed by a digger whose driver then covered up his body.

The 19-strong British team has already found an area of “decomposition” in a cesspit near where the toddler was last seen, and have begun digging at the base of a fig tree thought to have been planted soon after Ben, from Sheffield, vanished.

But the Greek landowner Stefano Troumouhis, 33, and his lawyer have reportedly arrived on site claiming there are "issues" over police continuing to dig because officers have also discovered what appear to be ancient tombs.

The Daily Mirror has reported that Mr Troumouhis is worried that if his land is deemed to be of archaeological interest, he will not be able to cultivate it and it will be ruined as farmland.

Ben Needham's mother speaks after new evidence arises

But the British police officers said the digging will continue unless and until they are ordered to stop by a local magistrate.

Detective Inspector Jon Cousins, of South Yorkshire Police, also said that if a magistrate did order his team to stop digging, he would immediately take legal action to appeal.

Mr Cousins said: “If magistrates' permission is withdrawn, it will be my intention to seek immediate judicial authority to search this area of land."

He added: “Mr Troumouchis raised with me concerns about the discovery of what appear to be ancient tombs, [but] so far I have not had any contact from the magistrate to say that we must stop conducting the important work we are doing.

"My priority is to ensure that disruption to the operation that my team are running remains at an absolute minimum.”

Masses of soil has already been excavated from where police believe Ben may have been buried, and experts are sifting through it by hand.

The search, which started earlier this month, is believed to have prompted by detectives receiving new intelligence following a TV appeal in May.

A friend of Konstantinos Barkas, also known as Dino, is reported to have told investigators that Mr Barkas was clearing land with an excavator close to where Ben was playing on the day he vanished and may be responsible for his death.

Mr Barkas was interviewed by police at the time of the toddler’s disappearance.

He reportedly died of stomach cancer last year aged 62. His family has denied any connection with Ben’s death.

Ben’s mother Kerry Needham has already been warned to "prepare for the worst".

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