A UK police team probing the more than two-decade old disappearance of a British toddler on the Greek island of Kos said Monday the boy was likely killed in an accident.
However, investigators have not found the body of Ben Needham – who was 21 months old when he vanished near a farmhouse where his family was staying in July 1991 – and they said the investigation is continuing.
"They know hes dead but just can’t find him," Needham’s mother Kerry told the Daily Mirror at the site, adding that she felt "physically sick" at the news.
"I'd tear up the whole island to find him. I can’t say goodbye until I know where he is," she said, clinging to her parents Christine and Eddie for support.
Detective Inspector Jon Cousins of the South Yorkshire Police had earlier told reporters on Kos: "It is my professional belief that Ben Needham died as a result of an accident near to the farmhouse in Iraklis where he was last seen playing."
"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," Cousins said.
The British team, supported by Greek police and Red Cross volunteers, last month began a new search outside the Kos farmhouse where Ben, who was from the northern English city of Sheffield, went missing.
"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," Cousins said.
"It is our initial understanding that this item was in Ben’s possession around the time he went missing," he said.
"We remain committed to the investigation and it will not simply close," he added.
The search was rekindled earlier this year after an alleged witness said the digger’s driver, Constantinos Barkas, may have been responsible for Ben’s death.
Barkas died of cancer last year. His family insist he was not involved in the case, though Kerry Needham insists he knew what happened to her son.
"Of course he knew. I hope he's burning in hell," she said Monday.
In past years there have been suspected sightings of young men believed to resemble Ben in Greece and Cyprus, but DNA tests have come back negative.
"Somebody knows where he is. Somebody else put him there and I can’t say goodbye until I know exactly where he is," Kerry Needham said.
"Please let me say goodbye to my son. I can’t leave him there on that island. I need to find him."
She added: "I need to take him somewhere he can be at peace and I can be at peace and grieve for him, and somewhere I can remember him." [AFP]