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Boy found in German river is not missing Brit Ben Needham, police say

Ben Needham went missing in 1991 on the Greek island of Kos
Ben Needham went missing in 1991 on the Greek island of Kos

The body of a young boy found in a German river is not that of missing British child Ben Needham, who disappeared 32 years ago, South Yorkshire Police have said.

Officers, supported by Interpol, received confirmation that a DNA sample of the body recovered from the River Danube sadly does not match the DNA of the missing Brit.

Ben’s family has been informed and are being supported, South Yorkshire Police said on Wednesday.

Ben went missing on the Greek island of Kos at the age of 21 months in 1991 and police believe he died in July that same year as a result of an accident involving ‘heavy machinery’.

He was staying at his grandparents’ farmhouse on the Greek island when he vanished but Kerry Needham believes her son is still alive.

But thirty years after her son’s death, in 2021, Ms Needham told the Daily Mirror: “I still have that hope that South Yorkshire Police are wrong.

“And while there is no evidence to show me, I have to believe he is still alive. There’s not a single thread of evidence to say otherwise.”

South Yorkshire Police said on Wednesday: “Our thoughts remain with the young boy who is yet to be identified and, of course, the Needham family who continue in their search for answers.”

The unidentified child’s body was discovered in the River Danube weighed down with a flagstone slab and wrapped in foil, an Interpol black notice said.

It was found on May 19 last year and it’s not known how long the boy’s body was in the water.

The boy is thought to be aged between five and six. The results of investigations indicate that he likely spent time outside of Germany, Inerpol said.

Black Notices are international alerts used to gather information and intelligence on unidentified bodies.

Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock said: “Someone, somewhere knows something about this boy, making it equally important to release certain details publicly.

“Whether he was the victim of trafficking, abduction or violence, we are committed to mobilizing all of Interpol’s policing capabilities to identify him and help investigators shed light on his death.”

Members of the public, particularly those who remember a missing child whose characteristics and disappearance indicate a potential link to this case, can contact Germany’s national police team.

Detectives from South Yorkshire Police carried out a three-week search of Kos in 2016 for Ben Needham’s body.

Speaking at the time, then Detective Inspector Jon 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 to the farmhouse in Iraklis where he was last seen playing.

“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.”

He said the investigation would not close and new information would be looked at, adding: “We will not stop in our quest to find further answers for Ben’s family.”