Mum’s 20 years of pain over missing Ben Needham

THE mum of missing Ben Needham has spoken of her pain as she reaches the 20th anniversary of her child’s disappearance this Sunday, adding: “It should never have come to this.”

Kerry Grist, from Ecclesfield, doesn’t plan to return to Greece after an important new lead emerged which could support the theory that Ben was snatched when he was 21 months old to sell to a childless couple on the island of Kos.

Yesterday The Star reported that, after a new appeal on Greek TV, a retired doctor has said a boy fitting Ben’s description visited his hospital months after Ben vanished.

The doctor said the blue-eyed, blond-haired boy was accompanied by a woman from the travelling community. The boy told him in an English accent: “My name is Ben.”

The woman was one of the doctor’s patients and he knew she couldn’t have children.

South Yorkshire Police are conducting a review of the information gathered about Ben’s disappearance over 20 years, to support any action by the Greek authorities.

Kerry said the anniversary will be “really hard”.

“It should never have come to this, but to us it’s just another day we’re without Ben. I don’t think it’s going to be any more painful than any of the other days we’ve lived without Ben - 20 years is a long time.

“We’ll try to use the milestone to get Ben’s case back in the public eye again and make a fresh appeal.”

Ben went missing on July 24, 1991, minutes after going out to play at a farmhouse his grandfather was renovating in the village of Iraklise. Kerry was a waitress on Kos.

The retired doctor said he saw the boy in a hospital in Larissa, in Northern Greece. Police didn’t act on it because they believed he hadn’t witnessed a crime.

Kerry said: “I’m extremely disappointed, because if that was Ben then the 20 years I’ve endured without my child have been for nothing. I think they should have taken it very seriously.

“I’m not going to do anything about the sighting personally, because there’s not really a lot for us to go on.

“The information was originally reported in 1992, so these people have now got to be traced again. Nobody has any idea where these people are now.

“The doctor’s reported it to the police in Athens. There’s been no indication that there will be a full new investigation.

“My gut feeling is he was abducted to sell to a childless family. That’s the only thing that makes sense. If the doctor’s sighting was of Ben, that theory is correct.”

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said the force is reviewing all the information gathered over 20 years.

“We’re working with other agencies such as Interpol to see if there are any lines of inquiry we can then use to support the Greek authorities in any action they might want to take.”