The Police Federation has defended South Yorkshire detectives accused of drinking for eight hours while on a visit to Kos to search for missing Ben Needham.
Neil Bowles, chairman of the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, spoke out after the senior detective leading the search for Ben, from Sheffield, was called back to the UK to face questions from bosses.
Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick took a team to the Greek island of Kos earlier this week to make a fresh appeal for information on the disappearance of Ben, who was 21 months old when he vanished in 1991.
The toddler went missing while playing outside a remote farmhouse his grandfather was renovating.
Photographs appeared in The Sun newspaper yesterday showing some members of the Operation Ben search team drinking lager and wine over an eight hour period on the day the new police appeal for information was made.
Det Supt Fenwick stressed that no public money had been used and that detectives were 'desperately trying to find Ben' and were 'working really hard'.
Police Federation chairman, Mr Bowles, said: “South Yorkshire detectives are working hard with the Greek authorities to solve the Ben Needham case.
"The team are away from home and their own families, they do not work 24/7, and need to relax after a hard day’s work.
"There was no evidence as to the quantity of alcohol drunk just the odd photo at certain times.
"As long as the officers were fit for duty for their next shift, their off duty time is their own. There is nothing wrong with meeting up with your colleagues for a drink and a meal at their own expense, as any other person in any other occupation would do."
Ben's mum has given her backing to the police team and yesterday spoke of her disappointment that the focus of the trip to Kos has been taken off her missing son.
She has written to South Yorkshire's Chief Constable, Dave Jones, urging him to put Det Supt Fenwick back on the case.