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19 October 2012, 08:30
The mum of toddler Ben Needham, who went missing 21 years ago on a Greek island, says she supports a new search operation aimed at finding him.
A team of British police officers and search specialists arrived in Kos this week to help a Greek investigation which will focus on a large mound of earth and rubble close to where Ben was last seen.
His mother, Kerry Needham, has always believed her son is still alive but admitted today the new operation had planted doubts in her mind.
Ben, from Sheffield, vanished on the island in July 1991, when he was 21 months old, after his mother and grandparents, Eddie and Christine, moved there to renovate a farmhouse.
Despite a number of possible sightings and a range of theories about what happened to him, no trace of the youngster has been found.
The British team, led by Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, of South Yorkshire Police, is understood to be about 18-strong and includes dog teams and a forensic archaeologist.
Their search will focus on the grassed mound which is near a farmhouse next to the one Ben's grandparents were renovating in 1991 and where the youngster was last seen.
One theory is that it is building material which was dumped at the time the toddler went missing and the youngster could have been accidentally buried beneath it.
But Mrs Needham has said in previous interviews she believes the large mound was already there when Ben disappeared.
Earlier this year, she said: "I find it very, very unlikely that Ben is there, unless he buried himself.''
Now Mrs Needham has said she is supporting the search, despite her belief her son is not buried under the mound.
In a statement, she said:
"Just over a year ago I visited Kos and spoke to the Greek Prosecutor and the Chief of Police for the island.
They promised me they were serious about reinvestigating the disappearance of my son Ben.
I am so pleased that this investigation is now moving forward and that the Greek authorities are showing a true commitment to investigate Ben's disappearance.
My family have been updated and supported throughout this time by officers from South Yorkshire Police and as a family, we are so pleased that the Greek authorities have allowed the team of experts led by Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick to assist them with the search.
Today is just a start. I understand that all possibilities have to be considered and the search of the area around the building work where Ben disappeared is part of that.''
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Mrs Needham said:
"I know in my heart of hearts they will not find Ben there because he is still alive somewhere. But I have to admit for the first time ever this search has put doubts into my head.''
She said she will be travelling to Kos, adding: "It is the last place I want to be but I feel I need to.''
The police operation will begin with a specialist survey using hi-tech geophysics equipment. The team is not planning to begin digging straightaway, it is understood.