Hopes rise for Ben Needham’s family after DNA testing of body found in German river that is feared to be him

  • The boy found in the river is not German, investigators have now announced

Remains of a boy found dead in a river in Germany – who Ben Needham’s mother believes could be her missing son – are not from that country, DNA testing has confirmed.

Interpol says it has been flooded with leads to the identity of the body that was discovered after Kerry Needham, whose toddler son vanished in Greece 32 years ago, said the child looked similar to her own.

Her comments suggesting investigators look into whether the body could be Ben sparked widespread media coverage and resulted in dozens of tipoffs.

Interpol DNA Database Manager Francois-Xavier Laurent said: ‘We have received 33 hints from the public.

‘We can now assume that this boy was probably not German.’

Investigators are currently evaluating all the information they received.

Kerry Needham, 51, informed South Yorkshire Police of an Interpol appeal to identify the body of a boy found in the River Danube in Bavaria in May 2022

Ben Needham vanished while he was staying at his grandparents’ farmhouse on the Greek island of Kos on July 24, 1991

Interpol released a reconstruction of the boy found in the the River Danube near Grossmehring in Bavaria on May 19, 2022

Kerry told the Mirror: “I’m pleased they are looking into it. Every possibility has to be investigated and ruled out. Our hope is that one day one piece of information will come forward which will uncover the truth.” 

The boy, believed to be aged five to six, was found wrapped in foil and weighed down with a flagstone slab. It is not known how long the body was in the water.

In the Interpol Black Notice, the organisation said it was ‘seeking the public’s help in identifying a deceased boy and to determine the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.’

Interpol also published a graphic reconstruction of the boy’s head.

READ MORE: Pictured: How missing Ben Needham would look now 30 years after he vanished as his mother refuses to believe police theory that he was killed by a digger on Greek island 

The blue-eyed boy staring out of the photo is described as between five and six years old.

The description went on: ‘The boy is thought to be aged between five and six. He was approximately 110 cm (43.3 in) tall and 15 kg (2.36 st), with brown hair and blood type 0.’

The discovery of the unidentified body came more than three decades after Ms Needham’s son vanished while he was staying at his grandparents’ farmhouse on the Greek island of Kos on July 24, 1991.

When a picture showing how Ben would look aged 31 was released on July 23, 2021 Ms Needham revealed that she did not believe the police theory that he was killed by a digger.

The image was created by National Crime Agency listed forensic artist Tim Widden.

Ms Needham said ‘we must keep searching’ ahead of the 30th anniversary of his disappearance on July 24, 1991. 

Police believe Ben died on the day he went missing as a result of an accident involving ‘heavy machinery’ as he played outside his grandparent’s house, but his mother believes her son is still alive.

She told the Daily Mirror in 2021: ‘I still have that hope that South Yorkshire Police are wrong.

A picture showing how Ben would look aged 31 was released on July 23, 2021 

‘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.’

She added that she feels ‘stuck’ in 1991 and has devoted three decades to the search of her son. 

She said: ‘I’ve never had any dreams or goals apart from finding Ben.’

Ms Needham had moved from Sheffield to start a new life with her family in Greece and left her son with his grandparents while she went to work, but never saw him again.

South Yorkshire Police twice sent a team to Kos. The second police visit followed a witness coming forward to say that, before his death, digger driver Konstantinos ‘Dino’ Barkas confessed to killing Ben.

Police digs on land at the farmhouse failed to uncover remains and tests on a toy car and scrap of leather sandal did not find a DNA match with Ben. 

This made Ms Needham doubt the digger theory, with the distraught mother adding that ‘things don’t add up’.

South Yorkshire Police Officers excavating and searching for Ben’s remains 

Police formally ended a search on the Greek island in October 2016, saying they believe Ben died as a result of an accident involving a digger on July 24, 1991

Appearing on Good Morning Britain, Ms Needham wiped away tears as she spoke about trying to stay strong during the police search in 2016

Detectives from South Yorkshire Police carried out a three-week search of Kos in 2016.

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.’

In September 2018, Ms Needham was told by forensic experts in Oxford they had found weak DNA profile from decomposed blood inside the car near to where Ben went missing.

She provided a DNA sample, only to be told there was no positive match.

Ben’s mother Kerry holding up a clipping of the tragic story in 1991

Police digs on land at the farmhouse failed to uncover remains and tests on a toy car and scrap of leather sandal did not find a DNA match with Ben

At the time, Ms Needham said: ‘If that blood is not Ben’s – then who does it belong to? It’s devastating. We had built ourselves up thinking it would be a positive result and would prove Ben had died.

‘It would have given us closure and we would have been able to start the grieving process.

‘When it came back negative it was a shock. I don’t know what to think now. Is Ben dead or is he still alive?’

She added: ‘I’m angry and I can’t stop shaking my head.

‘Some people on Kos have been lying for 27 years and we’ve suffered years of torture, slow torture.’

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