Search for Ben Needham could be halted after legal challenge from landowner 


The owner of an olive grove where British police are searching for the possible remains of Ben Needham, the toddler who disappeared 25 years ago, has demanded that digging immediately stop.

Four 1,500 stone tombs were discovered by South Yorkshire police on Thursday and the owner of the site, a local Greek man, fears that if more such discoveries are made, his land will be declared a protected archaeological site and he will be prevented from farming or developing it.

Stefanos Troumouhishas has instructed a lawyer to ask local magistrates to order a halt to the search by British officers, who are being assisted by dozens of Greek search and rescue volunteers as they sift through tonnes of dust and dirt in the search for clues as to what happened to the little boy.

But Detective Inspector Jon Cousins, who is leading the operation, said he would challenge any such order in a higher court and would seek a judicial order to ensure that the dig can continue.

He said the owner had raised concerns about the discovery of what appear to be ancient tombs on the patch of land, two miles east of Kos Town, the island’s capital. 

So far I’ve not had contact from the magistrate to say we must stop the important work we are doing on the site, said DI Cousins.

My priority is to ensure disruption to the operation that my team are running remains at an absolute minimum.

If the magistrate’s permission (to excavate) is withdrawn, it will be my intention to seek judicial authority to search this area of land.

The olive grove could be key to the search for Ben, who was 21 months old when he vanished in 1991, because it contains an area of organic decomposition that British experts have not yet been able to identify. 

Other areas of decomposition have been analysed and ruled out as having anything to do with the toddler – one was the body of a dead dog which had been buried in a grave, the other was the corpse of a bat, while a third was human waste leaking from an old cesspit at the end of the farmhouse where the child was being looked after by his grandparents.

The legal challenge forced DI Cousins to cut short a trip to see Ben’s mother, Kerry Needham, who is believed to be staying on the Turkish coast, a short ferry ride away from Kos. 

The purpose of the trip was to explain to her the progress that the British and Greek team have made so far. 

In an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Friday, Kerry’s daughter, Leighanna, 22, spoke of the family’s heartache of not knowing what happened to the toddler.

“My one dream would be to find Ben for my mum. I felt in a way that I owe it to her. I’m her daughter and she misses her son, she wants her son.

“None of us want to believe that they’re going to find something there, because that’s 25 years of fighting and pain and hurt that could have been ended 25 years ago.

“We’re a family that’s lived in hope and what do you when that hope’s all gone? How do you continue when there’s nothing left? she said.


News Source TelegraphNews

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