Tuesday, 17 May 2011

BEN NEEDHAM toddler who disappeared on Greek island of KOS 1991



24TH JULY 1991

At around 2.30pm, Ben vanished from outside the farmhouse at Iraklis, as small mountain village on the Greek Island of Kos. A full search of the area was made but no trace of Ben was found.

Ben's details were given at the Police Station and a photo was provided. Police suggested that vehicles leaving the island by ferry to Athens should be checked. Arrangements were made to meet police at the docks at 3am. No police officer came to help.

25TH JULY 1991

Builders working on another property give statements to the police stating that they had witnessed a white car parked in the lane around 2.30pm the day Ben vanished. They believed the car to have been a Suzuki Alto or similar model. He further stated that the car contained 3 occupants - one woman in the rear of the car, and two men in the front.

Statements were also taken from all family members and Hotel staff using a local shop keeper named Xanthippi Aggreli.

26TH JULY 1991

Police finally inform the Airport of Ben's disappearance. A woman who worked in a kiosk within the airport reports remembering seeing a child fitting Ben's description in the airport on the same day he disappeared. This boy has never been traced.

The British Embassy was informed and was asked to help. However no support was offered due to us not being under arrest for any crime and the Embassy's feeling that the local police had better knowledge and so it should be best to leave it to them.

More statements were taken from family members. All statements were hand written in Greek with no official translator, only the local shopkeeper at the Kos police' request.

Days and weeks were spent looking around the island and visiting the police station for updates on the investigation, but there was never any news or further leads.


Due to illness, the family had to return to England and could no longer live or work on the island in Greece.


A family liason officer was appointed to us from South Yorkshire Police.


Various sightings of children matching Ben's description were made to the police and to newspapers. However, these were mostly followed up by family members as lines of inquiry with the Kos Police were so slow, often taking months for a reply.


A visit to Kos was made with a British T.V. Crew. We visited the Police station for an update in the investigation. Police had no information to give and the white car had still not been traced.


Ben's grandparents, Christine and Eddie, met with a prisoner named Andonis Bedzios who was serving time in Larrisa Prison. He named people he said were involved in holding Ben. He had witnessed that Ben was in the "care" of the Kerimi family in Veria. He had escaped from prison in 1991 and returned to the Kerimi family as his son, Rambo had been living there at the time. The Kerimis are a very well known gyspy family. On his visit there, Bedzios questioned who the unknown boy was who was in the camp. He was told by the head of the family that they had got him from Kos.

The police were informed of this information.


Christine returns to Larrissa with Melanie McFadyen, a reporter doing a piece on an update on the investigation for the "Big Story" in The Observer newspaper.

Bedzios and another witness had come forward in Veria stating they had seen Ben with the gypsies and playing with Bedzios' son. A taxi driver also came forward stating he had seen Ben in his cab with a member of the Kerimi family, who he was used to driving around. The taxi driver was asked to give a statement to police. He agreed to do so under the provision that he made the statement to the police in Athens, or another police force, but not Veria. Unfortunately, he was then taken to Veria, where he then changed his mind of making a statement and was unwilling to cooperate. However, despite his unwillingness to cooperate, when shown a photo of Ben by Christine and Melanie, he confirmed it was the child he had seen.

A video was released to the Greek Press of a boy who turned out to be Bedzios' son, Rambo. We believe a police officer from Veria had given this video to the press to try to disprove Bedzios and another witness.

On 4th September 1997, Gordon Bernard from the British Embassy in Athens was given telephone instructions from Bedzios (in prison) regarding the location of Ben. He was instructed to go to a certain street in Larissa where he would find a Mercedes with German number plates. This was mediated through Bedzios' lawyer. Numerous destinations were given to Mr Bernard by telephone, and each time he arrived at one location, more instructions were given. He had obviously been watched. Ben was never handed over. Mr Bernard did, however, find the car, fitting the description given in the place he was informed it would be. There was no-one in it.

Bedzios gave the police a sworn statement naming the man directing him and his telephone number. To our knowledge, this man was never questioned.

A letter was written and sent to Tony Blair by me (Kerry Needham) telling him about my fears regarding the investigation. He replied informing me that cooperation between the British Embassy in Athens and the Ministry for Public Order was good, and that the British Government had made the Greek police fully aware of the importance they placed on finding Ben.


Bedzios offers to lead undercover armed police officers to Ben. However, the Kos public prosecutor would not agree to it.

I wrote again to the Prime Minister explaining the situation. His Private Secretary replied stating his sympathy, but no offer of help was forthcoming, or further information on what could be done. Certainly, not enough was being done by the British or Greek authorities.

In January 1998, After Bedzios had given new information to Christine (Ben's grandmother) Christine and Melanie visited Bedzios in jail, where he gave them postal order receipts in the names of people he had previously stated had kidnapped Ben. he stated that they were paying him "hush money" One of these names had been mentioned by him in a statement to police in 1996. This person had been questioned but had denied knowing Bedzios. This led us to question why then was his name on a receipt? To our knowledge, this has not been investigated.

Christine and Melanie spoke to a Greek Police Officer called Dimitris Deyermetzoglou who said that they had investigated Bedzios' allegations, but that he was not trustworthy.

During the summer of 1998, Gordon Bernard approached the police and requested full written accounts of their investigation. He eventually received a letter saying his memorandum had been sent to the public prosecutor on Kos.

Deyermetzoglou told Christine and Melanie that "It's up to the Public Prosecutor to examine the allegations, and what to do next. But it would be on the Public Prosecutor's head if he let Bedzios out and he got away which is why it would be unlikely that it would ever happen." Deyermetzoglou's superior, Constantinos Pallas said, "Bedzios is willing to make up any story to get out. His primary objective is to escape. If we took him to Kos, he would run away." To us, this did not make sense. If a prisoner is under guard by the police, surely he can't escape? Were they saying that they didn't know how to ensure a prisoner under their guard didn't escape? If indeed they followed up every lead, why has there been no proper report of this to the Sheffield Liason officer in charge of the case?

At around this time, Kostas Simitis, the then Greek Prime Minister, described his own police force as "Incompetent and ill educated." The head of the Greek Police Staff Federation at the time estimated that 10 percent of the forces' 43,000 were "crooked" - involved in drugs, protection rackets and prostitution.


During a visit back to Kos, Greece, we visited the police to receive an update on the investigation. Chief Baffoonis told us that they had traced the owner of the white car seen in the area that day. They said it had belonged to Xanthippi, who was our translator. This conversation was witnessed by myself, my dad and Mariana Faithful who recorded the conversation. Chief Baffoonis was asked why Xanthippi was there, and he said that she had been visiting our family. This was not true! The police were therefore asked to investigate her claims again.

Upon leaving the police station, we then headed straight to visit Xanthippi, where she denied what the police had just told us and threatened legal action against them. (This was also recorded) She stated that, at the time of Ben’s disappearance she did not have the white car as she had given it up for subsidy (similar to the UK’s scrappage scheme)

Upon visiting the Transport Department, we proved her claim to be incorrect, they had recorded that she had not given the car until October of that year.

The Kos police were asked yet again to investigate her as we had proved her claims to have been false.


A visit to Thessalonica was made to hear a court case between Mr Bakitzis (Private Detective) and the head of the Gypsy family, Mr Kerimi, for harassment regarding Ben’s case. Mr Kerimi lost the case and admitted in court that there were two children in his camp as the prisoner had first stated. MR KERIMI WAS NEVER FORCED TO STATE WHO THE SECOND CHILD WAS.

No further investigation was made into the Kerimi family by the police.


The charity “Missing People” and the MET Police in the UK issued a computer age generated photo of what Ben would look like at age 12 – 14 years old. A press conference was made in England and Greece.


An anonymous business man offers a reward of £500,000 for information leading to Ben’s safe return, bringing the total to £566,000.


We asked South Yorkshire Police for an official memo to be sent to Kos Police regarding Xanthippi and the white car, as we had heard nothing since our last visit. We continued to follow as many reported sightings as possible. All the members of our family take turns in visiting Greece, Spain, Germany, Cyprus and Turkey, but no information leads to Ben. Another Age Progression photo is released of Ben as a 16 year old and posters are sent to Greece by the British media and UK Police. A press release is made to raise the profile in the lead up to what would be Ben’s 16th birthday.


We ask South Yorkshire Police for an update on the investigation by the Kos Police regarding the white car. No information is sent to the UK by Kos Police.


Madeleine McCann vanishes from Portugal, and this also brings Ben’s abduction back into the public eye. 27 press interviews were done with Kerry (Ben’s mum) in one day alone, and she continued to do interviews for another 2 days.

Another appeal was made via the UK Media as what would be Ben’s 18th birthday approached, and yet another Age Progression photo was released. Due to huge press interest, information is passed to South Yorkshire Police regarding a young man in Pathos, Cyprus. Kerry’s dad and a retired police officer managed to track this young man down. The resemblance to Ben’s age progression photo was remarkable, and he was asked to check for birthmarks. He was not Ben. The young man was Russian and aged 21. He told Kerry’s dad all his reasons for being there, and that he would have been proud to have been his grandson.


After watching all the publicity surrounding Madeleine McCann’s disappearance and seeing all the support the McCann family were receiving from the British Government, I decided it was time that they also helped in our search for Ben. Over the years I had been told that British Police could not investigate crimes abroad and that the country of the crime would need to invite them.

British Police went to Portugal – so why not Greece? MP’s campaigned for the McCann family, so why not the Needhams’? Millions of pounds were raised in the McCann case – why not the Needhams? It seemed to the Needham family that Ben was unimportant in high places. The only people who seemed to care were his family, some members of the public and the South Yorkshire Police.

Kerry, Ben’s mum, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown begging for his help in having the investigation re-opened and the original Kos Police investigation rechecked. She stated quite clearly the information regarding the white car and it’s owner, and also the information the prisoner had given. Kerry received a reply three months later which told her what had already been done over the years (which she already knew) but nothing to tell her what could be done with the information she had given him.

We went to Kos with an ITN news team to try to follow up and investigate again the white car and it’s owner. We met with the police officer in charge, although he refused to be interviewed or filmed by ITN. We asked to see Ben’s police file and any updated information on the case. The file was in Greek, and we were left in a court yard of a Police Station to speak to the officer, not even invited to a private room.

We went to visit Chief Baffoonis (now retired) He too refused to be filmed or interviewed by ITN, but spoke to Kerry about the investigation. He said he truly believed Ben was still alive and was abducted. He also said that no support had been given to Kos Police in the investigation to assist them. But neither was it asked for… I enquired again about Xanthippi and her car. I asked why it had not been investigated properly. Chief Baffoonis shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’m retired now.”

We went to visit Xanthippi at her mini market which turns out to now be a big supermarket. She was not there. However, when her daughter realised why we were there she went into a rage and shouted all sorts of abuse at Kerry. She also tried to attack Kerry’s daughter. At that point we left. This young woman’s hatred for our family was unbelievable considering she must have only been around five years old at the time Ben went missing. What had she been told all these years?


Kerry emailed Edward MacMillan Scott. He visited her home and Kerry went through and highlighted the very strong leads in Ben’s investigation (or lack of) He seemed very eager to help and Kerry felt like a weight had been lifted from her. Finally someone seemed willing to help.

Kerry compiled a dossier and sent it to him which would be passed to the Greek ministry. When he was interviewed, he stated that the evidence was compelling and felt confident the Greek authorities would have no choice but to re-open the case. Despite a further letter from David Blunkett explaining that they were trying to get Ben’s investigation re-opened, it still had not been done so, and the Kos Police have also not yet been investigated.

This year, Lorraine Kelly also presented a documentary about missing people and Ben is featured. Another age progression photo is made of Ben aged 20-21 years old. This leads to a member of the public sending in information about young men they think may be Ben. All information is sent to South Yorkshire Police who then send it to Kos for investigation.


South Yorkshire Police have been very supportive of our family over the years that Ben has been missing. They do a great job and we, as a family, have a lot of respect for them. Maybe if they had been permitted to be the investigating officers, Ben would have been found by now. Another public appeal is made by Kerry in the approach to what would be Ben’s 21st birthday. The age progression photo is released again but having Ben’s hair slightly darker and slight stubble, in the hope that someone recognised him, or he may even recognise himself.

Kerry is contacted by a man in Peterhead, Scotland, Scott Morrison, who hears about Ben’s story for the first time who wants to help in any way he can. He designs some images for Kerry’s Facebook page. Within days, Scott has taken Ben’s story to heart and has designed a new official website as a campaign to find Ben, including campaign posters in 19 different languages and a new official facebook group. He then also makes a new official campaign video, and takes the liberty of taking various pro-active steps including writing to the British and Greek Prime Ministers, MP’s and the media about the campaign.

Kerry would like to thank members of the public who are showing amazing support and who have sent messages of love and support to her. Thank you! As we continue this campaign – we WILL find Ben!

In the last few months, letters have been sent to the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron and the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou. A response was received from 10 Downing Street advising the letter had been forwarded to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. We later received a response from the Foreign Office which was of the nature expected - another brick wall. They basically said they cannot intervene. A response has now been sent to them and also the Prime Minister asking him to take action as he is the one with the means and authority to do so. We have still never received a response from the Greek Prime Minister. Kerry was also interviewed at the end of this month on a special BBC Radio Programme about Ben's disappearance. We have also started an online petition which can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42827.html


We have now sent letters to Her Majesty the Queen, Prime Minister David Cameron, The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Prime Minister of Greece. We received a response from Buckingham Palace stating that the Queen gives responsibility for matters such as this to the Prime Minister. 10 Downing Street responded by saying that the Prime Minister gives responsibility for matters such as these to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office have responded to state that they do not have the power to do anything. We are going around in circles with this government trying to get action. The reality is, however, that it is the Prime Minister who bears the responsibility to do something about this case. It is he who can take action or give the power to take action. We look forward to a response to our most recent letter (sent 9th February to all 3 above)

UPDATE: Prime Minister David Cameron finally responded personally to Kerry in what she described as the most sympathetic letter she had ever received from Government over the years, and it is a most promising and positive letter. Mr Cameron has promised the Government's support to South Yorkshire Police in the investigation, and to press the Greek authorities for whatever information is required. This is great progress!

We were also contact by a very talented Digital Artist, Tris Rossin from dot2.uk.com who offered to do a new painting of what Ben may look like at age 21. This has now been completed and we have received it. It truly is a great work and we are very thankful to Tris for his efforts!

We were contacted also by a journalist working on a story for the Sunday Express, and they will be the first newspaper to publish the new graphic of Ben at age 21. As a result of this, the new graphic would not be shown on our website until the same day as the newspaper comes out, Sunday 27th February 2011.

On 27th February, we made a lot of changes to our website, as we now have a full section of brand new posters in varied languages and also some images you can use as social network profile pics and for email footers. A press release was also sent out today with the latest developments, and details of the brand new Ben image. Later in the afternoon, the Daily Mail website also reported on the story. We had a small increase in numbers "Liking" our Facebook page and signing our petition as well as increased visitors to our website. We hope that more newspapers and TV news will follow these newspapers' lead.

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