Leader comment: No closure for the Needham family

Ben Needham's grandfather, Eddie Needham (in white shirt) talks with South Yorkshire Police officers while touring the search site of missing toddler Ben Needham on October 5, 2016 in Kos, Greece. Picture: Getty Images

Ben Needham's grandfather, Eddie Needham (in white shirt) talks with South Yorkshire Police officers while touring the search site of missing toddler Ben Needham on October 5, 2016 in Kos, Greece. Picture: Getty Images

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The man leading the most recent investigation in to the disappearance of Ben Needham on the Greek island of Kos in 1991, Detective Inspector Jon Cousins, now believes that the toddler was killed in an accident while heavy machinery was operating where he was last seen.

An item believed to be in Ben’s possession when he was last seen was recovered. The police have said that they have closed off a large number of theories. A team of 19 South Yorkshire Police officers, forensic specialists, an archaeologist and search and rescue personnel spent 21 days this summer digging near a farmhouse and a second site 750 metres away. That is a huge amount of resource, and it cannot be said that police are not giving it their all. But there is only one thing that counts here and the police have been unable to deliver it: certainty.

Ben’s family have long thought he was abducted, and although DI Cousins’ view is no doubt the culmination of all his considerable professional experience and therefore valid, does not give certainty. Even the finding of Ben’s possession goes no further to uncovering the truth – he might have dropped it while being abducted.

So does the failure to find Ben’s fate mean that the investigation was a waste of public money, and should that be allowed to cast doubt over any future similar investigations?

The answer must be an emphatic no. There is the possibility that a heinous crime has been committed, and the police are duty-bound to fully investigate, and there was always the possibility that they could at last give this poor family closure. Unfortunately that has not happened but the prospect of closure is worth every effort.

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