The mother of missing toddler Ben Needham has been told to “prepare for the worst” by detectives who suspect he may have died 25 years ago.
British investigators on the Greek island where the 21-month-old vanished believe he may have been crushed to death by a digger, Kerry Needham said.
Forensics teams are reportedly set to begin excavating at two sites close to where Ben was last seen as he played near his grandparents’ home on Kos.
The potential breakthrough came after a friend of digger driver Konstantinos Barkas, also known as Dino, said he believes the workman may have been responsible, according to reports.
The driver reportedly died of stomach cancer last year, just months before detectives from South Yorkshire Police arrived on the island for a renewed investigation.
It is understood the friend said the death was accidental.
A variety of theories as to Ben’s fate and reported sightings have arisen since his disappearance and Ms Needham had been holding out in hope that she would one day be reunited with her son.
However her worst fears appeared to be confirmed during a recent visit by officers.
She said: “What they had to tell me was the last thing they would have ever wanted to. They think my Ben could be dead and buried.
“They are no longer looking for a missing person. How do I cope with that? My mother’s instinct has always told me he was alive. What if I’ve been wrong all this time?”
Ben, from Sheffield, disappeared from outside Ms Needham’s parents’ home on the island on July 24 1991.
Mr Barkas had reportedly been helping to clear land for a local builder, a friend of her father and brother, near the property.
Detectives are said to have carried out initial inquiries at the site, with experts testing soil and surveying the site with drones.
Ms Needham said a dig at the site in 2012 was carried out in a bid to rule out that an accident had taken place and move the probe on as a missing person’s enquiry.
However, in light of the latest possible breakthrough, she thinks detectives suspect an accident may have taken place.
After spending 25 years tirelessly searching for her son Ms Needham said she fears dying of “shock and heartbreak” should Ben’s remains be found.
She said: “I have spent all these years desperately hoping for that fairytale ending and for Ben to walk through that door.
“Now the horrible reality is Ben could be dead and he could have been dead all these years.”