(The Mirror) Police investigating the disappearance of Ben Needham have revealed they are looking into SEVEN new lines of enquiry.
Officers at South Yorkshire Police made the announcement today after a press conference in Athens where the boy’s distraught mother Kerry Grist made an emotional appeal direct to her son.
In the statement, police confirm there are now “around seven potentially interesting lines of enquiry, which will now be explored further, in partnership with the Greek authorities”.
After the new lines of enquiry were revealed, Ben’s mum told how much she had been touched by the support she has received since she spoke to millions of people about the case on Greek TV.
She said: “I have been completely overwhelmed by the amount of public support we had from last night’s show and extremely impressed with the investigation team – they did us proud.
“They appealed on national television at our side and I was incredibly encouraged by the response we have received.
“The information received by the show will now be passed to the police tor them to progress. It’s fantastic to know that the Greek public are taking Ben’s disappearance seriously and want to help us.”
The broadcast from Athens had an initial breakthrough when a man rang to say he thought he resembled Ben.
Kerry has now confirmed that was an old lead – but she is excited about a separate person who sent a photo to detectives during the show.
The programme, called Light at the End of the Tunnel, is watched by half of Greece’s population and featured a team from South Yorkshire Police.
They received £700,000 of Home Office funding to team up with Greek police and assist their investigation, a major step after years of heartache for the family from Sheffield.
Ben’s mum funded her own trip but has already been given more than £1,200 by well-wishers on a fundraising site.
She began crying and had to be consoled by her daughter Leighanna as she added: “I’m very very hopeful.
“I’ve come back again to your show to appeal again to the Greek public to help me. People have come forward with information in the past and I’d like those people or other people to please come forward again.”
Leighanna has never met her brother – and still hopes they will be united for the first time.
She said: “We have a brilliant team of detectives behind us now and involved in Ben’s investigation,” she said.
“Even though I didn’t meet him the pain is still there. I feel my mum’s pain, I feel my nan’s pain, I feel all the family’s pain.
“To look at his photograph and see my brother that I’ve never met – it’s horrible. And I just hope that somebody tonight will come forward and allow me to meet my brother for the first time.”
She welled up with tears as she added: “Oh god.”
Ben’s gran Christine also dabbed at her eyes as she said: “We are just appealing to the Greek population as a whole to help us after 24 years.
“It’s very difficult indeed. He didn’t go away on his own and we need these people now to not be afraid any more.
“We have confidentiality with our police and with the Greek police and they will be treated with respect.
“We can’t go on any more doing this. This is an amazing breakthrough – that the detectives are working together – so we hope the Greek public will accept that and help the detectives to put our family out of pain now. Please help.”
Several callers are said to have mentioned the name of a family believed by the Needhams to be connected to Ben’s disappearance.
And other callers named two towns in Northern Greece, Larissa and Veria, where previous sightings of a boy matching Ben’s description have been reported.
Ben, from Sheffield, went missing on July 24 1991, after travelling to Kos with his Kerry, father Simon and his grandparents.
He went missing – just before his second birthday – from outside a farmhouse his grandparents were renovating in the village of Iraklise.
She also talked about the unsuccessful DNA tests, carried out on men who have come forward during the investigation, and said: “It is shocking – and every time I meet someone that we think is Ben, and we’ve had a DNA test and it’s not Ben, it’s heart-breaking.
“And sometimes, it’s very difficult to recover from that.”
In October 2012, officers excavated a mound of earth near to where Ben was last seen alive, investigating a theory he may have been accidentally buried under rubble by a JCB driver.
In 2013, a DNA test carried out on a man in Cyprus proved he was not Ben.
Kerry has spent years travelling to and from Kos following up leads and has handed cops a dossier of information.
She has always maintained her son is alive and was probably abducted.