The father of Ben Needham, the boy who disappeared from the Greek holiday island of Kos as a toddler, has told his local newspaper that he 'could forgive' his son's abductors.
The 18-month-old went missing in Greece 21 years ago. His dad Simon Ward and mum Kerry Needham were hoping to move to the island to create a new life away from their home town of Sheffield.
Simon Ward, now 42, says if his son is still alive, he could forgive whoever took him.
"It sounds strange but if Ben was abducted for a childless couple and they have him, I'd feel some sympathy. They obviously wanted a child to love, so I'd understand that," he told the Star.
"I could forgive them if Ben was still alive. If someone out there has an answer and they told me, I'd forgive them all day long."
Simon, a property developer, returned to Sheffield a few days before his son disappeared. He said that he and his former partner Kerry 'differ' over their theories as to what happened to Ben.
"The theory that Ben was abducted is where me and Kerry differ," he said. "I ceased to believe he is still out there a long time back. She is still looking for Ben – I'm looking for answers."
Simon said that if Ben is alive, he would have effectively lived his life as a different person.
"Ben would be 23 if he were still alive, but if he was with another couple he'd believe he was someone else and have lived a third of his natural life span as someone else.It would be like someone coming to my stepson after 23 years and saying 'This life is not really yours, you don't belong here'."
Simon visited Kos last year when South Yorkshire Police searched land next to the farmhouse that his grandparents Christine and Eddie Needham were renovating at the time he vanished.
They were investigating the possibility that he could have been accidentally buried when a builder was moving earth with a digger. His dad said it was 'traumatic' to go back and then still be left with no answers.
"I really did think there was going to be a breakthrough," Simon said.