The mother of missing toddler Ben Needham has been told to “prepare for the worst” by detectives who suspect he 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 was responsible, according to the Daily Mirror.
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.
A variety of theories as to Ben’s fate and reported sightings have arisen since his disappearance and 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 told the newspaper: “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?”
Speaking to ITV she said: “He could have ended this 25 years ago. I could have grieved, had my daughter... you’ll never forget your child but at least I would have known where he was and I could have done something with my life instead of having a life on hold and not being able to do anything or focus on anything and living this nightmare.
“It could have ended 25 years ago. I could have probably forgiven that person back then, but now? No.”
Ben, from Sheffield, disappeared from outside Needham’s parents’ home on the island on July 24 1991.
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.
A spokesman for South Yorkshire Police said officers will be travelling to Kos in the coming weeks to commence the “digs”.
Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick leading the investigation said: “There will be planned operational activity at two locations on the island that have been identified as areas of interest to the investigation.
“We continue to keep an open mind and have updated Ben’s family about certain lines of enquiry we’re currently exploring.
“A dedicated policing team continues to work extremely hard to find answers for his family and keep them fully informed and supported throughout the investigation.”