29/09/2016 17:08 BST

Ben Needham Dig Halted After Police Uncover Ancient Burial Site On Kos Farmland

Burial site includes tombs believed to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old.

Police searching for Ben Needham have had to halt the excavation of a site when the toddler was last seen 25 years ago after reportedly uncovering an ancient burial ground. 

“Four of five” tombs, said to up to 2,000 years old, were found on Thursday according to the Mirror, meaning South Yorkshire Police now have to seek permission from Greek authorities to continue parts of their dig.  

The burial site discovered in Kos includes tombs, believed to be Roman, that were covered in pottery believed to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old.

Chris McGrath via Getty Images
Police on Thursday had to stop excavating land in their search for missing toddler Ben Needham after uncovering an ancient burial ground

Despite the discovery lead investigator, Detective Inspector Jon Cousins, has said digging will continue at other parts of the site, near a farmhouse where Ben was last seen playing. 

“Clearly there is a lot of work to do around it but I’m pretty sure its not going to delay the rest of the dig,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.  

Cousins said the local archaeological society had been informed and were now managing the site. “They have put a stop to work in this area,” he said.

Police are said to be hoping that archaeologists will determine that the land at the depths the tombs were discovered would not have been disturbed during the time of Ben’s disappearance. 

If investigators want to continue to excavate the burial site they will require permission from Greek authorities. 

Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Detective Inspector Jon Cousins said there was still a lot of work to do at the site, so the discovery would not 'delay the rest of the dig'

Earlier Thursday officers revealed a breakthrough in the case with the discovery of a new “decomposition” site. Samples from the area have been sent to Aberdeen to determine if they are human. 

Officers are working on a theory that Ben may have been accidentally crushed to death by a local man who was clearing the surrounding area with a digger.

The 21-month-old, from Sheffield, had been running in and out of the farmhouse, which his grandfather was helping restore, when he disappeared in 1991.  

Of the latest discovery, Cousins told the Daily Telegraph: “There’s another area of decomposition that has not been ruled out and that is what we are working on.

“There are nutrients in the soil that are consistent with the decomposition of something. The scientists have been unable to determine what it is.”

The potential breakthrough comes on the fourth day of a renewed dig at the farmhouse - where “items of interest” were also found in 2012 -  in what Cousins described as “ground-breaking work - a new method in forensic capability”.

PA/PA Wire
Ben Needham was 21 months old when he went missing in 1991

The Mirror further reported that experts who had been involved in the world famous Body Farm project in Texas have been drafted in to help with the search, taking place near the village of Iraklis.

The newspaper quoted Cousins as saying officers would also shortly examine a “new separate area of interest”. 

Detectives on Wednesday began digging at the base of a fig tree after a photo showed it must have been planted in the days after the toddler went missing.

The image was later determined to have been taken by a journalist 10 days after Ben went missing. It is the only record police have of the area around the time of the toddler’s disappearance. 

“We have been able to analyse that area with the experts who are here now and, of course, we are able to look at all the fauna and tree growth around it,” Cousins told the Mirror of examinations conducted around the fig tree. 

Another line of inquiry officers are focusing on is the sandals Ben was wearing on the day he vanished. Part of a sandal, police have now confirmed, was found during initial searches at the property in 2012. 

Cousins said no DNA had been found on the fragments of sandal which was in poor condition. A local cobbler is creating police an exact replica of Ben’s sandals to compare it with the items located during the earlier search, he said.  

The Mirror quoted Ben’s mother, Kerry, as saying her family was trying to “keep an open mind and stay strong” while officers continue their inquiries.