A HOTEL worker has denied snatching little Ben Needham – despite three witnesses claiming that they saw her carrying a crying and distressed boy.
Ben was playing at his grandparents’ farmhouse on the Greek island of Kos when he disappeared on July 24, 1991.
AFPBen Needham went missing in Corfu in 1991[/caption]
Officers from South Yorkshire Police at a property in Kos, Greece, in 2016
Greek police are now probing claims Ben could be alive after key witnesses came forward with new claims about the boy.
And three witnesses have said they saw a local worker named Maria carrying a tot that looked like Ben.
They said the campsite worker in Corfu found a blond-haired toddler “abandoned by gypsies” and may have raised Ben as her own.
The teenage girl took him to the campsite as she thought his family might be staying there – but witnesses claim she then kept the child “for herself”.
‘THIS DID NOT HAPPEN’
But now Maria, who was 21-years-old at the time, denies ever finding a blond boy.
She said: “I have searched my memory and this did not happen.
“I would not have taken the initiative to take a child to the police. My boss would have done that.
“I was very nervous and naive and under the protection of the restaurant owners.
“And how could I bring up the boy as my own? I have a 23-year-old daughter.
“I don’t have a son. You can ask anyone that knows me. It makes me feel sad for the mum and her loss but this is not right. This never happened.”
30 YEARS ON
Last weekend marked 30 years since Ben vanished.
While Kerry refuses to believe Ben is dead, British police think the then 21-month-old boy was killed by a digger driver in a tragic accident at the farmhouse which Kerry’s parents were renovating,
“I still have that hope that South Yorkshire Police are wrong,” Kerry said.
“And while there is no evidence to show me, I have to believe he is still alive. There’s not a single thread of evidence to say otherwise.
“We need to keep on searching for Ben.”
Kerry admitted she was “struggling” with the milestone, which came after 30 years of heartbreak.
“I feel like I want to scream and sob for myself, for Ben, and for my family. I get teary but I can’t cry. I am scared if I do start crying, I just won’t stop,” she said.
Kerry has a 27-year-old daughter, Leighanna, and granddaughters Hermione, seven, and Aurora, three.
She spoke of how she had found it hard to move on after devoting three decades of her life to finding Ben.
I feel like I want to scream and sob for myself, for Ben, and for my family.
Ben’s mother, Kerry
Kerry had recently moved to Kos from Sheffield, to start a new life with her family, when the tragedy happened.
She left him with her grandparents while she went to work, not realising she would never see him again.
Police efforts to dig the land at the farmhouse failed to uncover remains, though it was reportedly their “professional belief” that Ben died when a digger driver accidentally ran over him.
South Yorkshire Police have twice sent a team of their own to the island.
During the last visit, a witness came forward to say digger driver Konstantinos “Dino” Barkas had confessed to killing Ben before his death.
While Kerry still did not accept the theory, she said things didn’t add up – such as DNA tests carried out on a toy found at the site, which did not match Ben’s.
Covid has, for now, thwarted her plan to return to Kos to make an appeal to the Greek public and meet the witness face-to-face.
Kerry was told that the witness, a business partner of Barkas, had claimed to have seen her son playing on a mound of soil in the morning of his disappearance.
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The next day, he claimed Barkas told the witness he feared he may have run the boy over.
“I don’t know why he is claiming he saw Ben there in the morning because my mum didn’t walk up there with him until about 12.45am,” Kerry said.
“If he is wrong about that, what else is he wrong about in his statement?”
She was still waiting for the South Yorkshire Police to give her access to the witness statements and their report, she said, to aid her own personal quest to find the truth.