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Thursday, November 12, 1998 Published at 12:39 GMT


Hair clue for lost boy's family

Ben was two years old when he went missing in 1991

BBC's Peter Hunt: Physical evidence this time may solve the mystery
Police are to carry out DNA tests on a single hair which may hold the key to the disappearance seven years ago of toddler Ben Needham.

Holidaymaker John Cookson believes a child he saw playing on a beach in Rhodes could be the youngster who went missing on the island of Kos in 1991.

[ image: Ben Needham's mother Kerry:
Ben Needham's mother Kerry: "I'm trying to keep an open mind"
He told the Sun newspaper: "All the other kids called him the blond one, and he seemed to act differently to the rest of the Greek boys."

Mr Cookson, who was so convinced it was Ben, managed to pluck a strand of hair from the boy as he patted him on the head.

Fresh hope

Mr Cookson gave the hair, along with a video tape and photographs of the blond, blue-eyed boy to Ben's parents, who live in Sheffield.

Kerry Needham: "Our emotions are running very high"
Ben's mother, Kerry Needham, said she was trying not to get her hopes up because she had them dashed before.

She said: "This time, although we are excited and nervous and our emotions are running very high, we are trying to keep an open mind."

[ image: The Sun newspaper carried pictures of the boy from whom the hair was plucked]
The Sun newspaper carried pictures of the boy from whom the hair was plucked
Ben's grandfather, Eddie Needham, said: "When it was handed it over to us we were really excited - we were over the moon.

"It's no longer just a blond haired boy on a beach, we've actually got something physical to work on."

He said he was not convinced initially when he saw the video of the boy but added: "After watching it a few times I began to notice a family resemblance."

Ben's grandfather, Eddie Needham: "We are trying not to get too excited"
The Needham family has handed the hair over to South Yorkshire police.

Forensic scientists from the force will now try to match the DNA with Ben's mother Kerry.

[ image: Posters in Greek and English have been put up all over Greece]
Posters in Greek and English have been put up all over Greece
They say the results - which could take up to a month - will not be conclusive but should demonstrate a family connection.

Ben was two years old when he vanished from outside the farmhouse of his grandparents, who had emigrated from Sheffield.

Police believe Ben may have been kidnapped and sold to a childless couple.

Since his disappearance, there have been more than 200 reported sightings checked by police and the Needham family but he has never been found.

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