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Friday, November 13, 1998 Published at 02:02 GMT


Boy is not Ben, say Greek parents

Ben's mother said the boy had similar facial features

A Greek couple who believe that their blond-haired son has been mistaken for missing British boy Ben Needham have insisted that the child is theirs, according to news reports.

The BBC's Sam Wichelow reports on the latest glimmer of hope for the Needhams
Nico and Panagiota Skyllarakis told the Sun: "We love him, he's ours and we're quite prepared to prove it."

They said the boy was called Savvas and that although their hearts went out to Ben's family they had not "stolen their child".

Ben was just 21-months-old when he disappeared on the Greek island of Kos in 1991. He has never been found - despite a massive search.

[ image: Ben has been missing since 1991]
Ben has been missing since 1991
Ben's family, who live in Sheffield, were given fresh hope by holidaymaker John Cookson, when he spotted a boy answering Ben's description in Rhodes, 50 miles away, and returned to Britain with a hair from his head.

The Sun says it has tracked down the boy in Greece and confronted his parents with the news that DNA tests are under way on a strand of his hair, to identify whether he really is the missing child.

Ben's mother, Kerry Needham, 26, watched a video taken by Mr Cookson, 44, from Selby in North Yorkshire, of the little boy playing in the sea.

She is still anxiously awaiting the results of a DNA test on the blond hair and said: "We want this nightmare to finish."

Similar features

The boy's ears were similar to those of her son as were his eyebrows, Ms Needham said, but she was concerned about the boy's mouth.

"There's similarities to the facial features. I know that he attracted John's attention in the first place," she said.

The Sun says the Greek couple, who have three older sons, were unable to show a birth certificate for the boy but showed a photograph of him on a Greek passport.

"When you have three boys you are certainly not going to steal a fourth," said Mr Skyllarakis.

The couple also defended a photo of Savvas taken at the age of six weeks, showing him with dark hair.

Mrs Skyllarakis said: "His hair was dark when he was born, but after a short time it turned blond.

"My mother had blonde hair as a child so there is blonde hair in our family."

DNA tests

The blond hair taken by Mr Cookson has been passed on to forensic scientists hoping to match it with a DNA sample from Kerry, who separated from Ben's father Simon Ward four years ago.

However, the results are not expected for at least a month.

Ben's grandfather, Eddie Needham, said: "We're trying to keep our feet on the ground because we have had quite a few disappointments in the past but we can't help but feel excited.

"There's been other sightings over the years but it's no longer just a blond-haired boy on a beach. This time we've got something physical which will prove one way or another whether it's Ben."

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