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My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

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My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  Annabel on Sun 21 Apr - 8:48

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2312250/My-brother-Ben-vanished-22-years-ago-Greek-holiday-island-My-mother-left-drink-pain-away-At-11-I-suicide-note-Now-need-miracle.html

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  Not Born Yesterday on Sun 21 Apr - 10:06

Not good news that the "abduction" word is being used again in reference to Madeleine!

There can be no doubt of Ben's mother's grief and suffering over the years; she must surely sometimes wonder why some people with a missing child become rich and famous, particularly when they almost certainly know exactly what happened, while others are left - to quote someone who shall be nameless - in the dark with no help!

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  Justiceforallkids on Sun 21 Apr - 10:09



My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Leighanna Needham wasn't born when brother Ben went missing in Kos
But she speaks out about how his disappearance still affects her family

By Christine Challand

PUBLISHED: 21:05 GMT, 20 April 2013 | UPDATED: 21:05 GMT, 20 April 2013

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Devastated: Leighanna Needham has spoken out about the effect her brother Ben going missing had on her family



It was, until the abduction of Madeleine McCann, the most notorious missing child case in British history: the unexplained disappearance of toddler Ben Needham on the Greek island of Kos in 1991.

The mystery surrounding Ben’s fate made headlines for almost a decade, with scores of false sightings, ill-fated DNA tests and stalled re-investigations, with his mother Kerry fighting against the odds as the years passed by.

Yet the consequences of Ben’s disappearance to his immediate family have never been fully detailed until now – in particular the devastating effect it had on his younger sister Leighanna – and on Kerry, who numbed the pain with alcohol.

Leighanna Needham wasn’t even born when Ben vanished while playing in the garden of his grandparent’s retirement house on the island while Ben’s mother Kerry worked in a local hotel.

But in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Leighanna, now 20, explains that his loss has cast a long shadow over her life.

Ben’s disappearance sparked an international missing person’s hunt that dominated the world’s headlines in a way that was strikingly similar to the case of Madeleine McCann, who disappeared in Portugal in May 2007.

Madeleine was just days short of her fourth birthday when she vanished. Ben was a 21-month-old.

But while the ‘Maddie’ campaign to find her, launched by her parents Gerry and Kate McCann, attracted millions of pounds in donations and worldwide publicity, the Needhams struggled on alone.

‘Unlike the McCanns, we haven’t had the money to pay for publicists and private detectives, we’ve just had each other and a lot of faith and determination,’ Leighanna says.

‘I think people have always seen us differently. The McCanns are GPs with money, my mum is a single mother who lived in a council house.


'I don’t want to sound bitter because we know what they’re going through and they just want Madeleine back, like we do Ben.

'Kate McCann said in the papers last week that she’s reached the stage that she would be able to forgive whoever abducted Madeleine – but we could never forgive the person who took Ben.’


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Next month, Leighanna will help her mother launch a book about the tragedy – a searing account of how Kerry has coped with losing Ben – and hopes that it will mark the start of a new phase in their lives.

In it, Kerry admits she found oblivion in drink and nightclubs to ease her pain – so much so that Leighanna was sent to live with her grandparents.

‘We’re still waiting for the happy ending,’ says Leighanna. ‘But the book has been cathartic for Mum. It’s her story, something she’s wanted to do since five years after Ben went missing.
Still missing: Ben Needham aged 21 months, shortly before he went missing on the island of Kos in 1991

Still missing: Ben Needham aged 21 months, shortly before he went missing on the island of Kos in 1991

Mystery: The circumstances of what happened to Ben, pictured before he went missing in 1991, have never become clear

Mystery: The circumstances of what happened to Ben, pictured before he went missing in 1991, have never become clear

'And for the first time ever in my life, she’s really happy and at peace with herself.

‘The bit where Mum talks about going off clubbing crucified her. I don’t blame her for wanting to go out and party.

‘Alcohol – even though it’s bad – offers an escape route. You can forget about reality. If my mum had sat and done nothing, she would have killed herself.
High profile: Ben's disappearance was the most notorious case of its kind in Britain until Madelaine McCann went missing in 2007

High profile: Ben's disappearance was the most notorious case of its kind in Britain until Madelaine McCann went missing in 2007

‘After I was born, she got really depressed, she felt that she couldn’t look after me. I don’t remember being unhappy when I lived with my grandparents for two months.

'I’ve always adored them, they’ve always been there for me and we’ve always been a very close family.

‘When Mum eventually came to pick me up, I can remember running out of the door shouting, “Mummy, Mummy’’ as though she’d never left. I think that gave her strength.

‘I realise now that she needed an escape so she could become Kerry Needham again. She was always Ben Needham’s mum. She needed to go away where no one knew her and have a bit of a life.’

Kerry has been trying to interest publishers in her story for more than 15 years – but was turned away every time.

‘Publishers would tell her there was no happy ending,’ Leighanna said. ‘Parts of the book make you smile but then, in the next breath, you’ve got tears streaming down your face.

‘It brought back a lot of memories for Mum and for me from when I was growing up.’

The most harrowing sections tell how Kerry was at the depths of despair, guilt and depression after splitting up with Ben and Leighanna’s father, Simon Ward, just two weeks after Leighanna was born.

The only way Kerry could cope was to turn to alcohol and the transient company of nightclubs. It was a desperate time in which she twice tried to take her own life.

‘I’ve read a suicide letter she wrote,’ says Leighanna. ‘I was about 11 and it was my first holiday staying with my grandparents when they were living in Northern Cyprus.

‘Alcohol – even though it’s bad – offers an escape route. You can forget about reality. If my mum had sat and done nothing, she would have killed herself.'

Leighanna Needham

‘I was going through family photos and came across it tucked in between the albums.

‘The letter said: “How am I supposed to look after another child when I couldn’t look after my first one? Someone took him off me, they must have thought I was a bad mum. They must have seen me and I must have done something.”

‘I cried my eyes out because, at that age, I felt she couldn’t love me or look after me due to something I had done. I couldn’t come out of my room. But it opened my eyes to how she had actually felt. I didn’t blame her for that.’

Leighanna said that Kerry broke down when she later confronted her mum about the letter.

‘She told me that she had been in a very, very dark place. She didn’t want to live any more because she just wanted the pain to stop.

'She told me that it wasn’t because she didn’t love me or didn’t care about Ben – she just wanted to stop hurting.’
Devastated: Ben's uncle Stephen, grandad Eddie, Kerry and grandmother Christine Needham in 1991 after Ben went missing

Devastated: Ben's uncle Stephen, grandad Eddie, Kerry and grandmother Christine Needham in 1991 after Ben went missing

Choking back tears, Leighanna, says she now realises that the letter was a wake-up call to how emotionally damaged her mother was, despite her putting on a brave face for so long.

‘She has since told me that after Ben went missing, she used to hear him crying. She had a bedroom full of his toys for when he came home.

'She used to get up in the night and go to rock him to sleep and he wasn’t there. Before I was born, she was going insane with grief.

‘She had counselling and was advised to have another baby. At first she said she couldn’t do it. It hurt her to have me. Now I understand.

‘My mother is a strong, amazing woman. I admire her so much. We’re mother and daughter, but we’re best friends. She’s been my mum, dad, brother and sister. She’s been everything in one.’

But there is no doubt that Kerry’s determination to keep Ben’s case in the public eye has had a huge impact on Leighanna.
Living in hope: Kerry Grist (formerly Needham), with a picture of what her son might have looked like age 20

Living in hope: Kerry Grist (formerly Needham), with a picture of what her son might have looked like age 20

When she was 22 months old, she took part in a TV documentary reconstruction of Ben’s disappearance: ‘I had all my hair cut off for it and Mum told me it was like looking at Ben,’ she said.

‘Until it came up in a family conversation when I was about 12, I thought I had dreamt it.

‘I remembered following an oldish chap with a beard who was carrying a yellow duck and turning round to look at everyone, wondering why everyone was watching me and why I was being allowed to run off.

'My mother was really taken aback that I remembered it – I’d been the same age as Ben was when he was taken, so she thought he might remember something too.

‘Sometimes it does feel like I’ve spent my whole life growing up in Ben’s shadow. When I was younger, before I knew the whole story, I felt like I was born to replace him.

‘We’re still waiting for the happy ending. But the book has been cathartic for Mum. It’s her story, something she’s wanted to do since five years after Ben went missing.'

Leighanna Needham

‘When I was about three, I used to play a game, “Who could be this?”, in toddler talk with my grandad.

‘He’d show me a picture – of, say, Michael Jackson – and I’d say, “Who could be this?” I remember first being aware of Ben’s photo on the wall and saying to my mum, “Who could be this?”

‘She explained he was my brother and he’d gone away somewhere. I said, “Come on then Mummy, let’s go and find him.” Mum told me how much that upset her.

‘She also said I am the reason she is still alive. When I was younger, it was always a big weight on my shoulders. I’d worry what she’d do when I left home and have a family of my own. I wondered if she’d die

‘I’ve been wrapped up in cotton wool all my life. I wasn’t allowed to do anything as a child.

‘I couldn’t even stay over at a friend’s house until I was 13. I was always told it was “just in case”.
Continued hunt: 18 officers from South Yorkshire Police went to the island of Kos to continue the search for Ben last autumn

Continued hunt: 18 officers from South Yorkshire Police went to the island of Kos to continue the search for Ben last autumn

‘I don’t suppose I was that aware of how over-protective everyone in my family was of me until I got to that age and started rebelling.

‘I remember having a bad fight with Mum when she wouldn’t let me go to a local youth club. I screamed at her, “You only don’t want me to go because of Ben,” which really upset her.’

Now working as a trainee accountant for a recruitment company near her home in Sheffield, Leighanna says that the childhood insecurities she harboured about her mother’s love for her have turned into a fierce instinct of wanting to protect Kerry and her family.


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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  fred on Sun 21 Apr - 10:25

The media tag the McCanns on every single missing child story. That story was about Ben not Madeleine!

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  Not Born Yesterday on Sun 21 Apr - 13:31

....and by the media associating every other case with that of Madeleine will give the impression to most people that they are all equally dodgy!


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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  malena stool on Sun 21 Apr - 15:11

Not Born Yesterday wrote:....and by the media associating every other case with that of Madeleine will give the impression to most people that they are all equally dodgy!


The McCanns have set the 'Gold Standard' for missing children against which all will be judged, right down to attempted frauds, has we have seen in several instances since 2007.
Even parents walking with their own family are now being pulled off the streets as suspected child abductors by police, thanks to the inane stories of shoddy parents with no parenting skills.

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  fred on Sun 21 Apr - 16:48

[quote="malena stool"]
Not Born Yesterday wrote:....and by the media associating every other case with that of Madeleine will give the impression to most people that they are all equally dodgy!


The McCanns have set the 'Gold Standard' for missing children against which all will be judged, right down to attempted frauds, has we have seen in several instances since 2007.
Even parents walking with their own family are now being pulled off the streets as suspected child abductors by police, thanks to the inane stories of shoddy parents with no parenting skills.[/quote]

Tell me about it!!! When they 'abduction' first went press crazy, we were in Spain. Shock horror, our daughter is blonde, and with one swarthy parent and another fair, both speak different languages to her, so she will grow up (and indeed has done) bi-lingual, frigging hell!! The "Look into her eyes" campaign must have harmed more children than Jimmy Saville. It was so wrong to encourage people on holiday to grab young girls and look to see if she had an eye defect, but like anything the Mccanns do it is only about themselves, not any other innocent child who is trying to have a nice time on holiday with her parents, who also happen to take care about their child. Sowrong on so many levels.

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  Panda on Sun 21 Apr - 17:47

Ben's Mum could not get her book published to raise money ..............but the McCanns could.
Ben's Mum could not get never ending Press reports of sightings.........but the McCanns could
Bens Mum could not get immediate support from the British police........but the McCanns could.
Ben's Mum could not afford Private Detectives to search .......................but the McCanns could

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  cass on Sun 21 Apr - 19:34

Panda wrote:Ben's Mum could not get her book published to raise money ..............but the McCanns could.
Ben's Mum could not get never ending Press reports of sightings.........but the McCanns could
Bens Mum could not get immediate support from the British police........but the McCanns could.
Ben's Mum could not afford Private Detectives to search .......................but the McCanns could
just goes to show its a class thing -- disgusting isnt it

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  Panda on Sun 21 Apr - 19:54

cass wrote:
Panda wrote:Ben's Mum could not get her book published to raise money ..............but the McCanns could.
Ben's Mum could not get never ending Press reports of sightings.........but the McCanns could
Bens Mum could not get immediate support from the British police........but the McCanns could.
Ben's Mum could not afford Private Detectives to search .......................but the McCanns could
just goes to show its a class thing -- disgusting isnt it

Hi cass, and the most damning is while Ben's Mum received donations from friends and wellwishers without asking , but the Mccanns set up a fund to receive donations, sell merchandise and within 9 months had over £1.5 million and squandered the lot.

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  MaryB on Sun 21 Apr - 20:38

Why don't they offer some of their money to Ben's mother. That would be a nice gesture.

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  Panda on Sun 21 Apr - 20:58

Did anyone spot Kate in the Marathon, I would have thought she would have been interviewed.

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  wjk on Sun 21 Apr - 21:09

She's been on Sky news reports talking about the Boston bomb.

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

Post  malena stool on Sun 21 Apr - 21:11

wjk wrote:She's been on Sky news reports talking about the Boston bomb.
Ah, she's going to become an investigative reporter now, just like her friend Kelly...

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Re: My brother Ben vanished 22 years ago on a Greek holiday island. My mother left me to drink her pain away. At 11, I found her suicide note. Now we need a miracle

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