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
20 April 2013
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.’Read more...