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Digger driver at centre of Ben Needham police probe was successful businessman who ‘knew everyone on the island’

The digger driver suspected of killing Ben Needham [1] was a wealthy businessman protected by a code of silence for 25 years, it is feared. Konstantinos Dino Barkas had a network of contacts all over Kos, the Mirror can reveal. Dino, who died of cirrhosis last year aged 62, was initially quizzed about Ben s disappearance and told police [2] he would chop his arms off so he could never drive again if he had killed 21-month-old Ben. But it is now feared these were hollow words and that he was able to hide a dark secret because he was so well connected on the Greek island where the toddler went missing in 1991. Read More John Alevroyiannis/Daily Mirror Digger driver Kostantinos Barkas A close friend of the Barkas family, who asked not to be identified, said: Everyone on Kos and I mean everyone knew Dino. The owner of a cafe in nearby Kos Town said: He was a very well-known figure in the business community. “He was a very successful businessman involved in the building of many hotels on the island. Despite owning the company he was a very hard worker and didn t mind getting his hands dirty. But he also loved his drink [3] and was a well-known womaniser. Read More Ben Needham has been missing for 25 years Ben s mum Kerry Needham said it would make sense if Dino had people protecting him. Kerry, from Sheffield, said: I thought he was just a poor digger driver, I had no idea he was so connected. “I m now starting to worry there has been a conspiracy of silence around him all these years. I think he was being protected which stopped people coming forward in 25 years. “But now I would appeal to them, to think of my family and the pain we suffered. John Alevroyiannis/Daily Mirror Kostantinos Barkas knew everyone on the island Please, stop being scared and help us find out exactly what happened to my son. Please come forward. Dino was widely known to be a heavy drinker, raising questions over whether he may have been drunk while operating heavy machinery. Despite his wealth Dino spent many days in the cab of his huge digger. He was clearing access for a delivery of concrete on the day Ben went missing, on a building site just 100 yards from the farmhouse where the toddler was playing in the village of Iraklis. When quizzed by the Daily Mirror in 2012 he said: Yes, I was the man with the JCB that day. John Alevroyiannis/Daily Mirror His son Valandis Barkas Loads of earth were being taken to clear the ground for the new house down the road. I think people were misled in thinking the child was abducted. Could there have been an accident? “I don t think so, but no one really knows what happened. But Dino later insisted to his close family that Ben had been abducted. It has been claimed Ben could have been killed in an accident but his body then removed from the scene and buried elsewhere. British police have been looking into the timetable of events leading up to Ben s disappearance. John Alevroyiannis/Daily Mirror Kostantinos Barkas’ grave After Dino s death last year a new witness told police there were two areas of land where building waste had been dumped by Dino which had never been searched. South Yorkshire Police [4] are now due to dig on Kos for a second time. The force confirmed officers will be travelling to Kos this month to work with Greek authorities and start digs at two new sites. Det Supt Matt Fenwick, leading the investigation, said: There will be planned operational activity at two locations on the island that have been identified as areas of interest to the investigation. “We continue to keep an open mind and have updated Ben s family about certain lines of enquiry we re currently exploring. North Downs Picture Agency Konstantinos Barkas A dedicated policing team continues to work extremely hard to find answers for his family and keep them fully informed and supported throughout the investigation. Kerry understands there is a statute of limitations of 20 years in Greek law, and does not believe there will ever be a prosecution for Ben s disappearance or death. Many islanders have reportedly long believed an accident involving construction machinery was the most credible explanation for Ben s disappearance. Shopkeeper Xanthippi Aggrelli, 63, was at school with Dino and got to know the Needhams when she volunteered as their translator in 1991. She told the Mirror: When it happened people were saying that something terrible has happened to the baby boy; some said the truck smashed into him. Daily Mirror Ben Needham vanished in 1991 There was a big Caterpillar truck and a digger. It was the baby s curiosity; he was going there to see. “We heard from many people that it was an accident. It was thought the body was hidden and that is why Ben has never been found. But Dino s family defended him. Son Valandis Barkas, 29, said: My dad lived his life with this hanging over him and I cannot believe they are still hounding him even after his death. “He had nothing to do with Ben s disappearance. Towards the end he was a very ill man, and he was very concerned and worried about everything to do with Ben coming back. It upset him a lot. Andy Stenning/Daily Mirror Kerry Needham and her mother Christine My mother is very, very tired. She lost her husband and now she has to go through all this. “When the British police came here he went up there to the site to help them. “He told them they could look as much as they want but they would not find the little boy there. As far as I know the boy was abducted. That s what my dad always said and that s what our family still believe today. “My father was a very good, honest man. My dad always told the police and prosecutors that there wasn t an accident. Adam Gerrard/Daily Mirror Kerry Needham has been left devastated by the latest development He said the boy was taken away and almost certainly taken to Athens. He added: I hope that Ben is still alive. As a father myself I cannot imagine what his mother is going through. He said his father died from cirrhosis of the liver after suffering from intestinal problems for some time. Dino s brother Ioannis branded the renewed investigation disgusting . He said: My brother is dead he cannot defend himself. Why don t they let his soul rest in peace. I don t understand why they are still chasing Dino. Are they going to take a dead man in to court? Ben Needham References ^ Ben Needham (www.mirror.co.uk) ^ police (www.mirror.co.uk) ^ drink (www.mirror.co.uk) ^ South Yorkshire Police (www.mirror.co.uk)

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Cops have Land Rover stripped bare by thieves

Police chiefs who warned Land Rover owners about a spate of thefts were left red-faced – when their own 4×4 was stripped bare by crooks. To make matters worse for Leicestershire Police [1] , the brazen crime happened outside one of their own stations. The 50,000 Land Rover Defender – painted in police markings – was stripped of its bonnet and all four doors by the thieves. Criminals have been targeting the iconic 4x4s for parts to sell online since they went out of production in January. Officers had recently warned locals in Market Bosworth about the spate of UK-wide thefts. Read More Google Red-faced cops had parked the Land Rover outside Market Bosworth police station So residents were stunned to spot the force s Defender minus its doors and bonnet outside the town s police station last week. Red-faced bosses ordered the 65-plate vehicle – on loan from a local dealership – to be taken away onto a tow-truck. Emma Burton, who lives in nearby Newbold Verdon, Leics, was driving to work when she spotted the Defender. She said: I saw the back first and there was a police officer stood with it and I thought the back door was open. But then when I got closer I realised it was missing completely along with all the other doors and bonnet. The officer seemed a bit embarrassed. It was literally parked up on the road outside the police station. Read More It is quite a problem around here. There was one stolen from a nearby village and found a few days later in a yard. Someone else had their old Defender stripped completely. People sell them for parts because there is a big demand. Some people think the police don t take it seriously when they report their Land Rover has been stripped. Hopefully they will now it has happened to their own 4×4, added Emma, 23. The Defender was loaned to Leicestershire Police by Sturgess Land Rover last summer to help tackle rural crime. Local beat officer PC Rob Cross said at the time he hoped the vehicle would show residents that police take it seriously . References ^ Leicestershire Police (www.mirror.co.uk)

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Woman dies in freak tragedy ‘after getting caught in automatic garage door while visiting friend’

A middle-aged woman has died in front of her horrified friend after reportedly getting caught in an electric garage door. The victim, understood to be in her 30s, is believed to have been visiting her female pal in Cambridge at the time of the tragedy. She is thought to have got into difficulty while accessing the automatic rolling shutters to a private parking basement [1] last night. Paramedics [2] were called to the Ruth Bagnall Court apartment complex in Coleridge Road after the distraught friend began screaming for help. The victim, who was found ‘hanging’ off the ground, was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman died in front of her horrified friend after reportedly getting caught in an electric garage door It is currently unclear whether she was leaving or entering the car park when the disaster occurred at around 7pm. Today, shaken residents described how they saw the woman’s feet dangling off the ground after hearing her friend’s screams. One woman, who lives in the block but does not wish to be named, said: “I came outside because I saw the woman crying. Read More “I said ‘what’s the matter?’ and she said something had happened and she needed help. “I went to look in the garage and saw her legs hanging. It was not a sight to want to remember. It was horrific and I’m doing my best to forget it.” A man, who also lives at the site, said: “I do not think she lived here. She was visiting a friend I believe. The middle-aged victim is believed to have been visiting her female pal at the time of the tragedy “She was hanging, that’s all I saw. It is a horrible situation. I saw it and it wasn’t nice.” The woman’s friend is believed to live at the four-storey black, which houses 72 flats. The complex was built in 2004 as part of a 10.5million housing scheme to provide housing for key workers such as teachers and fire fighters. Read More Following their completion, the block was named after former Cambridge Labour councillor Ruth Bagnall, 38, who died from breast cancer in April 2004 after devoting her career to housing issues. Most of the flats are now privately owned and are worth around 190,000, and many are rented out to private tenants who pay around 800-per-month in rent. The block is managed by housing company Luminus. The woman is thought to have got into difficulty while accessing the automatic rolling shutters Today, residents claimed the firm were slow at fixing problems. One man added: “I have lived here for five years and that door is always breaking. There is an automatic key fob that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. “I don’t know how she got into trouble but the door is automatic and is supposed to stop when it catches on something for safety purposes.” Read More Another woman, who does not wish to be named, said: “I’ve been here for three years and there’s always problems. “The garage door to the car parking is always breaking, so are the doors to the block of flats and people are always stealing bikes.” The complex was built in 2004 as part of a 10.5million housing scheme The emergency services, including police, paramedics, firefighters and an air ambulance, were called to the scene following the tragedy. A Cambridgeshire Police spokesman said: “We were called to reports of a sudden death of a woman in Ruth Bagnall Court, Coleridge Road, Cambridge at about 7.30pm on Sunday. “The incident has been referred to the Health and Safety Executive.” A spokesman for East of England Ambulance Service, said: “We were called at 7.25pm on Sunday after reports of a woman unconscious and not breathing. “Sadly there was nothing that could be done for the patient and she died at the scene. “The woman is believed to be in her 40s.” Mirror Online has contacted Luminus for comment. References ^ parking basement (www.mirror.co.uk) ^ Paramedics (www.mirror.co.uk)