There can be few people who have a temperament so suited to presenting shows of an infinitely sensitive nature than Lorraine Kelly.
Her soft Scottish lilt and her almost palpable empathy make her a gentle interviewer, so her meetings with the parents of the missing children featured on this programme were done with kid gloves, but Lorraine was offering these people what they need, that is, another chance to get publicity for their missing child.
It was heart wrenching to see the agony and anguish that the parents and families of the featured children, Katrice Lee and Ben Needham, were going through. Having a child go missing and to not know what happened to them must be the worst torture anyone could inflict on another.
Even to know categorically that your child was dead would arguably be better than never knowing what happened. At least then, you could grieve and have a focus for that grief, rather than a hollow longing and hope interspersed with fear and thoughts of what horrific outcomes may have visited your child.
The best – although nothing other than resolution could be ‘best’ – that parents and families of missing children can hope for is that their child was taken by a person or persons who wanted him or her as a substitute child. In that scenario, at least the child would have been cared for and loved. And it is this that both Katrice and Ben’s families believe.
Katrice’s case was barely given a mention in this country when she went missing in Germany while her parents were living there. She was just 2 years old in 1981 when she went on a shopping trip with her mum and Aunt. Her father Richard was in the car outside when little Katrice slipped away from her mum and Aunt and was never seen or heard of again.
Age progression photographs were made by the programme makers and the results were clearly a shock to the family whilst giving hope that someone might now recognise the woman Katrice has become, and get in touch to end this family’s suffering.
Her mum Sharon and big sister Natasha campaign tirelessly to keep Katrice’s case in the public eye, but of course, both need resolution. These women are burdened with a weight of guilt that isn’t justified but is no less tangible for that. We didn’t hear in the programme from Katrice’s Aunt, but I’m sure her pain is just as overwhelming too. Her father Richard firmly believes Katrice was taken by someone who wanted her to be their child. I hope he’s right.
We then heard from the family of Ben Needham whose case has of course received infinitely more press attention than that of Katrice. We heard how Ben’s family have had to fight tooth and nail against people who believe they were negligent towards Ben and how they’ve effectively been ostracised by many for that mistaken belief.
This family were not negligent; they loved Ben and try as one might, it’s nigh on impossible to keep your eyes on a toddler 24/7, and it was during one of those very common lapses when Ben disappeared. With his mum Kerry having gone to work, Ben was left with his doting grandparents and an uncle, who were all busy renovating their farmhouse on the Greek island of Kos.
We all know the story but what the programme conveyed that other media reports haven’t is the absolute heartbreak of the Needham family. We also met Ben’s younger sister Leanna, who he’s never met, but she feels his loss as keenly as the rest of the Needham family.
That said, my heart most especially went out to Kerry and to Ben’s grandmother Christine. Although Christine was of course not to blame for Ben’s disappearance, the guilt she feels over the fact that Ben was in her care when he disappeared is something that clearly haunts her. We heard too that Kerry had attempted suicide at one point, so unbearable was her grief and pain, so for Christine, the fact that her child was suffering so much, must have been equally unbearable.
I so hope that these brave families can all find some resolution to their pain and I hope that one day, they’ll be reunited with, or at least find out what happened to, their children.
As with Katrice, the programme makers had age progression imagery for Ben too. Let’s hope someone recognises him and Kerry, Christine and all the Needham family can finally know what happened to Ben.
If you know have any information that could help Katrice or Ben’s family, please contact the charity Missing People on its 24-hour confidential Freefone service – call 0500 700 700 or e mail firstname.lastname@example.org