The 21-month-old vanished in July 1991 while playing at his grandparents’ farmhouse on the Greek island of Kos.
Earlier this month, South Yorkshire Police confirmed they were looking into the discovery of the body of a boy, believed to be aged between five and six, that was found by a canoeist in the River Danube in Bavaria in May 2022.
His body had been wrapped in foil and weighed down with a flagstone slab.
The force was alerted to the discovery by Ben’s mother, Kerry Needham, who has continued to appeal for information since her son’s disappearance more than 30 years ago.
However, in a statement on Wednesday, South Yorkshire Police confirmed the boy was not missing Ben.
The force said: "A DNA sample of the body found in the River Danube in Germany does not match that of Ben Needham. Ben’s family has been informed and are being supported."
Interpol has circulated a facial reconstruction image to 195 countries in the hope of identifying the boy.
Watch: Ben Needham ‘most likely died in accident’
What happened to Ben Needham?
Kerry Needham moved to Kos from Sheffield and had left her son with his grandparents on 24 July 1991, while she went to work.
Ben was last seen playing at his grandparents’ farmhouse and he was first noticed missing at about 2.30pm.
His family had initially thought he had simply wandered off or had been taken out on a moped ride by his uncle – but a search of the area proved fruitless.
Local police came up with the theory that Ben had died when a digger driver accidentally ran him over but a dig of the farmland failed to uncover any remains.
South Yorkshire Police have conducted their own investigations on the island – including when a witness claimed digger driver Konstantinos ‘Dino’ Barkas, who has since died, confessed to killing Ben.
Other witnesses claim that a local worker named Maria was seen carrying a baby resembling Ben after he was found “abandoned”.
But the campsite worker, who was 21 at the time, later denied ever finding a child or raising him as her own.
Despite over 300 reported sightings, no trace of Ben has ever been found by either British or Greek police.
How many children go missing every year?
According to estimates from Missing People, about 70,000 children go missing every year.
The reported incidents figure is far higher, with more than 215,000 reported each year as some children go missing more than once.
There are 1,514 children in the UK recorded as “long-term missing”, meaning that they have been missing for more than 28 days, according to the UK Missing Persons Unit.
Read more: Young children who have been missing for more than a decade (Yahoo News, 5 min)