A NORTH-EAST artist is using her creative talent to help solve the disappearance of a British toddler who went missing almost 28 years ago.

Self-taught artist Nat Moss, from Middlesbrough, has painted a portrait of Ben Needham, the missing toddler who was 21 months old when he disappeared on the Greek island of Kos in July 1991.

With the blessing of Ben's family, the 32-year-old and mother-of-six has created the artwork in the hope it could lead to a breakthrough in the search for the boy, originally from Sheffield.

Ms Moss is no stranger to using her artwork for good causes, having previously raised money for her friend's IVF treatment and for the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough who cared for one of her own children when they were ill at a young age.

"As a parent myself, I can't begin to imagine what the family are going through - it must be absolutely heartbreaking," she said.

"I just wanted to do something to help. I picked up one of my own children one day and looked at her and thought I just have to try and help.

"I finished the painting in one day because I was so passionate about it. I couldn't put the brush down.

"When Ben's mother saw it she had tears in her eyes, but this is not about me, it is about doing something that might make that one difference. Someone, somewhere knows something that could provide answers."

South Yorkshire Police believe Ben was killed accidentally by a digger when he went missing in 1991, however his family believe he had probably been abducted.

Ms Moss regularly publishes time-lapse videos of her work and did so again with this creation, adding Mrs Needham's favourite song to it.

"It gave me goosebumps – it was so heartbreaking yet beautiful at the same time," said Ms Moss.

"I've always thought about this story and it has really bothered me. There should be more coverage of it. It is not fair and it should be in the public eye more.

"If I have done something that means someone can potential help with the investigation, then it is worthwhile."

On the day of his disappearance, Ben had been left in the care of his grandparents while his mother went to work at a nearby hotel. He had been playing near the doorway of the family's farmhouse as the adults were having lunch.

His grandmother had only taken her eyes off him for a few minutes when it was discovered he was gone, sometime around 2.30pm.

The family first searched the area for Ben, assuming he had wandered off, or that their teenage son, Stephen, had taken him out on his moped, but there was no trace found of the little boy.

Mrs Needham said: "I am overwhelmed by the kindness and thoughtfulness of this amazing gesture from Nat.

"Nat is truly talented artist and the picture of Ben is just so wonderful it bought a year to my eyes. Thank you just doesn't seem enough."

Anyone with information that might help police investigate Ben's disappearance is asked to email Opben.Needham@southyorks.pnn.police.uk.