Saturday, October 19, 2013
Greek officials are making an international appeal to help identify a mystery blond girl discovered during a raid on a Roma gypsy settlement in central Greece.
The girl, known as Maria, was found in the care of a couple who claimed to be her parents, but her fair coloring and pale blue eyes raised the suspicions of authorities who said they fear the 4-year-old is a victim of child trafficking.
A DNA test proved Maria was not biologically related to the 39-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman whose care she was in. The pair have since been arrested on suspected abduction charges and holding false papers.
"There was no resemblance at all to the supposed parents" Thessalia Province Police Director Vassilis Halatsis said at a press conference, according to the BBC. "During questioning about this girl, they gave conflicting answers. They're constantly changing claims."
The girl was discovered during a drug and weapons raid on the Roma community near Farsala in central Greece. A female prosecutor accompanying the raid first noticed the girl's head poking out from under bedclothes and raised the alarm.
Police said in a statement that the pair had registered 14 children in three different Greek regions. They gave authorities conflicting accounts as to how the mystery girl ended up in their charge, with the mother alleging she gave birth to six children in less than 10 months.
Two other little girls and a boy were also found with Maria at the camp. Their relationship to the couple has not yet been confirmed, although police say the children bear resemblance to the couple. The other 10 children remain unaccounted for.
The couple's lawyer, Marietta Palavra, said a foreign stranger handed the mystery girl to them through an intermediary that claimed the birth mother could not support the child.
"Just because (the suspect) had forged documents, it doesn't make her a kidnapper," Palavra told The Associated Press in Athens. "The couple loved the girl as if she were their own."
Maria has been taken into the care of Greek charity, A Child's Smile, and police have sought the assistance of Interpol to help identify the girl.
"Her features suggest that she might be from an eastern or northern (European) country," regional police chief Panayiotis Tziovaras told the AP.
A spokesperson for the parents of British girl Madeleine McCann, who dissapeared in Portugal in 2007, said the mystery girl's discovery have given them "great hope" for the safe discovery of their own daughter.