Roma couple say mother gave up mystery girl to them in Greece

Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:41pm EDT
 
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By Karolina Tagaris

LARISSA, Greece (Reuters) - A Roma couple accused of abducting a mystery four-year-old girl dubbed the "blonde angel" by Greek media told a court on Monday that her biological mother willingly gave her to them as a baby because she could not look after her.

The discovery of the girl, known as Maria, has riveted Greece and prompted thousands of calls with leads from across the world as authorities try to track down her real parents, as DNA tests have shown she was not born to the Romas.

The case has raised questions about whether children are being stolen to order and whether the couple were part of a wider child trafficking ring - in addition to deepening mistrust between the Roma community and the Greeks.

They were arrested after police, who raided a Roma camp in central Greece last week in search of drugs and weapons, found the girl with pale skin and blue eyes who did not resemble the family she was living with.

The couple deny they snatched the girl and say they took her under their care after her mother handed the girl to them shortly after giving birth.

"It was an adoption that was not exactly legal but took place with the mother's consent," Constantinos Katsavos, one of the lawyers representing the 39-year-old man, told reporters, adding that is what the couple testified in court.

The Roma couple were ordered held in custody pending trial after responding to charges of abduction and procuring false documents behind closed doors as more than a dozen policemen stood guard outside.

So far more than 5,000 people, from Texas to Sweden, have phoned the charity looking after Maria to offer clues or search for their missing children.   Continued...

 
Forty year-old Roma woman by the name Selini Sali or Eleftheria Dimolpoulou, 39 year-old Roma man by the name Christos Salis (R) and a girl found living with them in central Greece, are seen in a handout photo distributed by the Greek police and obtained by Reuters October 21, 2013. REUTERS/Greek Police/Handout