News

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

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

BLONDE ANGLE: 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 Oct. 21, 2013. Photo: Reuters/REUTERS/Greek Police/Handout

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.

Based on her characteristics, police believe Maria, who utters just a few words in Greek and Roma dialect, is eastern or northern European.

Parallels have been drawn to the case of Britons Madeleine McCann, who vanished while on holiday in Portugal in 2007, when she was three, and Ben Needham, who disappeared on the Greek island of Kos in 1991, when he was a toddler.

In the sunny, bustling square outside the court in the city of Larissa where the Roma couple faced magistrates, members of the Roma community gathered to show their support and said they were being unfairly stigmatized.

“They are completely innocent. These are all fairy tales and we’re going to prove it to society,” Babis Dimitriou, the head of the local Roma community, told Reuters.

“They accuse the Roma of everything – of stealing, of snatching kids. Do these things only happen among our race? This is a huge insult for us,” he said.

Police have found the woman had two different identification documents and other papers suggested the couple had up to 14 children, but six were registered as having been born within less than 10 months.

“It’s unfair,” a Roma woman who gave her name as Kyriaki said outside the court on hearing the decision to hold the couple in custody. “She raised this child since she was a baby

Recent Headlines

in Local

Travel Advisory…Heavy Rains Close Some Roads

Fresh
storm

Heavy rains close some roads in Springfield

in Election 2014, Local

The Sniping Continues

Fresh
votesigns

Vallas wants Rauner to come clean; Rauner accuses Quinn campaign of throwing up distractions

in Local

State’s ACT Scores Are Close to National Average

school_bus

Significance: Illinois is one of only twelve states testing everybody

in Local

Aldermen Want Public Input on Medical Marijuana Zoning Rules

municipalcenter

The public will likely get a chance to weigh in on potential zoning changes as medical marijuana rules take effect.

in Local

Rauner: Fight Over Term Limits is Not Over

Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate businessman Bruce Rauner participates in a Republican gubernatorial candidate debate Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Springfield, Ill. The four Republican gubernatorial candidates said that they’ll be willing to work with unions if elected but differed on how to approach the relationship during a downstate debate that largely focused on pension reform, taxes and just briefly on personal issues that have dogged some of the candidates.

Rauner is publicly calling upon Illinois' appellate and Supreme Courts to approve a term limit referendum