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 Entertainment

WATCH: 10 best ‘Simpsons’ episodes

In this photo released by Fox, Homer explains why he wants to bring back the annual 4th of July fireworks display, after it's cancelled for budget reasons, in the "Yellow Badge of Cowardge" Season Finale episode of "The Simpsons," in May 2014. The full 25-year run of "The Simpsons" will arrive on cable channel FXX with a summer marathon, to be paired this fall with a digital extravaganza that could turn other TV shows yellow with envy. "I'm not going to over-promise, but I think this website will provide you with affordable health care," longtime "Simpsons" executive producer Al Jean told a TV critics' meeting Monday, July 21, 2014.

The recent marathon of all 552 episodes of "The Simpsons" inspired us to sit down and come up with our 10 favorite episodes. Enjoy!

in Music

Robert Plant urges Jimmy Page to give up Led Zeppelin reunion

2012 Kennedy Center Honorees and members of the band Led Zeppelin, from left, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant chat on the red carpet after arriving at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors Performance and Gala Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 at the State Department in Washington.

Robert Plant has urged his former Led Zeppelin bandmate Jimmy Page to end his war of words with the singer and concentrate on recording new music.

in Entertainment

Lena Dunham and Kate Mara hit by a falling sign

Lena Dunham, of HBO's "Girls," arrives at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards held at The Nokia Theatre  in Los Angeles.

The "Girls" and "House of Cards" actresses saw stars of their own after an accident at a Venice premiere.

in Entertainment

Charges dropped against Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s suspected drug dealer

In this Jan. 19, 2014 photo, Philip Seymour Hoffman poses for a portrait at The GenArt Quaker Good Energy Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah. Hoffman, who won the Oscar for best actor in 2006 for his portrayal of writer Truman Capote in "Capote," was found dead Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in his New York apartment. He was 46.

Drug-selling charges against a friend of late film star Philip Seymour Hoffman have been dropped after officers neglected to read the suspect his Miranda rights.

in Entertainment

Hayao Miyazaki, Harry Belafonte among winners of honorary Oscars

"Ponyo" director Hayao Miyazaki poses for a portrait in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 28, 2009.

The Academy announces the recipients of this year's Governors Awards. See who made the list!