Mystery is abound as authorities try to figure out the real identity of Maria the Greek gypsy girl.
Since her discovery on mainland Greece last week, authorities have gone on to beseech the child’s real parents to step forward and claim Maria, who after dental tests today were performed over the weekend is believed to be either 5 or 6 years old.
The girl came to be initially discovered during a raid on a gypsy farm, but authorities immediately went on to express suspicion when they noticed the child with pale skin, blue eyes and blonde hair looked nothing like her Roma parents or siblings.
Further DNA testing went on to prove that the child was indeed not related to the couple which elicited concerns that the child in all likelihood had been snatched by the Roma couple from her parents.
That said the Roma couple, Christos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, appearing in court on charges of having abducted the child went on to insist that the child had been adopted by them courtesy of her biological mother.
Told the couple’s lawyer, Kostas Katsavos who ultimately acknowledged that the adoption was ‘non- legal,’ but who denied abducting the child: ‘They love her and they took care as their own child,’
Added Constantinos Katsavos, a lawyer who is also representing the Roma couple: ‘It was an adoption that was not exactly legal but took place with the mother’s consent,’
Haralambos Dimitriou, head of the local Roma community, told CNN the couple took the girl in because her Bulgarian mother couldn’t keep her. He said Maria was raised like a “normal” child.
Nevertheless authorities are suspicious of records the Roma couple have provided for the child and for the other 4 children in their care.
Offered Panagiotis Paradalis a spokesman for the Smile of the Child charity that is currently caring for the girl: ‘We don’t have any clue on her origin,’
‘This makes this story a mystery so far. What we’re trying to do now is have experts from forensics and anthropologists … determine her origin.’
Complicating the discovery of the girl’s real identity is the Greeks general deep mistrust of the Roma community.
The community, noted for scouring the Balkans and southern Europe are free living nomads who originally emanated from India and are said to be widely discriminated against. As a collective, Roma gypsies have a reputation for orchestrating rackets, thefts and often living off the land in degenerate conditions and squalor. The group as a whole is widely shunned and discriminated by the local Greek population and are usually afforded little advancement in society.
In attempting to discover how the child actually came to be in the couple’s custody, authorities went on to note that the couple ‘repeatedly changed their story about how they got the child.’
Police have since told they found a handgun and balaclava at Roma couple’s house. Police photos also show a haul of goods including a range of chainsaws, a pen-style pistol with bullets as well as drugs.
Evidence also went on to include credit cards which are believed to be stolen.
Their court appearance comes as their family defended two unsettling videos of the little girl, insisting that she was not exploited.
This weekend, a charity caring for her said she was treated like a ‘dancing bear’ by the family she lived with – who exploited her innocent looks, making her beg for money.
Went on to tell police spokesperson Panayiotis Pardalis: ‘It was obvious that she was not a Roma girl. The little girl was terrified when she first came to us and didn’t talk at all, but she is now calm and has been playing with other kids.’
Added Costas Yannopoulos: ‘She was living under bad conditions and was very dirty, but is now safe.’
Mr Yannopoulos went on to add that evidence so far suggested that Maria the Greek gypsy girl had been trafficked.
Told Yannopoulos to the UK’s dailymail : ‘In the footage you could see her dancing, going round and round like a little trained bear. I believe they were getting money from exploiting the child.’
Dimopoulou’s daughter Panagiota, 18, who released the footage to local television, defended the video.
Pictures released by police show the little girl’s blonde hair may have been dyed brown when she was younger – indicating the family may have wanted to hide her difference.
But another daughter Emmannuella, 16, said Maria’s hair turned blonde naturally.
Mr Yannopoulos went on to tell that it is ‘well known’ that ‘there is a baby-trade conducted by gipsies between Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and England.’
To date the Roma couple have told various stories – that she was abandoned by a Bulgarian woman, or found on a rubbish tip – but Mr Yannopoulos said it is more likely she is from Scandinavia.
Regional police officer, Lt. Gen. Vassilis Halatsis went on to tell the Roma couple accused of abducting the girl are said to have used multiple identities to register 14 children in three different cities, of whom only four have been identified.
An examination of the birthdates of the children shows that the woman, at one point, was giving birth every four months.
In lieu of the existence of children, the Roma couple are said to have received 2,500 euros ($3,420) per month in state assistance, whereby they and similarly many have gone on to take advantage of a flawed birth registration system.
Haralambos Dimitriou, 57, president of the gipsy settlement, has told any conflicting accounts of how Maria came to the family were given ‘out of fear.’ He has since gone on to tell that the Roma community now fear being stigmatized as child traffickers.
Marietta Palavra, lawyer for the couple, said: ‘There is nothing but love and care between the Roma parents and the four-year-old girl.’
She went on to tell the Roma couple could each face up to ten years in prison if convicted.