24 Oct 2013

Is mystery girl found among Greek Roma from Bulgaria?

Police in Bulgaria are questioning a couple who say they may be the biological parents of Maria, the girl taken into care by Greek authorities last week.

The couple, named by local media as 35-year-old Sasha Ruseva and her 36-year-old husband Atanas, have eight children, several of them blonde and bearing a close resemblance to the girl Maria taken into care in Greece on 16 October.

The family is from the town of Nikolaevo in central Bulgaria, where they live in extreme poverty in a two-room house in a Roma camp.

Sasha Ruseva is believed to have given birth in a hospital in central Greece in January 2009, according to Bulgarian National Television.

Four children of a Bulgarian couple who may be parents of a girl removed from a Greek Roma family (Getty)

(Four of the Ruseva children in Bulgaria, the child on the left bearing a striking resemblance to Maria)

Prosecutors in Bulgaria have pressed preliminary charges against Ms Ruseva of “deliberately selling a child while residing out of the country” after she admitted that she had once left a child behind in Greece. She has now given a DNA sample for testing.

In video footage shown on Bulgarian television, Ms Ruseva is seen standing outside a police station where she tells reporters:

“We have given out some children for free. We have taken no money, we never took any money. We just couldn’t feed the child. Also my daughter lost her husband, there is nobody to look after our children.

“I intended to go back and take my child home, but meanwhile I gave birth to two more kids so I was not able to go back.”

Global search

The discovery of blue-eyed Maria during a police raid on a Roma settlement in central Greece on 16 October sparked a global search for her real parents after DNA tests showed the Roma couple she was with were not her blood relatives.

The 40-year-old woman and 39-year-old man have been detained pending trial on charges of abducting a minor but deny the accusations, saying the girl’s biological mother gave her up willingly because she could not raise her.